What Does An Industrial Engineer Do? Functions, Activities And Responsibilities

An industrial engineer is a professional who is generally in charge of optimizing production processes, that is, of eliminating waste of materials and time. 
To achieve this objective, it uses different methods that allow it to achieve a balance between the different factors that intervene in the process, such as time, available technologies, number of workers needed to perform a task, costs, product quality. end, etc.

It is important to note that the industrial engineer is not limited to studying and analyzing the efficiency of processes that result in a physical final product, but is also capable of applying his knowledge in the service area, where the final product is intangible but whose Quality is quantifiable, that is, it can be measured and evaluated.

what does an industrial engineer do

The prior study of the product or service requirements is the basis for the industrial engineer to find a way to reduce waste and improve the performance of the company as a whole.

Through mathematical methods and tools, they can design new working models to achieve the desired efficiency.

Minimizing costs, reducing the number of defective items in a production line, reducing the idle time of workers, are some of the general objectives that an industrial engineer proposes in order to obtain improvements in the process.

Activities and functions that an industrial engineer does

1.  Collect and analyze process data

Most of the basic information that an industrial engineer uses to generate solutions to problems or, better said, opportunities to improve a process, comes from the collection of data in the workplace, from direct observation and necessary research about of a certain work procedure.

One of the activities that have always characterized industrial engineers is the taking of process times. It is an example of how they document and define existing work methods and then improve them.

It consists of measuring with a stopwatch, many times, the time it takes a worker to do a task.

These measurements are recorded and subsequently statistically analyzed to finally establish the standard time that the operation should last and to be able to evaluate, from that moment, the efficiency of each worker and the possible reasons that delay the process.

Surveys are also a commonly used tool by industrial engineers to obtain information on various aspects in a wide range of corporate environments.

2.  Determine the requirements of the production process or service provision

In order to be able to satisfy the client’s needs, whether internal or external, the industrial engineer uses different research tools to find out what the desired results are and, in this way, comply with each of the specifications.

As mentioned, both in the manufacturing and service industries, the industrial engineer can apply various statistical methods and make the necessary mathematical calculations to define the objectives and standards that his process must meet.

3.  Design efficient work methods

The industrial engineer is also responsible for devising new ways of working so that a process, and consequently, a company is more productive.

Productivity is defined as the relationship between the value of what is invested (raw material, labor time, labor, etc.) and the value of what is obtained (final product or in process).

Therefore, the ideal is for a company to have a high level of productivity, because this means that nothing is wasted but rather becomes a valuable product.

To achieve this, there are many disciplines and sciences that the industrial engineer relies on. One of them is method engineering, an area of ​​study that provides tools for organizing work in such a way that it is more productive.

Reducing work times through device design is a good example of the application of method engineering. The inclusion of conveyor belts in production lines is an improvement based on this discipline.

Minimizing material costs through proper use and recycling, reducing waiting times for customers who require a service are part of the goals of this function.

4.  Monitor processes

Generally, industrial engineers are responsible for ensuring compliance with production plans.

They have been involved in this since the beginning of their career and maintain a close relationship with this issue even when they occupy positions of higher hierarchy. 
They must ensure, either directly or indirectly, that production orders are fulfilled.

For example, a smartphone factory plans to produce 100 units a day; The supervisor of the production area is an industrial engineer who must take the necessary provisions so that his personnel and machinery are ready to meet the goal of 100 telephones.

If there is a failure in one of the machines, you should contact the maintenance department as soon as possible to lose as little time as possible.

He is also responsible for the workers in his area to use the industrial safety implements that are necessary so that they do not have accidents and are not absent from the work area.

At the end of the day, the supervisor must report to his superiors about the production of the day, and whether or not the goal of manufacturing the 100 telephones was achieved.

5.  Lead work teams

In any business environment, an industrial engineer will almost always have to lead a work team, perhaps permanently or temporarily.

In the example above, the telephone factory supervisor will need to act as the leader of his group of workers to achieve good results.

It is also possible that your boss will assign you a specific improvement project, and most likely you will have to coordinate a team of about 3 or 5 people to whom you will have to give certain instructions, meet with them to evaluate progress and establish proposals for solution.

6.  Plan the production or provision of a service

This is one of the broader functions of industrial engineering. It requires a solid knowledge of all the processes and the global operation of the company.

Continuing with the previous example, the decision to make 100 smartphones a day is not the product of a whim.

It is the result of analyzing many factors such as: production costs, profitability, plant capacity, number of workers, among others.

7.  Be the common point between the various actors in the production process

An industrial engineer interacts with clients, suppliers, personnel from the various departments of the company, and many more.

Each of these relationships is of great importance for the proper functioning of the company.

Practical examples of the work of an industrial engineer

  • Reduce the waiting time of a bank’s clients.
  • Discover a new way of assembling a product eliminating the risk of accidents for the worker.
  • Determine the maintenance needs of hospital equipment.
  • Develop a method for evaluating workers.
  • Decide how many elevators should be installed in a building to minimize waiting time for people.


  1. 7 Most Common Job Responsibilities of an Industrial Engineer (for the first several years). Recovered from: industrialinside.com
  2. Industrial Engineer. Recovered from: truity.com.
  3. Job Duties and Tasks for: “Industrial Engineer”. Recovered from: job-descriptions.careerplanner.com
  4. Savory, P. (2005). Details and Description of Industrial Engineering . Nebraska, Industrial and Management Systems Engineering Faculty Publications, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  5. What Industrial Engineers Do. Recovered from: bls.gov.

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