Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Concept of Human Effort Engineering: HR Dimension



A new definition of industrial engineering emerged in the literature. “Industrial Engineering is Human Effort Engineering. It is an engineering discipline that deals with the design of human effort in all occupations: agricultural, manufacturing and service. The objectives of Industrial Engineering are optimization of productivity of work-systems and occupational comfort, health, safety and income of persons involved.” According to this definition the two focus areas of industrial engineering are human effort engineering and systems efficiency/productivity engineering.



The human resources of an organization consist of all people who perform its activities. Human resource management (HRM) is concerned with the personnel policies and managerial practices and systems that influence the workforce.  In broader terms, all decisions that affect the workforce of the organization concern the HRM function.


The activities of human resource management can be categorized under the five major domains: Organizational design, Staffing, Performance management and appraisal, Employee and organizational development, and reward systems, benefits, and compliance. Traditionally Industrial engineering and human resource management had interconnected relationships in areas like manpower planning and job evaluation.  But the definition of industrial engineering as human effort engineering provides a greater scope for cooperative efforts between the two functions.


In an attempt to explore this area in detail and provide a framework such cooperation, the paper describes development of industrial engineering, present focus of human resource management, special emphasis that is being given to work analysis, and presents the conclusions.




Development of Industrial Engineering

Industrial engineering emerged as a discipline of graduate and post graduate education based on the pioneering effort done by F.W. Taylor, Frank Gilbreth and Harrington Emerson in the areas of human productivity improvement and efficiency improvement in methods and systems.  American Institute of Industrial Engineering (AIIE) started in January 1948 became a focal point for industrial engineering profession and evolved into an international professional body, Institute of Industrial Engineering. AIIE adopted the following definition for Industrial Engineering in 1955. “Industrial engineering is concerned with the design, improvement, and installation of integrated systems of men, materials, and equipment. It draws upon specialized knowledge and skill in the mathematical, physical, and social sciences together with the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design, to specify, predict, and evaluate the results to be obtained from such systems.”[1]

Robert N. Lehrer, Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Industrial Engineering, had proposed the following definition for industrial engineering in 1954. “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.”[2]


Lehrer’s definition emphasizes that the unique characteristic of Industrial Engineering is the consideration of the human factor. It is the industrial engineer that brings abilities and disabilities of human beings into the design process of work systems such that work systems are optimized. Lehrer’s emphasis on human factor as the unique characteristic of Industrial Engineering was not explicitly emphasized in the definition evolved by the AIIE and it chose to articulate knowledge and skill in mathematical, physical and social sciences, principles and methods of engineering analysis for design, installation and improvement of integrated systems of men, materials and equipment.


This lack of emphasis on the focus of the discipline is resulting in a situation where even the students of industrial engineering in postgraduate programmes are unable to articulate the uniqueness of industrial engineering in an organization. Narayana Rao discussed the issue in detail and proposed the following definition.


“Industrial Engineering is Human Effort Engineering. It is an engineering discipline that deals with the design of human effort in all occupations: agricultural, manufacturing and service. The objectives of Industrial Engineering are optimization of productivity of work-systems and occupational comfort, health, safety and income of persons involved.” [3]


If one needs to explain the focus of industrial engineering more briefly, two areas can be specified as exclusive focus of industrial engineering: Human Effort Engineering and Systems Efficiency Engineering. As industrial engineers have a role in system design as well as in human effort design they have a role in implementing projects, systems and processes. Thus, they are part of project management teams and can lead such teams also. As, industrial engineering is concerned with individual human effort as well as  relations between various employees as a part of system efficiency engineering, it has a significant role to play in the human resource issues of an organization.



The Role Human Resource Management


Human resource management (HRM) is concerned with the personnel policies and managerial practices and systems that influence the workforce.  In broader terms, all decisions that affect the workforce of the organization concern the HRM function. [4]


The activities involved in HRM function are pervasive throughout the organization. Line managers, typically spend more than 50 percent of their time for human resource activities such hiring, evaluating, disciplining, and scheduling employees. Human resource management specialists in the HRM department help organizations with all activities related to staffing and maintaining an effective workforce. Major HRM responsibilities include work design and job analysis, training and development, recruiting, compensation, team-building, performance management and appraisal, worker health and safety issues, as well as identifying or developing valid methods for selecting staff. HRM department provides the tools, data and processes that are used by line managers in their human resource management component of their job.



