School Subjects: Computer science; Mathematics
Personal Skills: Communication/ideas Technical/scientific
Work Environment: Primarily indoors; Primarily one location
Minimum Education: Level Associate’s degree
Salary Range: $26,800 to $40,970 to $73,320+
Certification or Licensing: Voluntary
Future Outlook : About as fast as the average
Industrial engineering technicians assist industrial engineers in their duties: they collect & analyze data & make recommendations for the efficient use of personnel, materials, & machines to produce goods or to provide services. They may study the time, movements, & methods a worker uses to accomplish daily tasks in production, maintenance, or clerical areas.
Industrial engineering technicians prepare charts to illustrate work flow, floor layouts, materials handling, & machine utilization. They make statistical studies, analyze production costs, prepare layouts of machinery & equipment, help plan work flow & work assignments, & recommend revisions to revamp production methods or improve standards. As part of their job, industrial engineering technicians often use equipment such as computers, timers, & camcorders.
Industrial engineering is a direct out growth of the industrial revolution, which began in England in the 18th century & later spread to the United States. By linking a power source, such as a steam engine, to simple mechanical devices, early mechanical & industrial engineers were able to design & build factories that produced a variety of goods rapidly & economically. Today, factories in the United States & around the world produce almost all our consumer goods. This tremendous growth led to a need for industrial engineers, who evaluate not only the machines that go into the factory but also the raw materials, the people who run the machines, the costs & efficiency of operations, & other factors that affect the success of an industrial operation.
Industrial engineering as a separate specialty emerged during the 20th century. For as long as there have been industrial engineers, however; there have been skilled assistants who work with them & handle tasks that don't require the engineer’s direct involvement. Today’s industrial engineering technicians are the direct descendants of those assistants. As the years have gone by, the number, variety, & complexity of industrial engineering technicians’ responsibilities have increased greatly. In the past, assistants could rely purely on common sense & on-the-job experience, but today’s industrial engineering technicians must be specially trained & educated before entering the workplace.
Today, the scope of industrial engineering goes far beyond the factory. The principles of work flow & quality control are now applied to other work environments, including corporate offices & retail stores. The industrial engineering technician is recognized & respected as a team member in evaluating & improving production & working conditions.
The type of work done by an industrial engineering technician depends on the location, size, & products of the company for which he or she works. Usually a technician’s duties fall into one or more of the following areas: work measurement, production control, wage & job evaluation, quality control, or plant layout.
Industrial engineering technicians involved in methods engineering analyze new & existing products to determine the best way to make them at the lowest cost. In these analyses, methods engineering technicians recommend which processing equipment to use; determine how fast materials can be processed; develop flowcharts; & consider all materials-handling, movement, & storage aspects of the production.
The materials-handling technician studies the current methods of handling material, then compares & evaluates alternatives. The technician will suggest changes that reduce physical effort, make handling safer, & lower costs & damage to products.
Work measurement technicians study the production rate of a given product & determine how much time is needed for all the activities involved. They do this by timing the motions necessary for a complete operation, analyzing tapes of workers, & consulting historical statistics collected in the factory. Time study technicians analyze & determine elements of work, their order & the time required to produce a part.
The engineering technicians in production control often work in scheduling departments, where they coordinate many complex details to ensure product delivery on a specified date. To do this, production control technicians must know the products & assemblies to be made, the routes to be used through the plant, & the time required for the process. These technicians also issue orders to manufacture products, check machine loads, & maintain constant surveillance of the master schedules.
Production control technicians also work in dispatching offices, where they issue orders to the production areas, watch department machine loads, report progress of products, & expedite the delivery of needed parts to avoid delays.
Inventory control technicians maintain inventories of raw materials, semifinished products, completed products, packaging materials, & supplies. They ensure an adequate supply of raw materials, watch for obsolete parts, & prevent damage or loss to products.
In quality control, technicians work with inspection departments to maintain quality standards set by production engineers. They check all incoming materials & forecast the quality of obtainable materials. Quality control technicians use a variety of techniques to perform duties that include part-drawing surveillance, checking of parts with inspection tools, identifying trouble, & providing corrective procedures.
Cost control technicians compare actual product costs with budgeted allowances. These technicians investigate cost discrepancies, offer corrective measures, & analyze results.
Budget technicians gather figures & facts to project & graph break-even points. They help prepare budgets for management & present the effects of production schedules on profitability.
Technicians working in the area of wage & job evaluation gather & organize information pertaining to the skill, manual effort, education, & other factors involved in the jobs of all hourly employees. This information helps management set salary ranges & establish job descriptions.
The plant layout technician works with materials-handling personnel, supervisors, & management to help make alterations in manufacturing facilities. These technicians study old floor plans; consider all present & future aspects of operations; & revise, consult, & then propose layouts to production & management personnel.
In high school, take classes in algebra, geometry, calculus, chemistry, physics, trigonometry, & English. Mechanical drawing, metal shop, & communications will also be helpful. Computers have become the most used tools in industrial engineering, so computer science classes are critical if you are considering a career in this field. Also recommended are courses in shop sketching, blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, & model making, if available.
Most employers prefer to hire someone with at least a two-year degree in engineering technology although it's possible to qualify for some jobs with no formal training. Training is available at technical institutes, junior & community colleges, extension divisions of universities, public & private vocational-technical schools, & through some technical training programs in the armed services.
Most two-year associate programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET) include first-year courses in mathematics, orthographic & isometric sketching, blue print reading, manufacturing processes, communications, technical reporting, introduction to numerical control, & introduction to computer-aided design (CAD).
