Quality Management for Industrial Engineers

By Andre, Lawrence; Lavelle, Jerome P. | Industrial Management, July/August 1996 | Go to article overview

Quality Management for Industrial Engineers


Andre, Lawrence, Lavelle, Jerome P., Industrial Management


Today's workplace is buzzing with techniques designed to integrate quality management and continuous improvement into day-to-day operations. Ideas such as quality circles, Taguchi methods, process value analysis, and ISO 9000 are invading companies across the United States. In fact, the Olsten Corp. conducted a quality study last year and found that 9 out of 10 companies reported increases in quality activities during 1993. Almost half further stated that these increases were substantial, and 64 percent of the responding companies now have an individual or department in charge of quality initiatives.

Today, industrial engineers are facing new job demands as a result of well-intentioned managers' demands regarding implementation of these quality tools without adequate preparation and explanation. Often, these programs do not even seem relevant to current projects and responsibilities. They are sometimes illconceived and poorly planned. In these circumstances, failure, frequently resulting from a lack of support, is waiting just around the corner.

As industrial engineers, we have to ask ourselves what can be done to improve our role in the changing workplace so that we may meet these new job demands successfully. What posture should industrial engineers take to face these new challenges-the embracer, subverter, or ambivalent bystander?

In this paper, we develop the thought that, from a historical and contemporary perspective, industrial engineering and advanced quality initiatives are one in the same. We trace the evolution of each and illustrate examples where a traditional industrial engineering analysis is complemented by today's quality concepts. Development of industrial engineering Our profession finds its heritage and principles dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century. Frederick Taylor, and his famous scientific studies of work, gave birth to a discipline of engineering dedicated to optimizing work environments and factory production. Individuals such as the Gilbreths (micromotion studies), Shewhart (quality control), and Gantt (project management) continued Taylor's notion of increasing workplace efficiency. Over the years, industrial engineers have aided America's industries by improving production planning, workstation design, facilities layout, job design, wage incentive programs, and statistical quality control.

Today, industrial engineering is a broad and diverse discipline. Ergonomics, one trademark of industrial engineering, involves the study of the micromovements of individuals and the analysis of those movements. It involves the optimization of a workplace so that the human worker incurs minimal stress at maximum effectiveness. In contrast, facilities layout seeks to optimize product flow, material storage and retrieval, ease of supervision, and minimization of costs for a factory. Other major traditional industrial engineering applications include simulation, methods analysis, economic analysis, operations research, and setting standards. Furthermore, industrial engineering has become a diversified discipline by gaining responsibilities in new fields such as workplace safety, hazardous material management, environmental analysis, and flexible and computer-integrated manufacturing. IE vs. TQM

An examination of industrial engineering and quality management uncovers the fact that both have the same objective: to optimize effectiveness and efficiency. Effectiveness is defined as the degree to which objectives have been met by some set of tasks, while efficiency measures the resources needed to meet those achieved objectives. Industrial engineering and TQM are both about studying tasks and resources in an organizational setting.

Frederick Taylor and his followers spent years studying micromovements and the patterns of workers. The focus was on the worker and the task to be performed. They were concerned with optimizing resources within some task environment, and examined how individual workers performed at their workstations. …

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