The present focus of HRM is being directed towards expanding the customer base while maximizing profit. According to Dr. James Spina, former head of Executive Development at the Tribune Company, HRM has a whole lot to do with this focus regardless of the size of the business, or the products or services that an organization is selling [5]. HRM is involved in managing the human resources with a focus on expanding customer base that gives profit to the company. The bottom line of the company is the focus of the HRM department as well as the function.


The activities performed by HRM professionals fall under five major domains [6]:


(1) Organizational design,

(2) Staffing,

(3) Performance Management and Appraisal,

(4) Employee and Organizational Development, and

(5) Reward Systems, Benefits ad Compliance


Acquiring human resource capability should begin with organizational design and analysis. Organizational design involves the arrangement of work tasks based on the interaction of people, technology and the tasks to be performed in the context of the objectives, goals and the strategic plan of the organization. HRM activities such as human resources planning, job and work analysis, organizational restructuring, job design, team building, computerization, and worker-machine interfaces fall under this domain.


Recruitment, employee orientation, selection, promotion, and termination are among the activities that fit into the staffing domain. The performance management domain includes assessments of individuals and teams to measure, and to improve work performance.  Employee training and development programs are concerned with establishing, fostering, and maintaining employee skills base don organizational and employee needs.


Reward systems, benefits and compliance have to do with any type of reward or benefit that may be available to employees. Labour law, health and safety issues and unemployment policy fall under compliance component.



Relationship between Industrial Engineering and HRM Department


Flippo [7] identified that job analysis is often confused with motion study conducted by industrial engineers. These are two different ways of studying the same job, but motion study is a process of analyzing a job to find out the easiest, most effective, and most economical method of doing it or portions thereof. The purpose of job analysis done by HRM persons is descriptive, broad and less detailed. The results of job analysis are used for recruitment, wage determination and training. Motion study is very detailed and it is conducted by industrial engineers for standardization of method and improvement. If a job is subjected to both processes of study, motion study should preferably precede job analysis done by HRM persons. Thus Flippo recognized the role of industrial engineers in companies and their interaction with HRM activity.


Flippo [8] also recognized the role of industrial engineering in safety management. He said sound and forward-looking engineering must certainly be an essential requirement of any safety effort. Workplaces should be clean, well lighted, and properly ventilated. Appropriate mechanical devices for material handling should be provided. All dangerous equipment needs to be safeguarded. Flippo also advocated use of human factors engineering so that machines, equipment, and tools can be used by workmen within their limitations and abilities. He emphasizes that the first objective of human engineering is to improve performance. This aspect is closely associated with motion study and work simplification. The second objective is to protect the individual’s physical and mental condition through making work more comfortable, less fatiguing, and less hazardous. Industrial psychologists and physiologists need to work along with design engineers to have designs that make less demand on the limitations of workers. Once industrial engineers develop new methods, training the employees in those methods becomes a responsibility of industrial engineers. Thus in the area of training production operators, the HRM training specialists create the training environment and schedules and industrial engineers act as trainers. In Job evaluation exercises, industrial engineers are involved actively to arrive at the job analysis. Incentive scheme calculations are undertaken by IE departments in many companies. Industrial engineers operate incentive schemes as they can adjust standard times appropriately from time to time and calculate incentives and explain the rationale to workmen more easily.




Competitive Advantage and HRM


Competitive Advantage refers to the ability of an organization to formulate strategies that place it at favorable position relative to other companies in the industry. Two major principles, namely customer value and uniqueness, are relevant for gaining competitive advantage.


Competitive advantage occurs if customers perceive that they receive more value from their transaction or relationship with an organization than from its competitors. HRM needs to make efforts to ensure that all employees are focused on understanding customer needs and expectations.


The second principle of competitive advantage derives from offering a product or service that your competitor cannot easily imitate or copy.


The status of HRM is improving relative to other potential sources of competitive advantage for an organization. Professor Pfeffer notes that "traditional sources of success (e.g., speed to market, financial, technological) can still provide competitive leverage, but to a lesser degree now than in the past, leaving organizational culture and capabilities, derived from how people are managed, as comparatively more vital."[9]


For success in 21st century, HRM activities must be (1) responsive to a highly competitive marketplace and global business structures, (2) closely linked to business strategic plans, (3) jointly conceived and implemented by line and HR managers, and (4) focused on quality, customer service, productivity, employee involvement, teamwork, and workforce flexibility. [10]


Human resource management is thus responsible for customer service, productivity, and quality that are obtained through the human resources. In this function HRM specialists work in collaboration with line managers and other support managers. Industrial engineering is a support function responsible for the design of human effort and systems efficiency and HRM has to work in close cooperation with the department.