Typical second-year courses include methods, operation, & safety engineering; industrial materials; statistics; quality control; computer control of industrial processes; plant layout & materials handling; process planning & manufacturing costs; production problems; psychology & human relations; & industrial organization & institutions. Since the type & quality of programs & schools vary considerably, prospective students are advised to consider ABET-accredited programs first.
Certification or Licensing
To give recognition & encouragement to industrial engineering technicians, the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies has established a certification program that some technicians may wish to consider. Although certification is not generally required by employers, those with certification often have a competitive advantage when it comes to hiring & promotions. Certification is available at various levels, each combining a writ ten examination in a specialty field with a specified amount of job related experience.
You should be adept at compiling & organizing data & be able to express yourself clearly & persuasively both orally & in writing. You should be detail oriented & enjoy solving problems.
Opportunities to gain experience in high school are somewhat limited. However, you can obtain part-time work or summer jobs in industrial settings, even if not specifically in the industrial engineering area. Although this work may consist of menial tasks, it offers firsthand experience & demonstrates interest to future employers. Part-time jobs often lead to permanent employment, & some companies offer tuition reimbursement for educational costs.
Insights into the industrial engineering field can also be obtained in less direct ways. Professional associations regularly publish newsletters & other information relevant to the technician. Industrial firms frequently advertise or publish articles in professional journals or in business & general interest magazines that discuss innovations in plant layout, cost control, & productivity improvements. By reading these articles, you can acquaint yourself with & stay informed on developments in the field.
Industrial engineering technicians most often work in durable goods manufacturing, such as electronic & electrical machinery & equipment, industrial machinery & equipment, instruments, & transportation equipment. Some technicians are employed by engineering & business services companies that do contract engineering work. The U.S. Departments of Defense, Transportation, Agriculture, & Interior are also major employers, along with state & municipal governments.
Many industrial engineering technicians find their first jobs through interviews with company recruiters who visit campuses. In many cases, students are invited to visit the prospective employer’s plant for further consultation & to become better acquainted with the area, product, & facilities. For many students, the job placement office of their college or technical school is the best source of possible jobs. Local manufacturers or companies are in constant contact with these facilities, so they have the most up-to-date job listings.
As industrial engineering technicians gain additional experience, & especially if they pursue further education, they become candidates for advancement. Continuing education is fast becoming the most important tool for advancement. Many employers encourage their employees to pursue continuing education & will reimburse education costs.
The typical advancement path for industrial engineering technicians is to become a supervisor, an industrial engineer, or possibly a chief industrial engineer.
Here are some examples of positions to which technicians might aspire:
Production control managers supervise all production control employees, train new technicians, & coordinate manufacturing departments.
Production supervisors oversee manufacturing personnel & compare departmental records of production, scrap, & expenditures with departmental allowances.
Plant layout engineers supervise all plant-layout department personnel, estimate costs, & confer directly with other department heads to obtain information needed by the layout department.
Managers of quality control supervise all inspection & quality control employees, select techniques, teach employees new techniques, & meet with tool room & production people when manufacturing tolerances or scrap become a problem.
Chief industrial engineers supervise all industrial engineering employees, consult with department heads, direct departmental projects, set budgets, & prepare reports.
Salaries for industrial engineering technicians vary according to the product being manufactured, geographic location, & the education & skills of the technician. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that industrial engineering technicians earned salaries that ranged from less than $26,800 to more than $67,840 in 2001, with a median salary of $40,970. Industrial engineering technicians who work in computer & data processing services earned an average salary of $73,320 in 2000. Technicians employed in the electric components & accessories industry earned a median salary of $36,300 in 2000. In addition to salary, most employers offer paid vacation time, holidays, insurance & retirement plans, & tuition assistance for work related courses.
Industrial engineering technicians generally work indoors. Depending on their jobs, they may work in the shop or office areas or in both. The type of plant facilities depends on the product. For example, an electronics plant producing small electronic products requiring very exacting tolerances has very clean working conditions.
Industrial engineering technicians often travel to other locations or areas. They may accompany engineers to technical conventions or on visits to other companies to gain insight into new or different methods of operation & production.
Continuing education plays a large role in the life of industrial engineering technicians. They may attend classes or seminars, keeping up-to-date with emerging technology & methods of managing production efficiently.
Hours of work may vary & depend on factory shifts. Industrial engineering technicians are often asked to get jobs done quickly & to meet very tight deadlines.
As production processes become more technically demanding, competitive pressures will force companies to improve & update manufacturing facilities & product designs. Thus, the demand for well-trained industrial engineering technicians will stay about aver age over the next several years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Opportunities will be best for individuals who have up-to-date skills. As technology becomes more sophisticated, employers will continue to seek technicians who require the least amount of additional job training.
The employment outlook varies by area of specialization & industry. For example, changing & increasing numbers of environ mental & safety regulations may lead companies to revise some of their procedures & practices, & new technicians may be needed to assist in these changeovers. Technicians whose jobs are defense- related may experience improved opportunities because of recent increases to the defense budget.
Prospective technicians should keep in mind that advances in technology & management techniques make industrial engineering a constantly changing field. Technicians will be able to take advantage of new opportunities only if they are willing to continue their training & education throughout their careers.
FOR MORE INFORMATION…
For information about membership in a professional society specifically created for certified engineering technicians, contact
P0 Box 1348
Flowery Branch, GA 30542
For information on careers & training as an industrial engineer, contact
3577 Parkway Lane, Suite 200
Norcross, GA 30092
Visit the JETS website to read the online brochure, Engineering Technologists & Technicians.
1420 King Street, Suite 405
Alexandria, VA 223 14-2794
For information on certification, contact
1420 King Street
Alexandria, VA 223 14-2794Tel: 888-476-4238