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Oiling wheels of production

Published on Thursday, 16 Sep 2010
Illustration: Bay Leung

By determining ways to boost the performance of an organisation, industrial engineers seek to improve, design and redesign workflow and procedures. "Industrial engineering is about production efficiency, effectiveness and safety," says Gary Lam, consultant for sales, marketing and industrial positions at recruitment firm Hudson. "Industrial engineers usually work within an organisation where the production process involves machinery and human labour." They are employed in manufacturing industries, ranging from electronics, electrical and garments, to printing and paper, plastics and toys, and logistics companies such as those that provide courier and express services, Lam adds.

Industrial engineers are involved in several types of work, including production process engineering, quality management, systems engineering and supply chain management.

Lam says that a junior industrial engineer works across different sections of a production chain or assembly line to ensure the smooth implementation of an engineering programme or improvement plan.

"They visit different sites and departments, and communicate with all parties involved to understand the challenges that workers encounter. They then work with their superiors or managers to decide on follow-up actions," he says.

Harry Li, president of the Institute of Industrial Engineers in Hong Kong, says junior industrial engineers also provide analytical support to frontline staff and educate them on issues pertinent to quality and efficiency.

He says that professionals in the discipline are sought after in engineering and service sectors because of their versatility, being well trained in engineering and management.

Depending on the organisation and business nature of the industry, they can have diverse paths.

According to Lam, as industrial engineers gain in-depth knowledge of different sections of the production process, they may develop their careers in quality management, manufacturing or plant management.

In big organisations, director or vice-president titles can be offered to experienced engineers.


University degree is a must

  • Industrial engineers are typically university graduates in industrial engineering, manufacturing engineering or mechanical engineering.
  • In the garment industry, engineers are often expected to have a relevant education in textiles.
  • Those who plan to specialise in manufacturing areas will find it useful to study shipping, billing, automated systems and computer science.
  • A starting industrial engineer can expect a monthly salary from HK$12,000 to HK$16,000.

Teamwork is essential 

  • The role requires teamwork and  excellent communication skills, as industrial engineers have to liaise with different teams to set achievable targets and objectives.
  • Being proactive and open-minded is also important.
  • Success depends on one's ability to understand the challenges that different professionals face within the whole process and organisation. Compromises are necessary.

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