Here's how industrial & manufacturing engineers utilize the principles and techniques of engineering

Image: 123RF/Chutima Sonma.

They plan and design plant layouts and facilities, study new machinery and facilities and recommend or select efficient combinations. They develop flexible or integrated manufacturing systems and procedures.

They conduct studies and implement programmes to determine optimum inventory levels for production and to allow optimum utilisation of machinery, materials and resources. They analyse production costs and they design, develop and conduct time studies and work simplification programmes.

They also determine human resource and skills requirements. They develop training programmes, performance standards, evaluation systems and wage and incentive programmes, and they conduct studies on the reliability and performance of plant facilities and of production or administrative systems.

Furthermore, they establish programmes and conduct studies to enhance industrial health and safety or to identify and try to eliminate fire and other hazards. They assess industrial facilities and they may supervise technicians, technologists, analysts, administrative staff and other engineers. 

To carry out all of these tasks industrial engineers first define the problems, plan investigations, process information and finally, implement their plans.

Areas of activity may include one or more of the following:

  • Management and operations
  • Facilities layout
  • Plant design and location
  • Industrial production planning
  • Operations research
  • Environmental considerations
  • Production and quality
  • Performance and operational standards.

In more detail, their activities include the following: Manpower assessments and valuations of job positions, including organisational studies: industrial engineers need to define the number of people, the level of training and remuneration for every position to ensure the optimum operation of a particular system.

At the same time, the organisational relationship between the various positions must also be developed. Technical studies involving layout planning, organisation and work studies: this also involves investigating the replacement of equipment, solving problems in the handling of materials, determining the characteristics of operational equipment, low-cost automation, value analysis and so forth.

In this regard, digital computers are very useful. Development and implementation of industrial systems: this involves the development, testing, evaluation and ongoing improvement of industrial systems to enable management to achieve long-, medium- and short-term plans.

Economic feasibility studies to measure all results in terms of rands and cents: various techniques are available for the economical evaluation of technical plans and the comparison of various alternatives. In this regard, computers again play an important role.

Operations research studies with computerised application of techniques such as linear and dynamic programming, simulations, stock control and replacement theory: replacement theory looks at industrial problems in areas such as production flow, facility and raw material planning.

Project management: in the implementation of new projects comprising major construction work, it is vitally important that work progress be monitored against the commissioning date of the project.

Quality control and production management: this includes production planning, control and updating production and maintenance standards, as well as the setting up of control systems to ensure that products are manufactured to set standards.

Industrial engineers usually work normal office hours in pleasant conditions, with many other people doing different jobs at different times. They generally work indoors in offices, drawing offices and conference rooms.

They also observe all aspects of the production process. Work settings therefore are varied since there are many different kinds of manufacturing plants. Industrial engineersā€™ tasks are not only to make companies run efficiently and cost-effectively, but also to devise new ways of improving current conditions, methods, and equipment or machinery. 

What is needed to excel in industrial engineering is a vast knowledge of how to use the materials and harness the forces of nature through scientific knowledge and information, in order to produce the goods and services people use and need to improve their living conditions, welfare and safety.

Engineering graduates usually begin work under the supervision of experienced engineers and are gradually given more responsibilities as they gain experience.

Some engineers with experience and additional education move into administration or management. Many high-level executives in industry began their careers in engineering.