Industrial engineers determine the most effective ways to use the basic factors of production -- people, machines, materials, information, and energy -- to make a product or to provide a service. They are the bridge between management goals and operational performance. They are more concerned with increasing productivity through the management of people, methods of business organization, and technology than are engineers in other specialties, who generally work more with products or processes. Although most industrial engineers work in manufacturing industries, they may also work in consulting services, healthcare, and communications.
To solve organizational, production, and related problems most efficiently, industrial engineers carefully study the product and its requirements, use mathematical methods such as operations research to meet those requirements, and design manufacturing and information systems. They develop management control systems to aid in financial planning and cost analysis and design production planning and control systems to coordinate activities and ensure product quality. They also design or improve systems for the physical distribution of goods and services. Industrial engineers determine which plant location has the best combination of raw materials availability, transportation facilities, and costs. Industrial engineers use computers for simulations and to control various activities and devices, such as assembly lines and robots. They also develop wage and salary administration systems and job evaluation programs. Many industrial engineers move into management positions because the work is closely related.
The work of health and safety engineers is similar to that of industrial engineers in that it deals with the entire production process. Health and safety engineers promote worksite or product safety and health by applying knowledge of industrial processes, as well as mechanical, chemical, and psychological principles. They must be able to anticipate, recognize, and evaluate hazardous conditions as well as develop hazard control methods. They also must be familiar with the application of health and safety regulations.
Prepared as part of the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center (www.careercornerstone.org) Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.