Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Industrial Engineering - Definition, Explanation, History, and Programs

New:  Industrial Engineering ONLINE Course

"Industrial Engineering is System Efficiency Engineering and  Human Effort Engineering."

It is concerned with engineering products and engineering processes primarily. It continuously improves engineering elements of products and processes as the opportunity arises to increase efficiency and productivity. Various other activities that plan and control engineering products and processes are also improved by industrial engineers to assure the productivity of the engineering processes or the engineering system as a whole. Industrial engineers also focus on the study and improvement of human effort in engineering processes.

Japanese companies used industrial engineering extensively with various innovations. They  improved the understanding of industrial engineering methods among their workmen and achieved unprecedented increase in the productivity of their industrial enterprises in post-second world war period. The Japanese production systems got the distinction with the description of them as World Class Manufacturing Systems. Industrial engineering played an important role in the success of  the most famous Japanese company "Toyota Motors." Taiichi Ohno, the person credited with Toyota Production Systems appreciates Industrial Engineering as Profit Engineering, the engineering discipline that increases profits every year by decreasing cost, that leads to increased sales and more profits. 




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]

“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.” (AIIE, 1955). [4]

"Industrial engineering may be defined as the art of utilizing scientific principles, psychological data, and physiological information for designing, improving, and integrating industrial, management, and human operating procedures." (Nadler, 1955) [5]

“Industrial engineering is that branch of engineering knowledge and practice which
 1. Analyzes, measures, and improves the method of performing the tasks assigned to individuals,
2. Designs and installs better systems of integrating tasks assigned to a group,
3. Specifies, predicts, and evaluates the results obtained.
 It does so by applying to materials, equipment and work specialized knowledge and skill in the mathematical and physical sciences and the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design. Since, however, work has to be carried out by people; engineering knowledge needs to be supplemented by knowledge derived from the biological and social sciences.” (Lyndall Urwick, 1963) [6]

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. [7]

“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.” (Narayana Rao, 2006) [8]

Definition proposed in this knol.
"Industrial Engineering is Human Effort Engineering and System Efficiency Engineeering. It is an engineering discipline that deals with the design of human effort and system efficiency 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."

Narayana Rao (2011)

"Industrial Engineering is Human Effort Engineering and System Efficiency Engineering. It is an engineering-based management staff-service discipline that deals with the design of human effort and system efficiency 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."(Narayana Rao, 2011)


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. Maynard, H.B.,  Handbook of Industrial Engineering, 2nd Edition,  McGraw Hill, New York, 1963.
5. Nadler, Gerald, Motion and Time Study", McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York, 1955
6. Urwick, Lyndall, F., “Development of Industrial Engineering”, Chapter 1 in Handbook of Industrial Engineering, H.B. Maynard (Ed.), 2nd Edition, McGraw Hill, New York, 1963.
8. Narayana Rao, K.V.S.S., “Definition of Industrial Engineering: Suggested Modification.” Udyog Pragati, October-December 2006, Pp. 1-4.

What is Industrial Engineering?

Industrial engineering is engineering improvement done in engineering products and processes during the product life cycle based on the data generated during operations, studies done and engineering and technology developments. It is continuous development of engineering products and processes to increase efficiency or productivity of the process to reduce its cost of operation. Industrial engineering facilitates unit cost reduction and thereby provides the potential to reduce prices and increase demand. It is the effort of industrial engineers that enables lower and lower prices and increases volume of sales thus providing the popular engineering goods to a larger and larger sections of the society. 

Industrial engineering can be better explained with the statement that the two focus areas of industrial engineering are human effort engineering and system efficiency engineering. These two focus areas match with Urwick’s statement 1 and 2. Industrial engineering (i) analyzes, measures, and improves the method of performing the tasks assigned to individuals, and (ii) Designs and installs better systems of integrating tasks assigned to a group (Urwick, Lyndall, F., “Development of Industrial Engineering”, Chapter 1 in Handbook of Industrial Engineering, H.B. Maynard (Ed.), 2nd Edition, McGraw Hill, New York, 1963).

It is interesting to note that the first representation to the teachers and practioners of industrial engineering was given in the name of Industrial and Efficiency Engineering Committee in 1912 in Society for Promotion of Engineering Education (S.P.E.E.). In this committee, there were three teachers and 8 practioners and Frank Gilbreth was among practioners (Gerald Thusesne, History of Development of Engineering Economic Representation in within A.S.E.E.).

