The position title Industrial Engineer can have a huge variety of meanings in different industries and companies. Generally, industrial engineers analyze operations and service businesses and seek to improve productivity, quality, efficiency, and overall customer value (whether those customers are internal or external). They evaluate an integrated system of processes, people, products, information, and resources to find ways of making systems work better. Because of that broad mandate, you find industrial engineers in a wide range of manufacturing environments, but also in many service industries such as logistics/distribution, healthcare, information systems, energy, etc. Because of the breadth of work, degreed industrial engineers can be found with a variety of alternative titles. In supply chain, they are most often found in manufacturing and logistics.

Similar Job Titles

  • Continuous Improvement Engineer or Manager
  • Manufacturing Engineer or Manager
  • Operations Engineer or Analyst
  • Quality Engineer or Quality Manager
  • Project Engineer
  • Systems Analyst
  • Production Supervisor

Typical Job Titles of Direct Reports

An industrial engineer interacts with many different employees across a production or service industry, but may not have direct reports unless they are managing a team of other engineers. The engineer works on teams with other professionals, industrial engineering technicians, and production departments. If it is a large company, the industrial engineer may have one or more junior-level engineers working with him/her. Their titles may also be varied due to the wide range of industrial engineering position titles.

Industrial Engineer Position Overview

Industrial engineers find ways to improve processes, often by eliminating waste in production processes or in service processes. They analyze a company’s current processes, schedules, and layouts in designing new production processes with control systems that help minimize costs, increase quality, and improve overall customer value. This can involve compiling equipment and material lists, cost analyses, production cost estimations, and relative information before executing new projects. Industrial engineers are all about improving quality and productivity. They make things better for employers and workers by using engineering, math, business administration, and management knowledge while focusing on the way products are made and services are performed. 

Industrial engineers combine technical abilities, people skills, and business expertise to produce innovative and efficient systems. They analyze, design, build, and manage those systems in achieving a more lean production environment. Additionally, by improving the workplace, engineers also ensure that employees are doing their jobs better and more efficiently.

The industrial engineer can be involved in many varied tasks such as long-range planning, designing new facilities, installing manufacturing systems, developing robotics, improving workflow, designing a management information system, analyzing statistics, and performing optimization studies – to name just a few.

Industrial engineers work extensively throughout supply chain, but may also be found in every industry, including but not limited to hospitals, communications, e-commerce, entertainment, government, finance, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, insurance, banking, and transportation. Their work on the flow of products and information throughout systems in these other industries is usually supporting their own supply chains.

Core responsibilities of an Industrial Engineer

  • Evaluating current manufacturing practices and identifying the ones that need improvement
  • Analyzing various components of manufacturing processes such as schedules, flows, and specifications
  • Creating management control systems for improving cost analysis and financial planning efficiency
  • Managing production schedules
  • Coordinating services to maximize productivity
  • Designing control systems to ensure that products meet certain quality standards
  • Reducing costs and production issues by implementing quality control procedures
  • Improving the efficiency of each production process by discovering new and innovative methods
  • Evaluating employees’ tasks and responsibilities and identifying procedures or tools to improve productivity

Required/Desired Education and Skills

Industrial engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering or a related technical field, but may also include some business majors such as supply chain or operations management. Some hiring managers may prefer candidates who have a master’s degree. Relevant fields of study include mechanical engineering, systems engineering, manufacturing engineering, civil engineering, or industrial engineering technologies.

Hard Technical Skills

  • Manufacturing Processes – Engineers need to have a good understanding of manufacturing processes such as forging, molding, machining, joining, imaging, forming, coating, assembling.
  • Quality Control – Quality control systems are vital to the manufacturing and construction process.
  • Automation- Automation has a wide range of applications in the manufacturing sector, food industries, transport, and construction engineering. Automation generally involves materials and information movement, production and assembly, plus quality control processes.
  • Project Management – Engineers with project management experience and certifications like Project Management Professional (PMP) and PMI Agile Certification Practitioner (PMI-ACP) help employers oversee large engineering budgets.
  • Basic Accounting and Finance – A basic understanding of accounting and finance is vital for efficient project management. Engineers need to be able to read and understand financial reports, budgets, and other aspects of financial accounting like cost accounting. They must be able to perform feasibility analysis to determine the cost-benefit ratio of proposed investments. They must know how to perform cost analysis and total lifecycle analysis.
  • Design – Knowing how to create and interpret engineering designs and blueprints is critical in the manufacturing and building process.
  • Compliance – An engineer needs a good understanding of compliance guidelines for different industries, such as health and safety guidelines, engineering standards, and environmental requirements of projects.
  • Equipment Diagnosis – Being able to diagnose equipment and equipment issues is important in the manufacturing environment.
  • Data Analysis – Understanding and analyzing data using Excel for collection or more advanced skills and proficiency in software specific to the industry.

