What Is Industrial Engineering?

Industrial engineering is a field that focuses on manufacturing and industrial processes. Most often industrial engineers seek to streamline existing manufacturing and industrial setups, but some industrial engineers create and test new manufacturing and industrial machines and systems. Read on to learn more. Schools offering Industrial Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Industrial Engineering Defined

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), industrial engineers seek to find the peak efficiency in systems, primarily in production lines and manufacturing processes. They work to improve the flow of any raw materials and energies through production systems and use information systems to improve manufacturing and modeling. Also according to the BLS, these professionals typically need a bachelor's degree, often in industrial, mechanical or manufacturing engineering, before they can work in the field.

Important Facts About Industrial Engineering

Job Outlook (2016-2026) 10% growth
Licensure Professional Engineer (PE) designation is available but not required
Key Skills Writing, math, critical-thinking, listening, problem-solving, and speaking skills; creativity
Work Environment Office and on location
Similar Occupations Industrial engineering technician, industrial production manager, materials engineer

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Industrial Engineering and Manufacturing

The roughly 280,000 industrial engineers working in the United States look to help their employers streamline and improve the processes they use to create their products. In the manufacturing sector, industrial engineers look to identify and eliminate the bugs in the manufacturing process. These bugs can be flaws in components or in final products or the over- or under-use of certain pieces of equipment.

An industrial engineer may focus on coordinating personnel, materials and energy resources to reduce waste and improve efficiency. By tweaking one aspect of a production process, he or she can improve the manufacture of an entire product. Monetary and time investments are most often the focus of efficiency studies. Still other industrial engineers focus on plant design. Location of production facilities and transportation routes can have a profound effect on the effectiveness of industry. Incorporating technology, such as automated controls and information systems, into industry improves industrial processes.

Believe it or not, the largest portion of industrial engineers doesn't work in the manufacturing of consumer goods. The manufacturing of aerospace products employs nearly four percent of industrial engineers, and the next largest industry, electronic component manufacturing, employs another four percent.

Salaries in the Field of Industrial Engineering

The median annual wage for industrial engineers in 2018 was $87,040, according to the BLS. Most industrial engineers either start at or move up to management positions, because the concepts and processes that industrial engineers implement are closely related to management's responsibilities. For industrial engineers with training in other fields of engineering, other job opportunities may be available.

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