By Zubin Ajmera
ISE Alumnus | Class of 2014
You apply for a job, get interviewed, accept an offer and start working. What next?
As an industrial engineer (IE), there will be several tasks you’ll be performing in your job or internship. I’ll share the 7 most common ones today which almost every IE (or specialization roles in either logistics and supply chain, manufacturing, consulting, etc.) performs. The good thing about these job assignments is that they require little technical knowledge from your end (at least for the first few months) and focus heavily on orienting you to the overall company structure and your job type in detail. Let’s have a look at each.
#1 – Training
This will be one of the most important things you do right after joining the company. When I joined Mu Sigma, a data analytics consulting firm, the training lasted almost five weeks and included assignments, sessions and projects. Your training will consist of assignments based on your profile and work requirements.
Most likely, you will be assigned a mentor. This may or may not be your manager. For example, at my current company employees are responsible for training new hires. The size and culture of the company will play a role in how training is handled. The role of the mentor is to provide you with information about your job. This will include:
- Explaining job responsibilities and assignments
- Demonstrating tools and software
- Providing an overview of company policies
- Assessing your skills and analytical abilities
#2 – Data Collection
Much of your work will involve gathering data from various resources. These are known as time and motion studies and consist of:
- Plant facility: data on number of departments, number of employees, plant size and space
- Production lines: number of products made, timing of shifts, and understanding the exact process of the system
- Company information: who you’ll be working with (senior management, project directors), their roles and duties
- Work information: type of projects, whether you’ll work in a team, and getting detailed data on your future tasks
#3 – Meeting Senior Management
We touched upon this in point #2. Apart from project managers and the upper management team, you will also meet with the HR department. This includes information on your work schedule, payroll, company policies, and benefits (if any). The meetings with project directors and managers will provide things such as:
- Management structure and portfolio: How it works, who handles what, and people’s titles
- Current scenario: What the company looks like today, future plans and expectations
- Problems/Solutions: The type of problems, solutions on hand, and plans to design it
- Opportunities: Cost savings (how can the company achieve it), and strategic planning and execution
#4 – Working on a Group Project
Most likely, you’ll work in a group that is under the direction of 3 – 5 people. For simplicity, I have broken this down into the different phases of the project.
Initial Analysis and Overview
Let’s say you work in a manufacturing facility. The project could be improving the downtime of a nail polish production line (downtime being the total amount of time the production line is not working). Your tasks might include data collection of various factors from different resources like:
- Recording the number of bottles produced per hour/day/week/month
- Understanding the total time it takes to produce a bottle
- Considering how other parts like bottle caps and labels factor into each stage of the process
Let’s say you work in a consulting firm and Macy’s is one of their clients. The project might be evaluating and providing revised guidelines to open up a new store in New York. Your tasks could include:
- Preparing the complete current documentation for the client in detail
- Analyzing different factors, i.e., where sales are coming from, what sells more, what type of promos/discounts are working, which days generate the highest sales, which categories (shirts, t-shirts, jeans, etc.) are the largest sellers
- Doing a thorough cost analysis and determining if there are any opportunities for savings
Group Meetings and Discussions
You will be meeting with people connected to the project on a continuous basis. This includes managers, directors, project executives and part-time employees. As long as they can contribute and provide useful data, they will be involved. Here, you will discuss:
- What you have learned so far?
- what is the project’s status?
- Are there any possible improvements?
- what should be the next steps?
These meetings allow constant interaction with team members and timely delivery of the project.
At the conclusion of the project, you will submit a final report detailing the work performed and all results. In most cases, you will share your insights and explain what was accomplished. In other cases, the project may be performed on a continual basis or your part is just one step and someone else will be handling the project going forward.
#5 – Data Analysis and Visualization
This type of work starts after the training and your initial project. I would estimate it begins 2 – 4 months after your first day. The majority of this analysis will come from working with several analytical tools. You will use a combination of some basic IE and company specific tools and software. The good news is that you will receive training on how to use the software before you actually start your analysis. For the most part, this will involve:
- Extracting information
- Viewing numbers and figures
- Representing what you learned in the form of charts and graphs
- Providing recommendations and areas that needs improvement
You’d have heard that industrial engineers “crunch data” and analyze complex systems. That’s what we’re talking about here.
#6 – Completing Timely Tasks
This is a further extension of #5. Based on your role, you will have certain assignments that have to be completed on a regular basis: weekly, monthly and so on. You can divide these assignments into mini-tasks which are more or less your daily activities as discussed above. From here on, you will be doing either or both of the following:
- Scheduling and completing similar tasks which you have done so far
- Taking on new projects/issues and working accordingly as they come
#7 – Results: Report to Manager
Although your interaction with your manager will occur regularly, there will be specific meetings and discussions to review your projects and their results. This occurs semi-annually or even quarterly. This further lays out the road for the next steps and assessment of your work so far with the company.
These seven tasks are the most common things you may encounter as a new industrial engineer. Of course, there will be many other responsibilities depending on your job, title, company, location, etc.
Zubin Ajmera graduated from NC State with his MIE degree in 2014. Since graduation, He has been a Consultant with Mu Sigma and is now a Corporate Programs Senior Analyst with Procurement Advisors. Follow his industrial engineering based blog at: http://www.industrialinside.com/.