About the Department
It is important to note that the birth and evolution of industrial engineering are analogous to those of its engineering predecessors. Even though historians of science and technology continue to argue about when industrial engineering began, there is a general consensus that the empirical roots of the profession date back to the Industrial Revolution, which began in England during the mid-eighteenth century.
The events of this era dramatically changed manufacturing practices and served as the genesis for many concepts that influenced the scientific birth of the field a century later. The driving forces behind these developments were the technological innovations that helped mechanize many traditional manual operations in the textile industry. By facilitating the substitution of capital for labor, these innovations generated economies of scale that made mass production in centralized locations attractive for the first time. The concept of a production system had its genesis in the factories created as a result of these innovations.
At this point, the role of the modern industrial engineer was becoming an important and obvious one. Industrial production systems require the efficient combination of machinery, labor and materials. The techniques, costs and economic considerations of production, sound engineering principles, the safety of the workers, and the layout of the facility and equipment – even marketing and sales in formation – are all part of the equation.
The 1980s in many ways validated these projections. During this decade the role of the industrial engineer expanded significantly beyond its traditional support functions to include organizational leadership responsibilities in both the design and integration of manufacturing and service systems. In the case of manufacturing, these functions oftentimes included the design and development of new hardware and software that enabled the automation of many production and support functions and the integration of these functions within operational environments.
The automatic generation of process plans, bills of materials, tool release orders, work schedules, and operator instructions; the growth in numerically controlled machine tool capability; and the use of robots in a variety of industrial settings are examples of applications in which industrial engineering played a major role. Many of these functions, which include tasks critical to the success of computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), or computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) efforts, reflected the broadening, systems-related role of the industrial engineer in many manufacturing organizations.