Plant Industrial Engineer

What They Do

Industrial Engineers Career Video

Insider Info

"A plant industrial engineer optimizes the use of workers, materials, methods and equipment," says John Rodenberg. He works with a forest products company in Washington. "You're balancing many needs for resources, like dollars and time, against availability."

In the wood fiber industry, plant industrial engineers can be involved in each step of the process -- from the selection of raw materials to the final product. They carefully study the product and use mathematical analysis to increase the efficiency of industrial production and the use of human resources and equipment.

They aid in financial planning and cost analysis, design control systems to coordinate activities and control product quality, and design or improve systems for the physical distribution of goods and services.

"The data is very complex," says Rodenberg. "You have to make sure you consider all aspects of a problem."

The plant industrial engineer is also the bridge between management and operations. They work in a wide variety of settings, including pulp and paper mills, sawmills and manufacturing plants. Some engineers work as consultants to a number of small plants that might not be able to afford a full-time engineer.

Many industrial engineers move into management positions. That's because the work is closely related.

Industrial engineer Alan Margolese says his firm didn't know how much they needed an engineer on staff until they hired him. "They'd never had an engineer on staff before. Now they've got me working on a number of things!"

Industrial engineers typically work a standard 40-hour week. They have to divide their time between the shop floor and their office.

"In manufacturing, it's important to keep contact with people on the shop floor," says engineer Tobias Schrek.

At times, deadlines or design standards may bring extra pressure. When this happens, engineers may work long hours and experience considerable stress.

At a Glance

Optimize the use of workers, materials, methods and equipment

  • You need good problem-solving skills
  • Some engineers work as consultants
  • You'll need to graduate from an industrial engineering program