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An Industrial Engineer Career Guide

Lisa Richards, Educational Outreach Writer

Industrial engineering involves the design of integrated systems of people, material, machines, energy, and information. The aim is to increase productivity by effective management of all of these elements. Industrial engineers will have to study product requirements and then tailor manufacturing and information systems to meet these through mathematical models and methods. It is considered to be the engineering discipline that offers the greatest number of employment opportunities. This is because industrial engineering is not confined to a specific area and can be applied everywhere - from manufacturing to finance, management to airlines to healthcare.

Health and Safety Engineer

Safety engineers are responsible for ensuring that workplaces are safe and also recommend safety features and plans for new processes or equipment. They may also be required to design safety clothing or devices to help safeguard workers who have to handle hazardous machines or products. Fire safety, industrial safety, occupational health and safety, and product safety are some of the areas where such expertise is required. The job outlook for this field is a positive one, with growth of 11 percent predicted over a decade.

Quality Validation Engineer

Quality validation involves using different engineering and management techniques like statistical process control and quality circles to create a good product. This product can be tangible, such as physical goods, or intangible, such as a service. The industrial engineer has an important part to play in the quality management transformation philosophy, especially through techniques such as statistical process control and just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing. Quality engineering careers emphasize ensuring that products meet the functional specifications and formulating suitable techniques for inspection.

Operations Research Analyst

The duties of an operations research analyst involve making use of advanced and analytical methods to help organizations investigate complex issues, identify and solve problems, and make better decisions. These would be primarily issues in production, logistics, or sales. The analyst will often have to advise managers or other decision-makers on the appropriate course of action in a particular situation. Employment in this field is expected to grow at a fast pace over the next few years, primarily because more and more companies are bound to seek greater efficiency and cost savings.

Process Analyst

A person with a degree in industrial engineering working as a process analyst will need to focus on process improvement, production planning and control, operations research and simulation, statistics and quality control, facility layout, and project management. The analyst might have to perform root cause analysis to improve poorly performing processes. In some instances, developing appropriate incentive plans for work tasks might become a necessity. Fields of work include aerospace and airplanes, banking, construction, retail, state and federal government, transportation, oil and gas, mining, and the military, to name a few.

Supply Chain Analyst

This role entails supply chain analysis along with problem-solving, financial modeling, business analysis, and research besides presentation generation. The analyst will be expected to identify and proactively analyze opportunities for betterment within the supply chain. Managing relationships with the supplier is an integral part of this role. Traveling to meet the suppliers is also a strong possibility for those choosing this career option.

Plant Engineer

The role of a plant engineer focuses on making the best use of workers, materials, methods, and equipment. Depending on the industry where they work, the industrial engineer may be responsible for every step of the process from selection of raw materials to the finished product. They will also have to act as a link between management and operations in certain instances. A move to management positions is also a gradual and natural occurrence in this particular area.

Theme Park Engineer

Working in a theme park can is one way of bringing together work and play. Industrial engineers have a distinct advantage in this field and are sought after. The job profile includes easing the flow of people in ride lines, ensuring smooth operation of transportation systems, and collecting and analyzing data on guest habits. Engineers also get the option of working at various locales and earn competitive salaries.

Ergonomics Specialist

This involves studying the complicated relationships between people, machines, job demands, and work methods. One important responsibility of an ergonomics specialist can be preventing injuries in the workplace. This helps control the cost to the industry that would have been incurred in the form of medical bills and worker"s compensation. Ergonomics training sessions as well as assessments are often part of the job profile.

Manufacturing/Production Engineer

A manufacturing or product engineer is expected to participate in design reviews to ensure manufacturability of the product. They might also have to come up with methods and procedures for production distribution and create documentation and work instructions for this purpose. Managing resources and scheduling requirements to meet the necessary production and distribution schedules is an important job requirement. Facilitating and leading process improvement teams will also have to be done from time to time.

Commercial or Industrial Designer

The job of an industrial designer involves working on the design, function, engineering, and marketing of various products, such as automobiles, household goods, food packaging, consumer electronics, and medical equipment. A designer will have to work in coordination with material scientists, marketers, and accountants to determine if the product can be made safer or easier to assemble. Design ideas are usually sketched and presented to clients for approval before they are rendered using CAD, graphic design or photo imaging software. In some cases, industrial designers might be afforded the flexibility to work from their own homes or offices.

Environmental Engineer

The developments that are taking place in the manufacturing sector have ensured that the lines are blurred as far as the responsibilities of an industrial engineer and an environmental engineer go. A combination of both skill sets has been found to produce excellent results in minimizing waste products and increasing system efficiency. Preventing pollution will soon be the keyword rather than controlling it. Facilities planning, space requirements, material handling, quality management, and process design are some of the concepts that will have to be applied in such an effort.