To keep any manufacturing or production system running smoothly and efficiently and improve existing processes, industrial engineers are needed. They research and observe, conduct analysis and then implement strategies to bring about optimum results and proper management of resources. If you’re interested in this kind of rewarding career, read on for more information about the tasks, education and training needed, as well as salary and career options for industrial engineers.
What are the duties and tasks of an industrial engineer?
Industrial engineers observe and study process flows and manufacturing schedules to fully comprehend what happens in each part of the process and how it affects the process as a whole. This includes gathering information and data on existing practices.
They also determine the most efficient method for creating a product or for providing a service. To do this, they design and form proper operational procedures in the fabrication of individual parts and assembly of these parts to make the finished product.
When it comes to financial management, industrial engineers contribute by establishing control systems to aid in analyzing the costs incurred by the company and planning how to improve in this area. They can assess production costs, formulate methods to save on expenses, and evaluate the potential effects of any changes to the product or system.
Part of their job is also to regulate quality control measures to solve any problems in the production process as well as reduce costs. This may entail organizing the workspace and establishing the proper layout of tools, machinery and workers.
To make certain that the products or services pass quality standards, industrial engineers will plan and execute control methods and systems as well. They utilize mathematical techniques and concepts for precision and accuracy.
They are also expected to communicate with different people involved for a successful production. They discuss with clients the product details and the clients’ other requirements. They may confer with merchants about any purchases. They might meet with management staff about supply and demand projections and the progress of deliverables. Meeting other workers may also be needed to stay updated on the progress of projects.
Aside from doing all these to guarantee the end result of top quality products made consistently and on schedule, industrial engineers must also consider the health and safety of the employees, plus any effects on the environment from their manufacturing process.
What type of environment does an industrial engineer work in?
A variety of industries require the services of industrial engineers. More often than not, industrial engineers work in the fields of motor parts manufacturing, aerospace products manufacturing, and machinery and equipment manufacturing with the majority of industrial engineers working in electronics and computer manufacturing. They may also apply their skills though in service industries like transportation, food processing, media, utilities, and even hospitals. Much of their work is done in the office, using the computer to analyze information and formulate solutions and processes. However, they do also visit the sites and production areas to observe the process and activities of workers in real time. As for working schedule, industrial engineers typically work full-time with working hours that may vary depending on the production schedule.
What skills and qualities should an industrial engineer possess?
This kind of work is highly demanding and requires you to be more flexible since your reach extends to any areas that affect the production process. As such, for an aspiring industrial engineer to be successful, he must have certain qualities. An industrial engineer committed to his profession also needs to develop specific skills.
– Ability to use critical thinking
An industrial engineer should be able to use deductive thinking and logical reasoning to tackle problems in the process that lead to waste or error. He is expected to identify methods and solutions and anticipate the benefits and drawbacks of each.
He needs to think of new and innovative ways to improve processes, eliminate errors and minimize waste. He must be able to come up with and implement strategies for better utilization of time, resources and manpower.
– Listening comprehension
Since industrial engineers speak with staff, clients and managers to gather comprehensive and accurate data, they should be able to listen actively. They have to give their full attention when listening and then ask the right questions.
– Math competency
Math skills are a must since industrial engineers use advanced mathematical concepts to conduct analysis and evaluation, formulate solutions and monitor progress.
– Problem solving proficiency
Industrial engineers are responsible for pinpointing problems that interrupt or slow down the workflow. They also need to be able to look at these problems from various angles then generate solutions and execute appropriate action plans.
– Aptitude for writing
They do more than just recording and documenting of their research and results. Writing skills are essential so they can communicate clearly in writing the standard procedures and process flows they create.
– Ability to speak and communicate well
Being able to choose words carefully depending on the audience and give clear and concise instructions is invaluable for an industrial engineer since he speaks with different experts, from business owners to managers to production workers.
What are the educational requirements and knowledge needed?
A bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering which usually takes five years is needed to begin a career as an industrial engineer. Industrial engineering degree programs are certified by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). To fully equip the student for the demands of the job, he needs courses in several subjects that specialize in enhancing the production process. These courses are a mix of science, math, and management as well as computer studies since most calculations and documentation will be done via the computer. Starting from high school, students should aim for academic excellence in subjects like physics, chemistry, algebra, calculus, trigonometry, and computer science. Some college subjects to be expected are statistics, manufacturing processes, lean manufacturing, organizational management, and quality control.
The degree programs combine classroom lecture and laboratory practice. To get actual field experience, students are also offered cooperative education programs, internships or on the job training from schools in partnership with some companies.
The knowledge an industrial engineer gains in school and in training should include the following:
– Technology and Engineering
This includes the application of engineering concepts and using technology in the development and production of products and services.
– Production Process
Aside from the process itself, an industrial engineer should know about quality control and the costs involved in the process and materials.
This encompasses familiarity with the use of tools, machinery and equipment, and their maintenance and restoration.
Industrial engineers should understand how the technical planning, organization and layout of a workspace affects efficiency and productivity.
– Management and Administration
Industrial engineers often occupy management or leadership positions so it’s critical for them to know about the proper management and distribution of resources as well as effective supervision of people.
– Customer Service
As products are manufactured and improved to benefit customers, industrial engineers should also be knowledgeable on the identification of customer’s needs, quality assurance and measurement of customer satisfaction.
– Physics and Chemistry
Industrial engineers need to have an understanding of the scientific laws and principles of physics and chemistry as they relate to the manufacturing process and materials used.
Industrial engineers must also have an idea of how to predict potential effects and hazards on people and the environment from any system, equipment or material the company is using, and how to avoid, minimize or counter these dangers.
What career advancement options are available for industrial engineers?
Industrial engineering graduates do not need a licensure to start work. However, if they wish to progress in their career, they can choose to later on apply for a Professional Engineering (PE) license. This license is especially recommended for those who wish to provide their service to the public. To qualify for this license, they should have accumulated at least four years of relevant work experience, and received passing scores from both the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and the Professional Engineering (PE) exam. Most engineers usually take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam after graduation, then acquire work experience before taking the Professional Engineering (PE) exam which is conducted by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).
Graduate and doctoral degrees are also available for engineers who want to apply for higher leadership positions in a company. They can then supervise teams of other engineers, teach at university or work in more challenging fields like research and development.
What is the career outlook for an industrial engineer?
Aspiring industrial engineers can look forward to a moderately positive future for their career. As of the year 2014, there are already 241,000 industrial engineers working in different sectors. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected only a four percent growth in employment rate for all engineers from 2014-2024, that is still an estimate of more than 70,000 job openings for engineers in general and industrial engineers are quite versatile due to the nature of their jobs. As engineers in training become more qualified after receiving a licensure or pursuing further studies, they occupy higher leadership positions, leaving more positions vacant and ready for younger engineers.
What is the average salary of an industrial engineer?
Salaries for industrial engineers can range from around $52,000 to $123,000 depending on their experience and education as well as the industry and area they choose to work in. On average, mid-level industrial engineers can expect an annual pay of about $81,000 and for entry-level engineers, around $44,000. Regarding industry sectors, even though the computer and electronics manufacturing industry employs the most number of industrial engineers, it is actually the aerospace products manufacturing industry that offers the highest pay.