Saturday, February 18, 2012

Industrial Engineering and Basic Engineering Disciplines – Is Link Missing?

A paper presented at a conference. 


Abstract


The link between basic engineering disciplines and industrial engineering discipline seems to have weakened to such an extent that candidates completing the industrial engineering programs are not opting for engineering related work and are preferring non-engineering functions to make their career. Due to this trend, persons without formal academic qualifications in industrial engineering may be taking up industrial engineering related work in organizations and the society may not be receiving the benefits of industrial engineering discipline. This phenomenon and some possible reasons for such a drift in the discipline are explored in this paper.

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Introduction


Industrial engineering (IE) is a discipline that emerged out of the participation of engineers in managing engineering functions in business enterprises. As the discipline has evolved, there was need to distinguish it from business management or management in general and efficiency became the focus of the industrial engineering discipline while effectiveness, selection of right things to do was left for the management discipline. As things further evolved and the link between basic engineering disciplines and industrial engineering discipline seems to have weakened to such an extent that candidates completing the industrial engineering programs are not opting for engineering related work and are preferring non-engineering functions to make their career. Due to this trend, persons without formal academic qualifications in industrial engineering may be taking up industrial engineering related work in organizations and the society may not be receiving the benefits of industrial engineering discipline. This phenomenon and some possible reasons for such a drift in the discipline are explored in this paper.


Early Definitions of Industrial Engineering


Industrial engineering directs the efficient conduct of manufacturing, construction, transportation, or even commercial enterprises of any undertaking, indeed in which human labor is directed to accomplishing any kind of work. Industrial engineering has drawn upon mechanical engineering, upon economics, sociology, psychology, philosophy, accountancy, to fuse from these older sciences a distinct body of science of its own  It is the inclusion of the economic and the human elements especially that differentiates industrial engineering from the older established branches of the profession (Going, 1911) [1].



“Industrial engineering is the engineering approach applied to all factors, including the human factor, involved in the production and distribution of products or services.” (Maynard, 1953) [2]


“Industrial engineering is the design of situations for the useful coordination of men, materials and machines in order to achieve desired results in an optimum manner. The unique characteristics of Industrial Engineering center about the consideration of the human factor as it is related to the technical aspects of a situation, and the integration of all factors that influence the overall situation.” (Lehrer, 1954) [3]

Going the first author to write a textbook with terms industrial engineering in the title of the book, brought out the idea that industrial engineering is an outgrowth of mechanical engineering. Even though it is not exactly right as Frank Gilbreth, a pioneer of industrial engineering is a construction man. But substantial work in industrial engineering occurred in establishments based on mechanical engineering. But Going mentioned that industrial engineering directs the efficient conduct of construction enterprise also.  Maynard indicated that industrial engineering is engineering approach applied to all factors of production. It is engineering whose focus is different from basic engineering disciplines but related to them as basic engineering disciplines are related to number of factors of production. Lehrer highlighted that technical aspects of a situation are to be considered along with human factor and other factors that influence the overall situation so that an optimal design is arrived at. Engineering economics can be cited here as a subject that facilitates integration of technical alternatives and economic selection among those alternatives. Lehrer’s definition points out this dimension or activity of integrating technical aspects and economic aspects in coming out with a production system design.

Narayana Rao [4], recently explained industrial engineering as human effort engineering and system efficiency engineering.

Academic Programmes for Industrial Engineering


In India, National Institute for Training in Industrial Engineering (NITIE) was set up in 1963 by the Government of India to promote industrial engineering in India through training programs and consultancy activities. In 1971, a master’s program in industrial engineering (PGDIE) was started. Admission in this course was open to all graduates in engineering. Over a period of time, the number of master degree holders who joined the industrial engineering departments has come down drastically to such an extent that companies are not even coming to campus placements with profiles in the department. Now they are resigned to the fact that there will not be any applications from the candidates for such profiles. Similar situation is existing in other countries also.

The Reason for the Drift: A Hypothesis


The hypothesis developed based on the observation of the program and the responses of the persons who completed the program is that in the industrial engineering curriculum, there is no emphasis on the engineering knowledge and use of engineering knowledge in applying industrial engineering techniques. The textbooks related to industrial engineering techniques provide illustrations which do not touch the engineering knowledge in any meaningful depth. The reason for such an approach may be to make the concept easy to understand for learners from multiple disciplines. But the unintended consequence could be that the learner from the engineering discipline does not find any connect between his engineering knowledge in say civil or electrical engineering and the IE technique being explained. There are no further case exercises or tutorials wherein he is guided in applying the technique to problems of his discipline. Hence by end of the course, the candidate does not develop adequate skill to apply the IE techniques to enterprises in his engineering discipline. The candidate migrates to departments like purchase, inventory control and production planning wherein he understands the techniques better because there are taught from beginning in the IE programme and he has more comfort as well as confidence in those activities.

