The History Of Industrial Engineering

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology defines industrial engineering as: the profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences gained by study, experience and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize economically, the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of mankind concerned with the design, improvement and installation of integrated systems of people, materials, 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 origins of industrial engineering can be traced back to many different sources. Fredrick Winslow Taylor is most often considered as the father of industrial engineering even though all his ideas where not original. Some of the preceding influences may have been Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill. All of their works provided classical liberal explanations for the successes and limitations of the Industrial Revolution.

Another major contributor to the field was Charles W. Babbage. a mathematics professor. One of his major contributions to the field was his book On the Economy of Machinery and Manufacturers in 1832. In this book he discusses many different topics dealing with manufacturing, a few of which will be extremely familiar to an IE. Babbage discusses the idea of the learning curve, the division of task and how learning is affected, and the effect of learning on the generation of waste.

In the late nineteenth century more developments where being made that would lead to the formalization of industrial engineering. Henry R. Towne stressed the economic aspect of an engineer’s job. Towne belonged to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) as did many other early American pioneers in this new field. The IE handbook says the, “ASME was the breeding ground for industrial engineering. Towne along with Fredrick A. Halsey worked on developing and presenting wage incentive plans to the ASME. It was out of these meetings that the Halsey plan of wage payment developed. The purpose was to increase the productivity of workers without negatively affecting the cost of production. The plan suggested that some of the gains be shared with the employees.. This is one early example of one profit sharing plan.

Henry L. Gantt belonged to the ASME and presented papers to the ASME on topics such as cost, selection of workers, training, good incentive plans, and scheduling of work. He is the originator of the Gantt chart, currently the most popular chart used in scheduling of work.

hat would Industrial Engineering be without mentioning Fredrick Winslow Taylor. Taylor is probably the best known of the pioneers in industrial engineering. His work, like others, covered topics such as the organization of work by management, worker selection, training, and additional compensation for those individuals that could meet the standard as developed by the company through his methods.

The Gilbreths are accredited with the development of time and motion studies. Frank Bunker Gilbreth and his wife Dr. Lillian M. Gilbreth worked on understanding fatigue, skill development, motion studies, as well as time studies. Lillian Gilbreth had a Ph.D. in psychology which helped in understanding the many people issues. One of the most significant things the Gilbrethss did was to classify the basic human motions into seventeen types, some effective and some non-effective. They labeled the table of classification therbligs. Effective therbligs are useful in accomplishing work and non-effective therbligs are not. Gilbreth concluded that the time to complete an effective therblig can be shortened but will be very hard to eliminate. On the other hand non-effective therbligs should be completely eliminated if possible.

In 1948, the American Institute for Industrial Engineers (AIIE), was opened for the first time and began to give a professional authenticity for the practicing engineers. Up to this time industrial engineers really had no specific place in the hierarchy of a company. The ASME was the only other society that required its members to have an engineering degree prior to the development of the AIIE.

What is the future for Industrial Engineers? With analytical methods and the advancing technologies for the computer, modeling complex production and service systems will become more and more an every day task.

Performing a motion study. Every job can be broken down into its’ fundamental work elements. The Gilbreth family found that there are seventeen of these motions. The time to complete each motion does not change. Jobs can be studied visually or through the assistance of a camera for micro-motion studies.

The environment for the workers also needs to be set up to promote efficiency of work. Tools should be placed in fixed locations to eliminate the search and selection therbligs. Work surfaces and chairs should be adjusted to the correct working heights to eliminate stress. Whenever possible, gravity feeders should be used to deliver parts to the correct location. The worker’s tools should be designed to eliminate multiple cuts. Adjustment handles should be designed to maximize the operator’s mechanical advantage.

Performing a time study. Without a standard the company will find it hard to estimate lead-time on their products. Times very greatly when the employee does not know what the expectation of company is. In order to correct this problem the IE will develop a fair standard expectation for each operation. It has been estimated that 12% of a company’s total cost comes from direct labor. Another 43% of cost comes from the material cost. The other 45% is spent in overhead. So the idea that the largest productivity gains can be felt on the floor does not hold up in this light. A good time study will take into account the unavoidable delays, fatigue, and to an extent, outside interferences. Time for wasteful steps, such as searching for tools, will not be included in the final standard. The expectation is that the workplace will be designed to accommodate the work and will be free from this type of waste.

Set-Up Times Set up time is the amount of time it takes to begin producing different parts on a machine. If set-up times remain large the company will operate with high levels of work in progress and finished goods tying up the companies valuable capital. Companies that fail to reduce their set-up times have a tendency to look sluggish in regards to their customers.

Cost An IE will generally be responsible for coming up with a cost analysis on the equipment purchase. There are a several ways of coming up with this. Lifehow long the machine is expected to last when developing the cost analysis.

Efficiency The traditional way of looking at efficiency was to keep the machine running at a 100% The idea was the cost of the machine could be spread out over the amount of time it was kept running. The higher the machines efficiency, time running / time available, the better the accounting numbers looked in regards to machine cost.

Material The IE is concerned with the delivery and flow of material throughout the plant, often the plant has evolved as the company has.

Lot size To allow the manufacturer to stay flexible the production lot sizes should be minimalized. This will only be economical after the reduction of machine set-ups have been achieved.

Inventory Levels Since inventory is capital that cannot be converted until finished and purchased by a consumer, it should be kept to a minimal. Inventories not only tie up capital but if the customer requests a change then the inventory runs the risk of becoming obsolete.

Quality The quality of the material can affect all parts of the system. Poor quality material often introduces excessive amounts of rework into each of the processes. A typical job for an IE would be to work with the quality department to set up a Quality Management system QMS.

Maintenance The amount of maintenance that the machine is going to require is a variable that must be considered. Another issue about maintenance is whether or not the staff on hand will need to be retrained.

Source by Thomas Bennett

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