Work Analysis – An Area of Cooperation between Human Resource Managers and Human Effort Engineers


Bernardin says analysis of work is a building block for most HR systems in organizations. Corporate restructuring processes, quality improvement programs, human resource planning, job design, recruitment strategies, training programmes, succession planning, and compensation system are the HR activities that are based on work analysis. Work analysis takes as its input the strategic plan of the company and gives as output the competent workers who are able and willing to implement the strategy by carrying out the tasks assignment to them through job descriptions and day-to-day work assignments and instructions.


Work analysis is a systematic process of gathering information about work, jobs, and the relationships among jobs.


The chronological Steps in Work Analysis (given in the form of questions) [11]


1. What are the required outcomes/measures for assessing strategy execution (e.g., customer requirements for products/services derived from the strategic plan)?


2. What are necessary, critical, essential tasks, activities, behaviors required to meet or exceed the requirements established at step 1? What the relative importance, frequency, and essentiality of these tasks for achieving measures at step 1?


3. What are the necessary knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics or competencies required to perform the activities at step 2?


4. How should jobs/work be defined? Where does the work get done to maximize efficiency/effectiveness? Do we use individual jobs, work teams, independent contractors, full-time/part-time? Do we outsource?


As we notice these essential questions in the work analysis sequence, some of the questions are to be answered by functional specialists. Neither industrial engineers nor human resource management specialists can answer these questions. It is only functional specialists who can specify the tasks to be carried out to execute a strategy which involves production of goods and services, selling and distribution of these goods and services and related support activities. Industrial engineers can take these functional designs and do human effort engineering and efficiency engineering of processes and subsystems. Then a team of HRM specialists, industrial engineers and line managers can develop job analysis sheets. These sheets become the basis of manpower planning and recruitment decisions. Thus this process involving functional specialists, industrial engineers and HRM specialists will answer all the four questions of work analysis in a systematic, effective and efficient way. The process also provides for cooperation among industrial engineers and HRM specialists. HRM specialists interact with industrial engineer and develop formats that industrial engineers use to develop information in a format useful to HRM department persons from the standard operations sheets that they prepare for operators and other employees.




MBA Curriculum of HR Specialization and Industrial Engineering


Human resource managers have to understand the techniques used by industrial engineers to make appropriate use of them in making HRM function more effective and efficient. They also have to provide help to industrial engineers in behavioural areas to make IE function effective. Industrial engineers do study behavioral sciences but the depth of human resource specialists is very high compared to industrial engineers in the behavioural science area. Industrial engineers will have more knowledge in the work methods and efficiency tools. They have to take specialist help of behavioral scientists as well as ergonomics specialists where required. As human effort engineering is an important aspect of human resource management function, HRM specialists are to be given at least one course of industrial engineering in which they can be given inputs in basic tools of industrial engineering and also on how to make industrial engineering effective by behavioural management of industrial engineering interventions.





1. Matheson, M.H., “The Broadening Scope of Industrial Engineering”, Chapter 2 in Maynard, H.B. (Ed.), Industrial Engineering Handbook, Second Edition, McGraw Hill Book Co., New York, 1963, p. I-17.


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


3. Narayana Rao, K.V.S.S., “Definition of Industrial Engineering: Suggested Modification.” Udyog Pragati, October-December 2006, Pp. 1-4.


4. Bernardin, H. John, Human Resource Management: an Experiential Approach, Fourth Edition, Tata McGraw-Hill Pub. Co. Ltd, New Delhi, 2007, p.4.


5. Bernardin, H. John, Op cit.


6. Bernardin, H. John, Op cit.


7. Flippo, Edwin B., Principles of Personnel Management, Fourth Edition, McGraw-Hill Kogakusha, Ltd., Tokyo, 1976, pp. 110-11.


8. Flippo, Edwin B., Principles of Personnel Management, Fourth Edition, McGraw-Hill Kogakusha, Ltd., Tokyo, 1976, pp. 531-32.


9. Bernardin, H. John, Op cit. p.3.


10. Bernardin, H. John, Op cit., p.3.


11. Bernardin, H. John, Op cit., p.81.



The paper was presented at the International Conference on Management organized by HK Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai, 20-21 March, 2009.
Dr. D.K. Srivastava, Professor, Human Resource Management, National Institute of Industrial Engineering, Mumbai is a coauthor of this paper.
Originally Posted on Knol - Knol Number 1156

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