System Efficiency Engineering - System Efficiency Design

System design and system efficiency design are to be distinguished by dividing system design into system functional design and system efficiency design. Engineers or managers with specialization in a function do the functional design part. An electrical power generation system is designed by electrical engineers. Industrial engineers take up the functional design and do efficiency engineering work on it. Similarly a production planning system is designed by production managers, and industrial engineers may do efficiency engineering of it.

The explanation of industrial engineering as human effort engineering and system efficiency engineering brings out more clearly the scope of the IIE definition that industrial engineering is concerned with the design, improvement, and installation of integrated systems. The word engineering is associated with design and production, fabrication or construction according to designs.  As explained above, system design in entirety cannot be the sole preserve of industrial engineers.  The functional design of production systems in various branches of engineering can be done by engineers of that branch only. Similarly functional design of various management systems in a business organization can be done by managers of that function only. Industrial engineers'  role to play in systems design  is of designing efficiency into the functional systems designed by others on a continuous basis.

Maynard stated the scope of industrial engineering in his preface to the second edition of Hand Book of Industrial Engineering, edited by him in 1963. Industrial engineers have been traditionally concerned with the design of manufacturing plants, methods improvement, work measurement, the design and administration of wage payment systems, cost control, quality control, production control and the like. These procedures are all directed toward the reduction of cost. All the techniques of industrial engineering reflect the common denominator of all industrial engineering work – an intense interest in improving thing that is currently being done or planned to be done . Cost reduction or efficiency improvement is the focus of industrial engineering. Maynard also pointed out in his preface that developments in applied mathematics and statistics during the post world war years facilitated industrial engineer to tackle efficiency design of much larger systems with more predictive power.

In 1943, the Work Standardization Committee of the Management Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers identified the following areas as the purview of industrial engineer: Budgets and cost control, manufacturing engineering, organization analysis, systems & procedures, and wage & salary administration. The traditional industrial engineering methods of operation analysis, motion study, work measurement, standardization of the method were included in manufacturing engineering and these techniques are relevant for hourly base wage rate determination, incentives and administration of wage payment.
The study of various functional areas in industrial engineering curriculums is for the purpose of understanding the functional designs in those areas and industrial engineering graduates should not claim expertise in those subjects to do functional design unless they really specialize in them through extra study and experience of efficiency design of many systems in the same functional area.

According to M.H. Mathewson, industrial engineering is distinguished from other engineering disciplines in that it:

1. Is concerned with the total system. (Productivity of the total system)
2. Predicts and interprets the economic results. (Provides cost estimates and standards and thus can predict the profit given the estimates of sales revenue. Also for each industrial engineering change proposed by it, it gives the expected reduction in cost.)
3. Places increased emphasis on the integration of human being into the system. (How the operator is going operate the machine, load and unload work pieces, move work pieces etc. are studied and redesigned by industrial engineers. the comfort, health and safety of operators is an area of focus for industrial engineering.)
4. Makes greater utilization of the contribution of the social sciences than do other engineering disciplines. (Industrial engineers have to persuade operators to learn the new methods or method changes and work according to them. In the activity of directing operators to learn new methods and work according to them, industrial engineers have to utilize social sciences.)

Industrial Engineering as practiced today can be explained by identifying three components.

1. System Efficiency Engineering (Product Industrial Engineering and Process Industrial Engineering)
2. Systems Redesign, Installation and Improvement Management.
3. Human Effort Engineering
All methods and techniques of industrial engineering can be categorized under these three major components.



Methods of Industrial Engineering

Techniques of Industrial Engineering

Human Effort Engineering - Techniques

4. Application of Ergonomics and Biomechanics
5. Fatigue Studies
6. Productivity/Safety/Comfort Device Design
7. Standardization of  Methods - Methods Study
8. Time study of human effort or work elements - Work measurement of human work
9. Operator training
10. Incentive Systems
11. Job Evaluation
12. Learning effect capture

System Efficiency Improvement Techniques of Industrial engineering 

1. Process Analysis and Improvement
2. Operation Analysis and Improvement
3. Time estimates and time study of machine work
4. Value engineering
5. Statistical quality control
6. Statistical inventory control and ABC Classification Based Inventory Systems
7. Six sigma
8. Operations research
9. Variety reduction
10. Standardization
11. Waste reduction or elimination
12. Activity based management
13. Business process improvement
14. Engineering economy analysis
15. Learning effect capture and continuous improvement (Kaizen, Quality circles and suggestion schemes)
16. Standard costing
17. 5S - Work Place Orderliness or Plant Orderliness
18. SMED
19. Poka Yoke

Development of Industrial Engineering -  History

Industrial engineering as the application of engineering approach to factory manufacture developed initially over a 30 year period spanning 1882 to 1912. The important mile stones in this period are:

1. The idea that engineers have to design and fabricate products at costs that large number of consumers can afford to pay was advocated. This idea gave birth to the subject of Engineering Economics subsequently. H.R. Towne’s address in 1886 to American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) “The Engineer as an Economist” was a classic paper in this area.  The papers of Oberlin Smith also fall in this group.
 2. Engineers got interested in wage incentive methods. Papers by Towne, F.R. Halsey. F.W. Taylor and H.L.Gantt between 1880 ad 1895 addressed this issue.
 3. Engineers got involved in factory accounting issues. An English engineer and accountant, Emile Garcke and J.M. Fells published a book on factory accounts in 1889.
 4. Engineers recognized the importance of production control and paid attention to improve the procedures of production control. H.C. Metcalfe’s “ A Shop Order System of Accounts” was an early paper in this regard.
 5. F.W. Taylor addressed issues related to shop management in a more comprehensive manner in his paper “Shop Management” (1903).
 6. Frank Gilbreth developed the motion study technique.
7. H.L. Gantt advocated training of operators.
 8. Harrington Emerson came out with a book that emphasized efficiency of business organizations and systems.
 9. Lillian Moller Gilbreth work along with Frank Gilbreth and applied psychology to industrial work.
10. Hugo Diemer authored book on Factory Management emphasizing industrial engineering (1910).
11. Charles Going authored the book, Principles of Industrial Engineering (1911).
12. Principles of Industrial Engineering were developed and presented to IISE members and conference participants in 2017. 

Among the pioneers, F.W. Taylor is hailed as the father of scientific management as he was the first person to perceive the interconnection between these initiatives and integrated them into a philosophy of management “Scientific Management.”

The earliest reference to Industrial Engineering with a detailed explanation was  the address delivered by Henry R. Towne[1] at the Purdue University on February 24th, 1905. According to him,” the Engineer is one who, in the world of physics and applied sciences, begets new things, or adapts old things to new and better uses; above all, one who, in that field, attains new results in the best way and at lowest cost.” Towne explained that Industrial Engineering is the practice of one or more branches of engineering in connection with some organized establishment of a productive character, in which are conducted the operations required in the production of some article, or series of articles, of commerce or consumption. Nearly all industrial work of this kind, especially if it be conducted on a large scale, involves technical, physical, and engineering questions, varying with the kind of industry but usually of wide scope.

Industrial engineers have to do both technical and administrative work; that is, they have to take responsibility both for the design and character of the product, and for the economy of its production. According to Towne, the industrial engineer as  the man  responsible for the daily operation and, still more, for the vitality and growth of a large industrial plant, must be a many-sided Engineer. He has to consider the planning and, construction of new buildings. He has also to deal with the question of power and its distribution, with steam engines and boilers, with electric generation and transmission, with shafting and belting, in many cases with pumping and the use of compressed air for many purposes, in all cases with heating, ventilating, plumbing and sanitation, and in large plants with questions of internal transportation  he has to  select the right men for the various positions to be filled, and inspire them with ambition and the right spirit in their work. He has to  coordinate their work so as to produce the best final result and understand and direct the technical operations and appreciate quickly and surely whether or not they are properly performed. Industrial engineer combines in one personality  two functions of technical knowledge and executive ability, and a person  who has aptitude for both the fields  has open to him unlimited opportunities in the field of industrial engineering.

According to Urwick, persons who liked Taylors ideas called themselves as industrial engineers, when both big business companies and trade union disliked "scientific management."[2]


  1. Towne, Henry R., “Industrial Engineering” An Address Delivered  At the Purdue University, Friday, February 24th, 1905, downloaded from

 2. Urwick, Lyndall, F., “Development of Industrial Engineering”, Chapter 1 in Handbook of Industrial Engineering, H.B. Maynard (Ed.), 2nd Edition, McGraw Hill, New York, 1963.

Library Collections of Pioneers

F.W. Taylor's papers are at Steven Institute

Frank Gilbreth's Papers are at Purdue University

Harrington Emerson's papers are at Pennsylvania University


Efficiency is the focus of Industrial Engineering

IIE describes itself as the Global Association of Productivity and Efficiency Professionals ( accessed on 20.1.2010).


Professional Societies in Industrial Engineering

Taylor Society

New York Efficiency Society

In 1912, Harrington Emerson helped to found the New York Efficiency Society which promoted and disseminated the ideals of reform through scientific management.

