Industrial engineering deals with making the most out of complex processes, systems and organisations. This is done by the means of understanding, improving and executing integrated systems of personnel, money, knowledge, equipment, information, energy and materials. Intervention by an industrial engineer ensures efficient use of time, money, energy and other resources. It is commonly mistaken to be a stream related to manufacturing industry, but industrial engineering covers methods to optimally utilize available resources, using mathematical and engineering tools.
Industrial engineers use computer simulation methods to analyse and evaluate the system. They also study how workers complete the tasks allotted to them. The roles of quality control, increasing productivity by efficient management techniques and statistical process control also fall under the purview of an industrial engineer. With an insight into the drawbacks, they can develop and implement management control systems to assist in planning, cost analysis and distribution of goods and services.
They can work across industries, either in the public or private sector or they may choose to be self-employed. Fields that require input from industrial engineering experts vary from manufacturing and healthcare systems to business administration. Some of the practical applications of industrial engineering are:
- Finding Tasks for Automation: As automation technologies can now assist in routine tasks, most industrial engineering projects can be completed at a lower cost without compromising quality. Industrial engineers can demarcate the ones that can be automated.
- Reduced Energy Consumption: Not just capital, but energy costs also increase with addition of personnel. Industrial engineers devise systems that can efficiently manage usage of energy; for instance, by designing operations to be limited to a fixed timeframe.
- Predictive Maintenance: Issues related to breakdown of equipment—critical to the functioning of a firm—lead to loss of productivity and incur untimed/ unplanned repair costs. Ensuring that all equipment are at their optimal functioning, by planning for predictive maintenance comes in handy. Automated processes streamlines the predictive maintenance to function more efficiently.
- Shift from B2B to B2B2C model: The popular paradigm shift from a Business-to-Business to Business-to-Business-to-Consumer model (similar to E-Commerce websites nowadays) wherein the consumers can directly purchase products has several benefits owing to increased profits, faster time to reach market, brand and price control as well as more efficient collection of consumer data.
- ERP Systems: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems as a useful tool in use by small to medium sized companies to create a competitive advantage. They assist in streamlining business operations and provides an accurate insight into the process.
- Use of Assistive Technologies: Assistive technologies like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality positively impact the interactions between humans and machines and improve business processes. Especially helpful in the design stages wherein the final product can be easily modeled using these assistive technologies. It could also be used to improve sight line from the worker’s perspective (AR goggles) thereby impacting their efficiency for the better.
- 3D Printing: 3D printing is speeding up the manufacturing process with its ability to rapidly produce prototypes, making it a preferred choice for testing products by the designers. It also allows manufacturers the leeway to produce requested parts as and when as opposed to storing them in a warehouse.
How can a student opt for industrial engineering in India?
There are a few colleges in India that offer industrial engineering at Bachelor’s level. Professionals opting for a career in industrial engineering require an extensive background in mathematics and physics, and an understanding of social sciences and business models.. Analytical skills along with a strong foundation of technical knowledge is mandatory for those looking to become industrial engineers. The candidates applying for an industrial engineering post should also possess the ability to think on their feet and must have brilliant problem-solving skills as they are responsible for resolving several issues which may range from worker’s safety to quality control.
Are there any BTech/BE courses available in India for these?
There are a few colleges in India offering a BE (Bachelors in Engineering) or BTech (Bachelor’s in Technology) in Industrial Engineering. The most popular and prestigious institutes teaching the course include IIT Delhi, NIT Kurukshetra and Vishwakarma Institute of Technology, Pune.
Job-oriented courses after a B.Tech in industrial engineering are also available in
- Program Evaluation and Review Technique
- Critical Path Method
- Operations Research
- Financial Management
- Statistical Quality Control
What are the future prospects for industrial engineers?
- Business systems analyst: Business systems analysts look into the analysis, adjustment and restructuring of the various aspects of a business driven towards producing utmost efficiency.
- Business process engineer: Employed by organisations to develop innovative methods that is driven towards improved productivity, efficiency and lower cost inputs, a business process engineer studies the organisation and implements strategies that fosters growth in a positive direction.
- Quality control manager: The primary job of a quality control manager is to ensure that all products and services are compliant with quality standards. They make sure that production lines run efficiently, they coordinate employee efforts and encourage communications between management and production departments. They also come up with ways of improving the processes to ensure higher-quality goods.
- Health and safety manager: Health and safety managers ensure that the guidelines and policies and infrastructure in the workplace are in accordance with local health and safety regulations.
- Human resource manager: The responsibility of the overall administrating, coordinating and evaluating HR plans lies on the shoulder of the human resource manager. They are involved in the recruitment of new candidates, connecting executives and employees and devising HR plans to name a few.
- Logistics manager or facilities engineer: Facilities engineers or logistics managers look after warehouse operations, control of inventory, handling of material, transportation and customer service. The duties of hiring, training and evaluating employees as well as preparing worker schedules and enforcing safety rules lie on a logistics manager.