Industrial Engineer

Industrial engineering is an exciting discipline of engineering in which the main concern is around optimisation and promotion of efficiencies within complex systems and processes. The industrial engineer thus takes mathematics, physical and social science knowledge and skills and what they have learned about engineering analysis and design in order to critically and thoroughly evaluate and analyse.

Industrial engineering is an exciting discipline of engineering in which the main concern is around optimisation and promotion of efficiencies within complex systems and processes. The industrial engineer thus takes mathematics, physical and social science knowledge and skills and what they have learned about engineering analysis and design in order to critically and thoroughly evaluate and analyse, identify and predict and work towards improvements to and creation of new systems and processes to meet client requirements. Quality and productivity improvement and the elimination of waste and inefficiencies are at the heart of what an industrial engineer strives for. As an industrial engineer you could find yourself streamlining a manufacturing process, analysing the layout of equipment in a warehouse or shipyard, working out why there are long queues in theme parks, designing a new facility from nothing, reconfiguring an already established facility, designing the admissions procedure at a hospital, performing motion and time studies or optimising customer service processes at any assortment of organisations. This range of activities illustrates the range of industries in which the industrial engineer could find themselves including the service and entertainment industries, shipping and logistics businesses, health care organisations and of course manufacturing and industrial plants.

Industrial engineers expend a lot of effort into making things better, ensuring resources are maximized and utilised most efficiently. This field of engineering could be seen to be the meeting of minds between engineering and business. 

For more information, please go to the South African Institute for Industrial Engineering.

The sectors and industries in which an industrial engineer works have been illustrated to be quite varied and work which is done can also be quite different, depending on your employer or client’s needs. This said, your role as an industrial engineer will tend be similar in terms of the kinds of activities that need to be undertaken. Industrial engineers collect and process information, analyse data, develop methods and systems, review schedules, study and plan sequences, study project information and organisation charts, apply statistical methods and calculations, prepare reports, coordinate objectives, estimate costs, provide direction and implement methodologies. The industrial engineer works with all levels of employees, and in particular their communication with management to set standards and achieve desired objectives is a necessary part of being most effective.   

A successful day at the office for an industrial engineer would include having made business practices more profitable, making work faster and safer and also smoother and more rewarding for workers. There are many avenues to achieve this and many situations in which the skills of an industrial engineer can be applied with the aim of achieving efficiencies in process, happier customers, better designed and more easily produced products. The recommendations persuasively put forward by an industrial engineer should take into account the broad range of factors that businesses cannot do without, including people, money, energy and effort, knowledge and information, equipment, materials and tools. In embracing the responsibilities highlighted, a working knowledge of many engineering areas and the skill to use computer modelling to do process simulations is essential. Though analysis and conceptualisation are unquestionable skills to function as an industrial engineer, one cannot underestimate the importance of the industrial engineer’s role in implementation and oversight of plans towards achieving established outcomes.

You will likely be based in a professional office environment though regular site visits to relevant environments or to factories, plants and workshops will generally also form part of your work circumstances. This might be both urban and rural, depending on where your work is based. Where you are required to visit sites, travel may be quite extensive and you may also find that you regularly travel across borders for work.   

Working hours typically extend beyond normal hours, though weekend or shift work is not usually necessary.

Though you may probably need to work for an employer to gain the relevant experience at the start of your career, self-employment for qualified engineers who have established their reputation is also possible.

A typical day at the office will require a lot of communication, meetings, much autonomy to make decisions and will be fairly unstructured. The use of computers, software, hardware and technology is key to effectively functioning as an industrial engineer.

Your path to becoming an industrial engineer requires that you study and attain a Bachelors Industrial Engineering degree from a South African University.

The Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) maintains a list of accredited degrees and if your qualification is included on their list, you become eligible to apply to become professionally registered after achieving the relevant competence and experience levels as stipulated. Should your degree not be recognized by ECSA, your qualification will still be evaluated to determine equivalency to an accredited South African degree. Upon meeting ECSA’s academic requirements you will be eligible to become a Candidate Engineer, which is one of the first steps you should take after graduating to set your direction towards getting to professional registration and in that enriching your career options.

Besides for your engineering and scientific knowledge and technical prowess, an industrial engineer will need a key set of skills and attributes to create the conditions for building their career successfully.

Relationship management and communication skills in dealing with a broad range of people will underpin a sustainable career. Written communication skills are similarly important. An industrial engineer will have many times where they will be faced with pressure and time management is a necessary skill in this respect, as is resilience, adaptability and the ability to manage stress. The industrial engineer requires analysis, critical thinking, active learning and problem solving skills through which logic and reasoning ability can be applied to identify the pros and cons of solutions and alternative solutions to the problems being tackled. The application of sound judgement and decision making are likewise essential. Planning and organisational skills are furthermore necessary for an industrial engineer to be effective.

As you progress in your career, your ability to manage a project independently and coordinate the inputs from different team members becomes imperative. Even now, remember relationship management.

Please also see the Discipline Specific Guidelines provided by ECSA for Industrial Engineers.

Production Engineering

Production & operations planning

  • Agri-Produce Process Engineering  
  • Information & communication technologies (ICT)

Quality Management Engineering

Robotics and Production Automation Engineering

  • Civil and construction
  • Manufacturing Logistics Engineering

Safety Engineering

  • Clinical Engineering
  • Logistics and operations scheduling

Supply Chain Engineering

  • Materials handling
  • Consultancy

Transport

Value Engineering

Systems Engineering

Software Engineering

 

 

 

 

Mechanical

  • IIE  MSA
  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Johannesburg
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Nelson Mandela University
  • North West University
  • University of Pretoria
  • Stellenbosch University
  • University of the Witwatersrand


Electrical

  • IIE  MSA
  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Johannesburg
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Nelson Mandela University
  • North West University
  • University of Pretoria
  • Stellenbosch University
  • University of the Witwatersrand

Industrial

  • University of Johannesburg
  • Nelson Mandela University
  • North West University
  • University of Pretoria
  • Stellenbosch University
  • University of the Witwatersrand