Society of Industrial Engineers

It was founded in 1917.
Society of Industrial Engineers was formed  in 1917, as a measure for helping the war effort, from the Western Efficiency Society (1910)

Society for Advancement of Management
SAM traces is origin to Taylor Society that was founded in 1912 by the colleagues and disciples of Frederick Taylor, the "Father of Scientific Management”. In 1936 the Taylor Society and the Society of Industrial Engineers merged to form the Society for the Advancement of Management.

American Institute of Industrial Engineers

University of Alabama Alumnus,  Wyllys G. Stanton invited a dozen gentlemen to his home one January evening in 1948 to discuss the formation of a new organization specializing in the interests of industrial engineers.
In 1948, the American Institute of Industrial Engineers (AIIE) was established: its objectives were many and compelling, but perhaps the most important was the professional recognition of IE.

The Institute of Industrial Engineers Australia
The Institute of Industrial Engineers celebrated it's 50th Anniversary year in 2008. In 1958 the Australian Methods Engineering Society was incorporated to become IIE Australia.

Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE)
The name of the American Institute of Industrial Engineers was changed to Institute of Industrial Engineers.
Gilbreth Network


Some Interesting Statements

Hoxie [2], who is probably best remembered as the one who was among the first to define the relationship between scientific and organized labor, and who insisted that "…Time and motion study, therefore, must be regarded as the chief cornerstone."
[2] R. R. Hoxie. Scientific management and labor welfare. Journal of Political Economy, XXIV, 1916, p.838. (C.F. Taylor said many years ago: "Time study is by far the most important element in scientific management." q.v. by A. H. Mogensen. Common Sense Applied to Motion and Time Study. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1932, p. 7.)

If a pragmatic beginning is sought for industrial engineering, it can be found in the pioneering work of Taylor in his attempt to answer the question: What is a fair day's work? Taylor was fond of quoting President Theodore Roosevelt who insisted that "The conservation of our national resources is only preliminary to the larger question of national efficiency." Almost a hundred years ago, Taylor noted:
We can see our forests vanishing, our water-powers going to waste, our soil being carried by floods into the sea; and the end of our coal and iron is in sight. But our larger wastes of human effort, which go on every day through such of our acts are as blundering, ill-directed, or inefficient…

Engineering might be defined as the art of controlling the forces and materials of nature, and organizing and directing men for the benefit of the human race.
(Nadler, Gerald, Motion and Time Study", McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York, 1955, p.3)


Undergraduate and Graduate Programs in Industrial Engineering

F.W.Taylor is credited with instigating the first undergraduate curriculum in Industrial Engineering by recommending to Beaver, President of the Board of Trustees of Pennsylvania State University that Mechanical Engineering be taught from the vantage point of view of manufacturing rather than from the perspective of power plants and higher mathematics. 

In 1908, the first course was offered as an option in Mechanical Engineering. 

In 1909, the first baccalaureate program in Industrial Engineering was offered at Pennsylvania University. Hugo Diemer, a young professor from the University of Kansas, recruited by Penn state University on the recommendation of Frederick Taylor, developed and coordinated the program. Diemer is credited with offering the first paper/course in industrial engineering to be taught in the United States – “Machinery and Millwork” – at University of Kansas School of Engineering in 1899.  Professor Diemer described industrial engineers as persons "who are thoroughly familiar with the productive processes, with broad interests, and who are at the same time thorough accountants and businessmen." Accounting as an area of importance to industrial engineers was mentioned by Towne also.
Diemer wrote his most famous book Factory Organization and Administration  published by McGraw-Hill in 1910.

Visit the knol for more about programs

Ph.d degree in Industrial Engineering
R.M. Barnes was awarded the first Ph.d in Industrial Engineering.

Industrial Engineering Subjects for Functions of Business Organization

Product Design Industrial Engineering

Maintenance System Industrial Engineering - Online Book

Information Systems Industrial Engineering - Online Book

Financial System Industrial Engineering - Online Book

Marketing System Industrial Engineering - Online Book

Supply Chain Industrial Engineering - Online Book

Manufacturing System Industrial Engineering - Online Book

Total Cost Industrial Engineering - Industrial Engineering of Enterprise Cost

Quality System Industrial Engineering


Related Knols

Originally posted in Knol industrial-engineering Knol number 1151

By Narayana Rao K.V.S.S.

Updated  20 May 2020,   3 August 2018,   26 June 2016, 12 June 2016, 12 Oct 2012
The updates to this post are examples of industrial engineering - continuous improvement based on periodic reviews as well as when a relevant information becomes available or an idea comes to mind.

The first creation of the post is the example of basic engineering - product design as well as process design. The updates show the opportunities for industrial engineering in engineering systems.

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