Saturday, September 21, 2013

Industrial Engineers "On the Job"


Industrial engineers design systems for producing goods. They try to use people and machines efficiently.
Most engineers are concerned with creating structures such as bridges or nuclear power plants. In contrast, industrial engineers are concerned about the management of people and equipment. They attempt to design ways of creating goods that use these resources without much waste. For example, engineers try to set up assembly lines so that workers can rest briefly between items. If items move too quickly, workers may work too hard. If items move too slowly, workers may become bored rapidly. Similarly, engineers try to set up production so that machines are almost always in use.

Before they can design systems, industrial engineers must learn about the items being produced. They review the steps that products go through as they are being processed. Engineers learn about each task that workers perform and the machines they use. At existing factories, they also evaluate the current setup of equipment. Once they understand the process, engineers determine the best way to set it up. They use many tools and techniques to do this, including computers, drafting tools, and statistical software. Then, they write reports and create diagrams that show their setup recommendations. They may recommend changing the order in which materials are processed or how many steps different workers complete. They may also design new equipment. Many industrial engineers do mathematical calculations about how their changes will improve production.

Industrial engineers must also monitor the costs and savings of their changes. They also manage the results of their recommendations. They especially focus on the quality and reliability of products or projects. They regularly consult with vendors, managers, and employees to discuss changes and generate ideas. Any time something goes wrong, engineers step in to determine what happened and what needs to be done to fix it.

Some engineers specialize in improving the output from workers. They may suggest ways to encourage workers to work faster or with fewer errors. All engineers keep records of their ideas, designs, changes, budgets, and any problems.

Work Activities

The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
  • Gather information about how products are made.
  • Design equipment, materials, and work space, using drafting tools and computers.
  • Develop the best methods to produce the product. Analyze labor and manufacturing costs and the setup of production equipment.
  • Analyze data and product designs to make sure the results will be of high quality and reliable.
  • Estimate the costs for entire projects and any changes.
  • Draw diagrams of how to lay out the production area.
  • Work with vendors, employees, and managers during all aspects of projects planning and production.
  • Run statistical analyses of how changes will improve the production process.
  • Recommend changes to improve how workers, materials, and resources are used.
  • Manage quality control procedures to keep projects efficient and running on-time.
  • Fix problems as they arise.
  • Make sure accurate records are kept of designs, changes, and any problems.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
  • Make decisions and solve problems.
  • Get information needed to do the job.
  • Identify objects, actions, and events.
  • Use computers.
  • Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
  • Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
  • Provide information or drawings about devices, equipment, or structures.
  • Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
  • Establish and maintain relationships.
  • Think creatively.
  • Analyze data or information.
  • Estimate sizes, quantities, time, cost, or materials needed.
  • Document and record information.
  • Process information.
  • Update and use job-related knowledge.
  • Evaluate information against standards.
  • Explain the meaning of information to others.
  • Provide advice and consultation to others.
  • Control machines and processes.
  • Communicate with people from outside the organization.

Working Conditions

In a typical work setting, people in this career:

Interpersonal Relationships

  • Have a medium to high level of social contact. They talk to managers and workers, but also spend time alone analyzing data.
  • Communicate by telephone, e-mail, and in person on a daily basis. They also communicate by letters and memos, but less often.
  • Are sometimes placed in conflict situations. Clients and coworkers may disagree about the direction of a project.
  • Are responsible for the work done by their assistants.
  • Regularly work in a group or as part of a team.

Physical Work Conditions

  • Almost always work indoors. Some work sites may not have heating or air conditioning.
  • Wear protective attire, such as eye goggles and hard hats, on a daily basis.
  • Are exposed to sounds and noise levels that are distracting and uncomfortable on a weekly basis.
  • Are sometimes exposed to contaminants.
  • Are occasionally exposed to hazardous equipment.
  • May share office or work space with coworkers.

Work Performance

  • Must be exact in their work. Errors could cause workers to be hurt or companies to lose money.
  • Regularly make decisions that strongly impact their employer's reputation.
  • Make decisions that affect coworkers and clients on a weekly basis. They make most decisions without consulting a supervisor first.
  • Set most tasks and goals for the day without talking to a supervisor first.
  • Abide by strict weekly deadlines.
  • Sometimes repeat the same activities.


  • Usually work full time. Working overtime to meet deadlines is common.
  • Generally work a set schedule.

Physical Demands

In a typical work setting, people in this career:

People in this career frequently:

  • Sit for long periods of time.

It is important for people in this career to be able to:

  • See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
  • Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
  • Understand the speech of another person.

It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:

  • Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
  • See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
  • Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
  • Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
  • Determine the distance between objects.
  • Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
  • Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
  • Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
  • React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
  • Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
  • Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
  • Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.


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