Why Be an Industrial Engineer?

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What is Industrial and Systems Engineering?

"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 provide a service.

They are concerned primarily with increasing productivity through the management of people, methods of business organization, and technology. To maximize efficiency, industrial engineers study product requirements carefully and then design manufacturing and information systems to meet those requirements with the help of mathematical methods and models. They develop management control systems to aid in financial planning and cost analysis, and they 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 and determine the most efficient plant locations. Industrial engineers develop wage and salary administration systems and job evaluation programs. Many industrial engineers move into management positions because the work is closely related to the work of managers..."

Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010, www.bls.gov

In addition to the preparation for immediate employment as a practicing industrial engineer, the BSIE provides an excellent foundation for further study. This includes graduate level work in manufacturing fields for which a technical base is desirable. Other opportunities exist for further study in medicine or law, where the combination of industrial engineering skills is uniquely valuable.

The field of industrial engineering has long been recognized as a prime source of management talent. Today’s competitive world needs managers and decision-makers who can apply mathematical concepts and scientific management techniques to the technical problems that arise. An industrial engineer not only understands these problems, but is able to devise and implement methods to solve them.

What do our students do?

Undergraduates in the industrial engineering program at UB take courses in areas of production planning, engineering economics, computer integrated manufacturing, facilities design, human factors and ergonomics, simulation, operations research, statistics, and quality control.

A B.S. degree in industrial engineering from UB leads to fascinating careers in industries as diverse as airline operations, automotive manufacturing, and financial services. As an IE graduate, you’ll have maximum flexibility to pursue your goals for advancement in management as well as systems design.

Industrial engineering is an expanding profession. The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook (www.bls.gov) states that IE employment is expected to grow 5% over the upcoming decade, and that "This occupation is versatile both in the nature of the work it does and in the industries in which its expertise can be put to use. In addition, because industrial engineers’ work can help with cost control by increasing efficiency, these engineers are attractive to employers in most industries, including nonprofits. Because they are not as specialized as other engineers, industrial engineers are employed in a wide range of industries, including major manufacturing industries, hospitals, consulting and engineering services, and research and development firms. This versatility arises from the fact that these engineers’ expertise focuses on reducing internal costs, making their work valuable for many industries. For example, their work is important for manufacturing industries considering relocation to domestic sites. In addition, growth in healthcare and changes in how care is delivered will create demand for industrial engineers. Firms in a variety of industries are seeking new ways to contain costs and improve efficiency, leading to more demand for these workers."

Industrial engineers solve a variety of problems:

  • Determining the best location of machines in a factory, or ambulance stations in a metropolitan area, or a new factory in the U.S., based on economic and operation considerations; designing computer-aided process planning systems that flexibly vary the sequence of operations to produce a product
  • Determining which types of jobs are most suitable for special populations of workers, such as the elderly and the handicapped
  • Developing a system for controlling the inventory levels of a product in a warehouse, books in a bookstore, or gasoline at a service station
  • Designing automated material handling systems for the movement of parts in a factory
  • Designing a mission management plan for payload specialists on the NASA space shuttle
  • Designing computer-integrated manufacturing systems and decision support systems for integrating information and control between manufacturing systems, automated guided vehicles, automated warehouse facilities, and management personnel
  • Designing a new plan for scheduling cases to operating rooms in a hospital, or production orders in a factory
  • Determining the optimal routing of ambulances through a city, or material handling vehicles in a factory, to minimize travel time
  • Developing reliability and quality management systems to ensure that a manufactured product is free from defects
  • Developing programs for analyzing human reliability to assess work place safety
  • Designing computer graphics systems to assist operators in the monitoring and control of industrial processes