Soft Skills

  • Problem Solving – Critical to success is the ability for industrial engineers to detect various issues, analyze the nature and root cause, design resolutions, and implement these ways. Problem solving includes critical thinking and ability to focus.
  • Communication – Excellent written and verbal communication skills are necessary for an industrial engineer in order to successfully ask the right critical questions and present, coordinate and implement his/her plans and procedures.
  • Project Planning – As an essential skill for industrial engineers, project planning is used to coordinate personnel and machinery such that projects are completed on time and within standards.
  • Quality Management – In making processes more efficient, the industrial engineer must first be able to identify the areas that can be improved. This requires managing quality-control operations and looking for places in the processes that are not up to standard.
  • Critical Thinking – Industrial engineers need to use logic and reasoning to identify the pros and cons of proposed solutions. Critical thinking skills help resolve complex problems and implement ways to fix, mitigate, or eliminate those problems using a reasonable balance of company resources. 
  • Management – An industrial engineer may directly manage personnel and resources. This requires identifying the best employees for each task, motivating them, and directing their work. Regarding resource management, they need to make sure that all equipment, facilities, and raw materials are available and are used properly.

Other Common Characteristics

  • An inquisitive mind
  • Negotiation skills
  • Listening skills
  • Adaptability to different environments
  • Leadership skills
  • Patience
  • Inductive and deductive reasoning
  • Diplomacy
  • Resourcefulness
  • Mechanical aptitude
  • Quantitative skills
  • Passion for improvement


An industrial engineer can strengthen his/her skills, knowledge, and hireability by obtaining certain certifications to supplement job experience or education. Here are some certifications that are in high demand:

  • Six Sigma Black Belt – The Black Belt certification requires rigorous study, experience, and preparation. This provides an engineer with a thorough understanding of the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control (DMAIC) model in accordance with Six Sigma principles.
    • Project Management Professional (PMP) – The PMP certification demonstrates that you have a solid foundation of knowledge of project management. The exam measures 6 domains of managing projects: 1) initiating the project, 2) planning the project, 3) executing the project, 4) monitoring and controlling the project, 5) closing the project, and 6) professional and social responsibility.
    • Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE) – This certification indicates a comprehensive knowledge of manufacturing processes and practices. It requires a minimum of 8 years of combined manufacturing-related education and/or work experience, including a minimum of 4 years of work experience.
  • Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) – The Certified Quality Engineer certification indicates an understanding of the principles for product and service quality evaluation and controls.

A Day in the Life of an Industrial Engineer

On a daily basis, an Industrial Engineer performs a combination and various mix of tasks in achieving their objectives. Some examples of daily work may include:

  • Observing workflow,
  • Analyzing statistical data and product specifications to determine standards and establish quality and reliability of a finished product, 
  • Developing manufacturing methods, labor utilization standards, and cost analysis,
  • Designing layouts for manufacturing plants, 
  • Automating reports, 
  • Creating dashboards, 
  • Evaluating current manufacturing practices and identifying what can be improved,
  • Using AutoCAD to design specific parts and tools, 
  • Identifying organizational issues, 
  • Enforcing quality control to reduce waste
  • Communicating to everyone involved in developing a procedure or system that solves the problem. 

Additionally, other tasks such as reviewing production schedules, engineering specifications, orders, and related information provides the knowledge of manufacturing methods, procedures, and activities.

O*NET Online provides a list of 20 tasks that are typical for industrial engineers. 

Typical Working Conditions

Depending on the task in front of them, industrial engineers work either in offices or in the settings they are trying to improve. For example, they may need to observe workers on the assembly line in the plant while determining if there are areas for improving the process. When they are solving problems or designing solutions, they may be in an office gathering or analyzing data.

Industrial Engineer Salary Range and Benefits

Salaries for an industrial engineer range depending on the geographic location, size of the company, and required experience. An average base salary in the U.S. is $75,000;  the median is $82,900. Salaries can start anywhere from $55,000 and go up as high as $125,000. Compensation may include bonuses for meeting goals and the company’s profitability.

Other common benefits for Industrial Engineers include:

  • Relocation assistance
  • 401(k) 
  • 401(k) matching
  • Health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • AD&D insurance
  • Vision insurance

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