Answers about Industrial Engineering

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  • Answers about Industrial Engineering

    What is Industrial Engineering?

    Industrial Engineering is concerned with the design of production systems. The Industrial Engineer analyzes and specifies integrated components of people, machines, and facilities to create efficient and effective systems that produce goods and services beneficial to mankind.

    What is a Production System?

    Anywhere there is a "value-added" enterprise, there is a production process. The IE focuses on "how" a product is made or "how" a service is rendered. The goal of Industrial Engineering is improving the "how."

    What is meant by improving?

    Generally, the criteria for judging improvement are productivity and quality. Productivity means getting more from the resources being expended, namely being efficient. Quality judges the value or effectiveness of the output.

    Why emphasize the system?

    Industrial Engineering focuses on systems design. Production processes are composed of many interacting parts, all of whom work together. Experience has taught that changes to one portion may not result in improvements to the whole. Thus Industrial Engineers generally work with tools that emphasize systems analysis and design.

    Is Industrial Engineering strictly "industrial"?

    Since production systems are found anywhere there is an attempt to provide a service, as well as produce a part, the methodologies of Industrial Engineering are applicable. In that sense, the adjective "industrial" should be interpreted as "industrious", referring to the process of being skillful and careful. In many departments, Industrial Engineering is called "Industrial and Systems Engineering" in an attempt to make it clear that the industrial adjective is intended to be generic.

    Are Industrial Engineers directly concerned with manufacturing?

    All IE's take at least one manufacturing course, which deals with manufacturing processes, and other courses closely associated with manufacturing. Every IE is therefore knowledgeable about metal working machinery and processes. Further, related courses address manufacturing as a system. At NC State the IE department also includes furniture manufacturing, which makes students aware of wood working machinery and processes. The manufacturing industry has and remains a manifest concern of Industrial Engineering.

    How is Industrial Engineering considered Engineering?

    In general engineers are concerned with the analysis and design of systems. Electrical Engineers are concerned with electrical systems, Mechanical Engineers are concerned with mechanical systems, Chemical Engineers are concerned with chemical systems, and so forth. Industrial Engineers are concerned with production systems. In general, engineering is the application of science and mathematics to the development of products and services useful to mankind. Industrial Engineering focuses on the "way" those products and services are made, using the same approaches that other engineers apply in the development of the product or service, and for the same purpose.

    How is Industrial Engineering like other engineering disciplines?

    The Industrial Engineer is trained in the same basic way as other engineers. They take the same foundation courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, humanities, and social sciences. Thy also take some of the basic physical engineering sciences like thermodynamic, circuits, statics, and solids. They take Industrial Engineering specialty courses in their later years. Like other engineering courses, the industrial engineering courses employ mathematical models as a central device for understanding their systems.

    What Makes Industrial Engineering different from other engineering disciplines?

    Fundamentally, Industrial Engineering has no basic physical science like mechanics, chemistry, or electricity. Also because a major component in any production system is people, Industrial Engineering has a person portion. At NC State, the human aspect is called ergonomics, although elsewhere it is called human factors. A more subtle difference between Industrial Engineering than other engineering disciplines is the concentration on discrete mathematics. IE's deal with systems that are measured discretely, rather than metrics which are continuous.

    What are the basic sciences for Industrial Engineering?

    Because Industrial Engineering deals with the "way" something is done, IE tools emphasize "methods" of understanding systems. The fundamental sciences that deal with methodology are mathematical sciences, namely mathematics, statistics, and computer science. System characterization thus employ mathematical, statistical, and computer models and methods and give direct rise to Industrial Engineering tools such as optimization, stochastic processes, and simulation. Industrial Engineering specialty courses therefore use these "basic sciences" and the IE tools to understand traditional production elements as economic analysis, production planning, facilities design, materials handling, manufacturing systems and processes, job analysis, and so forth.

    Don't all engineers use the same math?

    All engineers, including IE's, take mathematics through calculus and differential equations. Industrial Engineering is different in that it is based on "discrete variable" math, whereas all other engineering is based on "continuous variable" math. Thus IE's emphasize the use of linear algebra and difference equations, as opposed to the use of differential equations which are so prevalent in other engineering disciplines. This emphasis becomes evident in optimization of production systems in that we are sequencing orders, scheduling batches, determining the number of materials handling units, arranging factory layouts, finding sequences of motions, etc. Industrial Engineers deal almost exclusively with systems of discrete components. Thus IE's have a different mathematical culture.

    Why is statistics important in Industrial Engineering?

    All IE's take at least one course in probability and one course in statistics. Industrial Engineering speciality courses that follow these include quality control, simulation, and stochastic processes. Further the traditional courses in production planning, economic risk assessment, and facilities planning employ statistical models for understanding these systems. Some of the other engineering disciplines take some probability and statistics, but none have integrated these topics more into their study of systems.

    How does computing influence Industrial Engineering?

    Probably no other aspect of technology has greater potential impact on Industrial Engineering than computing. Like all other engineers, IE's take computer programming. Specific Industrial Engineering specialty courses like real-time control and simulation expanding the role of computer science principles within Industrial Engineering. Further, most all Industrial Engineering tools are now computer based, with growing recognition that computer assisted analysis and design of production systems hold new untapped potential. Of special note is that computer simulation involves using specialized computer languages for modeling production systems and analyzing their behavior on the computer, before experimentation with real systems begin. In addition, both computer science and Industrial Engineering share a common interest in discrete mathematical structures.

    What are the specialties of Industrial Engineering?

    Industrial Engineering at the undergraduate level is generally seen as a composition of four areas. First is operations research, which provides methods for the general analysis and design of systems. Operations Research (OR) includes optimization, decision analysis, stochastic processes, and simulation.
    Production generally includes such aspects as economic analysis, production planning and control, quality control, facilities design, and other aspects of world-class manufacturing.
    Third is manufacturing processes and systems. Manufacturing process deals directly with materials forming, cutting, shaping, planning, etc. Manufacturing systems focus on the integration of manufacturing process, usually through computer control and communications.
    Finally ergonomics deals with the human equation. Physical ergonomics view the human as a biomechanical device while informational ergonomics examines the cognitive aspects of humans.

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