What is industrial engineering all about

Littin Kandoth is an alumni of Pennsylvania State University. He graduated from Penn State in 2012 with a minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship and a bachelor’s degree in Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering with specializations in Manufacturing Systems Engineering & Six Sigma. Littin is very passionate about entrepreneurship, technology, business and community outreach & engagement. During his college career, he held several leadership positions in the Greek community and was an active member of the student body. He is currently working at Philips Lighting as a Commodity Manager responsible for the Metals and Castings commodities.

While searching for a major, Industrial Engineering is not something that’s on every high school student’s mind. One of the main reasons behind this is the lack of knowledge that the major exists or the wrong perception as to what it is. Most High School students when looking into a career in engineering are blinded by the common engineering majors that they have heard of and this sometimes limits them from pursuing a more suitable major.
Looking back at my days in high school, I remember being interested in engineering and business. I could never really choose which major to pursue and being unaware of all the options that are available to me, I almost thought that I’ll have to pick one route. Going in as a freshman in engineering to Penn State University, I was exposed to this major called Industrial engineering by some of the seniors in college and also through a seminar for freshman. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this major explores the business side of engineering and decided that this is exactly the path I wanted to pursue.
Unlike the name, which suggests that you’ll be working heavily in the industrial sector, this branch of engineering lets you pursue a career in a wide range of fields. Before explaining the different career paths that one can follow with this major, it’s important to understand the basic goal of an industrial engineer in any field. Industrial engineers deals with the design, improvement and installation of integrated systems of people, materials, equipment, information and energy in the most efficient manner possible. In simpler terms, Industrial Engineers (IE) identifies and optimizes everything from basic human work design to equipment design to the flow of information.
One of the reasons why I identified this as the business side of engineering is because of what it does. It focuses on optimizing the process that contributes to the final product or service. By doing this, the wastes in resources are eliminated and this in turn makes the business more profitable. A classic example could be in a production oriented factory. Industrial Engineers can use their skill set in statistics to predict the number of defective products that could come out of a batch and this data could be used to schedule the production of the extra products needed to meet market demand. One of numerous other areas industrial engineers could be used is in transportation. Whether it’s military or civilian transportation, the goal is to transport the maximum amount of people or goods at the lowest cost possible. Industrial engineers use their skill set in operations management to identify optimal routes, figures for the goods and ideal mediums for transportation. Other areas Industrial Engineers are used are in forecasting supply and demand, optimizing the work design and layout for workers for faster and safer work output, managing and using databases to improve the efficiency of businesses, designing more human friendly & efficient products and environment and many other areas. I can keep going on about the different fields Industrial engineers are put into use but the bottom line is that being an Industrial Engineer would let you work in numerous fields to optimize and make a business more efficient and successful.
As mentioned above, the opportunities with being an Industrial Engineer are quite vast and most colleges including Penn State offers you the opportunity to go into three major sectors. They are Manufacturing systems engineering which deals with manufacturing and its associated fields, Engineering service systems which provide opportunities in the financial & data industry and lastly Engineering information systems which focuses on using IT to optimize processes and services. All these sectors are present in many major industries and this would give you a good opportunity and exposure in many different fields.
Lastly when thinking about choosing a major in Industrial Engineering, consider this thought; “An optimist will tell you the glass is half-full; the pessimist, half-empty; and an Industrial Engineer will tell you the glass is twice the size it needs to be.” What does your glass look like?

Littin S Kandoth
Alumni, Industrial Engineering

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