Thursday, April 12, 2012

Industrial Engineering and Systems Design

Design of Systems

Industrial engineering is concerned with the design, improvement and installation of integrated systems of people, materials, information, equipment and energy. 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.

The definition of industrial engineering includes the words "design of systems".

But has industrial engineering discipline developed  the subject of systems design? A perfect positive answer cannot be given.

in the second edition of Industrial Engineering Handbook edited by H.B. Maynard, a chapter on systems design was included. In the article, Prof Oliver J. Sizelove of Newark College of Engineering, Newark, New Jersey correctly indicated that very few industrial engineers can be expected to possess "expert" skills in all the disciplines required to design complex systems. He also stated that the conventionally organized industrial engineering department cannot really cope with the design of a complex system. Design of complex systems requires team effort representing variety of skills. What skills do industrial engineers bring to this team? Industrial engineers have to clear about it? By including design of systems in their definition, what did they want to achieve? Did they want leadership of systems design effort in the organizations? The focus areas of industrial engineering are human effort and system efficiency. So they have a significant role to play in systems design. They can aspire to lead the system design effort also.

Prof Sizelove described in his article, the organization of system design effort in the industrial engineering department of United Airlines. In the organization chart shown in the chapter, Sizelove indicated that there are  special project cells under OR and Applies Sciences Division and Works Analysis Division. A project leader is  given the responsibility to select competent personnel, in almost any required discipline, from other divisions in this structure. Thus, the system design team developed specific to a project can deliver optimum design either in case of a system redesign or development of an entirely new system. 

Sizelove also mentioned that they are industrial engineers heading systems design activity having expert knowledge in the system being designed. But in majority of cases, industrial engineer serves as hub and brings together the knowledge and talents of the various scientific and engineering disciplines and integrates them into a cohesive team of systems designers. But this process of industrial engineers leading system design, and industrial engineering departments as system design departments was not really pursued by the industrial engineering discipline both in education as well as in practice.

Systems design remained in definition but its implementation was never really explored. Industrial engineering curriculums need to have subject titled "Systems Design Management" to develop this dimension of industrial engineering.


Oliver J. Sizelove, "Systems Design", Chapter 7-1, Industrial Engineering Handbook, 2nd Edition, H.B. Maynard (Editor in Chief), McGraw-Hill, New Yorkl

Comments Welcome

Comments and references to the effort of industrial engineering profession to develop this dimension of industrial engineering are welcome.

Related papers, articles and web pages

1. An integrated manufacturing systems design environment

Computers and Industrial Engineering 
Volume 33 ,  Issue 3-4  (December 1997) , Pages: 341 - 344  

2. A manufacturing system design framework for computer aided industrial engineering

Authors: Maurice Bonney;  Michael Head;  Svetan Ratchev; Idir Moualek

Published in:  International Journal of Production Research, Volume 38, Issue 17 November 2000 , pages 4317 - 4327.


This paper describes a framework that formalizes within a concurrent engineering approach the key steps in the process of manufacturing systems design. Many of the functions performed by industrial engineers, ergonomists and process planners are included in the framework and may be used iteratively as design detail is progressively added. The paper describes the framework and prototype software, indicates how the framework is evaluated and illustrates how a workplace may be designed. The emphasis of the work is the design of human centred manual assembly systems. The overall objective of the work is to improve the process of manufacturing systems design.

3. MIT Courseware

ESD.36J / 1.432J System and Project Management

Fall 2003

Course Description

The course is designed for students in the System Design and Management (SDM) program and therefore assumes that you already have a basic knowledge of project management. The objective is to introduce advanced methods and tools of project management in a realistic context such that they can be taken back to the workplace to improve management of development projects. In contrast to traditional courses on the subject we will emphasize scenarios that cannot be fully predicted such as task iterations, unplanned rework, perceived versus actual progress and misalignments between tasks, product architectures and organizations.

Original Knol - Knol number 1187

1 comment:

  1. Interesting and informative article, I had been looking for info on how to do effective process mapping of my industrial processes and this has proven to be a good resource. I am using a process simulation software to do my process mapping and that is why its imperative that I 'do it right'.