Inadequate Attention to Engineering in Work Study or The Time and Motion Study Subject


Time and Motion Study or Work Study is a core subject in IE curriculums. F.W. Taylor, the founder of Scientific Management developed time study. Frank Gilbreth developed motion study. Work study is a term coined later to describe a subject that includes both method study (that includes in its scope motion study) and work measurement (time study being one of the techniques in it). An examination of number of books on this subject was conducted to find out the use made of engineering knowledge in explaining the techniques that are to be used to improve work processes.

Introduction to Work Study edited by George Kanawaty[5] is a very popular book on the subject. It has only one example on development of an improved method. It deals with opening  the package, taking out the cartons and counting the number of pieces in the carton, inspecting and placing the items back in the carton.

Motion and Time Study was written by Gerald Nadler [6], Professor Industrial Engineering, Washington University in 1955. In the chapter ‘Areas and Principles of Methods Design” he gave some examples. They are on the topics, cleaning metal sheet, draping a garment, punching a hole in a long bar,  In the punching the hole example, the issue covered was that a third helper is not necessary and the two workers could handle the material pickup and disposal of completed item. One does not see any complex engineering issue in these examples. But it is to be mentioned here that the book mentions that there is a workbook for Motion and Time Study published by McGraw Hill, in 1955. Presently there is no workbook available for this subject.

Motion and Time Study: Design and Measurement of Work was authored by Ralph M. Barnes [7], Professor Engineering and Production Management Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles. The seventh edition was published in 1980. He used the example of watering the garden, recoating a buffing wheel with emery in his process analysis chapter. In operation analysis chapter, he uses simple bolt and washer assembly to illustrate the analysis. Ralph Barnes was awarded the first doctorate degree in industrial engineering.

Work Study by R.M. Currie [8], First President of the Institute of Work Study was published in 1959. The chapters on “Method Study: Examine” and “Method Study: Develop and Submit” did not have any illustrations.

Marvin Mundel is a respected industrial engineer. He developed the book, Motion and Time Study: Improving Productivity [9]. Its sixth edition was published in 1985. In the book, in the chapter “Process Chart – Product Analysis”, there are two cases. One was a simple material handling problem. The second one is the manufacture of the plunger of a diesel engine fuel-injection pump. In this case, Mundel has written specifically that depth of knowledge required to apply the technique in this case is high. It dealt with turning and grinding operations and the suggested improvements.

The examination of the leading and popular texts in the subject shows that the authors have used simple processes to explain and illustrate the techniques. These illustrations have not brought any in-depth engineering knowledge to the table in understanding them. Authors may be right in assuming that they have to explain the concept with simple illustrations. But there is the unintended consequence that the learner does not use the engineering knowledge in the context of industrial engineering and therefore does not get adequate understanding of the link between this new technique and his field of engineering.

Recommendations


Authors of textbooks on industrial engineering techniques have to illustrate the techniques through examples that require in-depth engineering knowledge. As industrial engineering is to be applied in various engineering enterprises, there is a need to develop workbooks that cater to specific engineering disciplines like workbook for civil engineering, workbook for chemical engineering, work book for electrical engineering and workbook for mechanical engineering etc. It is noted above that Nadler brought out a work book in 1955, but now there is no such workbook available. It is recommended that publishers and authors make efforts to come out with appropriate workbooks. Such an initiative could help industrial engineering degree holders to connect well with their basic engineering disciplines and visualise themselves as capable industrial engineers who can contribute to the organizations in their discipline by making the existing processes as well as new processes efficient by the application of IE techniques.




References


1. Going, Charles Buxton, Principles of Industrial Engineering, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1911, Pages 1,2,3.

2. Maynard, H.B., “Industrial Engineering”, Encyclopedia Americana, Americana Corporation, Vol. 15, 1953.

3. Lehrer, Robert N., “The Nature of Industrial Engineering,” The Journal of Industrial Engineering, vol.5, No.1, January 1954, Page 4 .

4. Narayana Rao, K.V.S.S., http://knol.google.com/k/industrial-engineering, Accessed on 18.2.2010.

5. Kanawaty, George (Ed.), Introduction to Work Study, Reprint of Fourth Edition, UPC, Bombay and ILO Geneva, 1995, pp.105-108.

6. Nadler, Gerald, Motion and Time Study, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1955

7. Barnes, Ralph M., Motion and Time Study: Design and Measurement of Work, 7th Edition, John Wiley, New York, 1980.

8. Currie, R.M., Work Study, 2nd Edition, Issac Pitman, London, 1963.

9. Mundel, Marvin, Motion and Time Study: Improving Productivity, Prentice Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, 1985

First Posted on Knol  - Knol Number 2356
6.3.2010

http://knol.google.com/k/narayana-rao/industrial-engineering-and-basic/ 2utb2lsm2k7a/ 2356

1 comment:

  1. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!









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