Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ergonomist - Is He an Industrial Engineer

Industrial Engineering and Ergonomics

In Industrial Engineering Curriculum, Ergonomics is an subject. But is Ergonomics Industrial Engineering? Or is Ergonomics, a science that supports Industrial Engineering. This issue is vital because, industrial engineering profession has ignored its core area of human effort engineering and promoted ergonomics in a big way. But if egronomics professionals keep their subject  separate (they are forced to keep it separate as the basic underlying subjects for ergonomics are physiology or psychology), industrial engineering discipline ends up as a loser (it has already incurred losses). Actually industrial engineering discipline committed the same blunder in many emerging techniques or associated disciplines. It has not protected its turf and it has not made its IE stamp effective on those techniques and subjects.
Ergonomist's Activities
The role of ergonomist was described by Nevile Stanton in the article 'Human Factors and Ergonomics Methods" in the Handbook  "Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics Methods" edited by him.
According to him the domain of human factors and ergonomics includes:
Human capabilities and limitations
Human-machine interaction
Tools, machines, and material design
Environmental factors
Work and organizational design
Ergonomist is simulataneously a scientist and a practitioner.
As a scientist, the ergonomist is:
Extending the work of others
testing theories of human-machine performance
Developing hypotheses
Questioning everything
Using rigorous data-collection and data-analysis techniques
Ensruing repeatability of results
Disseminating the finding  of studies
As a practioner, the ergonomist is:
Addressing real world problems
Seeking the best compromise under difficult circumstances
Looking to offer the most cost-effective solution
Developing demonstrators and prototype solutions
Analyzing and evaluating the effects of change
Developing benchmarks for best practice
Communicating findings to interested parties
The listing is very useful to describe activities of scientists and researchers in general.
But what is interesting from the point of view of industrial engineers is that the words "industrial engineering" or "industrial engineer" are not mentioned anywhere in the article. Actually, industrial engineering profession was ignored by many disciplines in the same manner and the IE profession did not recognize and make efforts to bring the relation between IE and the related disciplines explicit in the general literature.

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