Industrial Engineering

History Of Industrial Engineering

Even though historians of science and technology continue to argue about when industrial engineering began, there is a general consensus that the empirical roots of the profession date back to the Industrial Revolution, which began in Englandduring the mideighteenth century. The events of this era dramatically changed manufacturing practices and served as the gene- sis for many concepts thatinfluenced the scientific birth of the field a century later. The driving forces behindthese developments were the technological innovations that helped mechanize many traditional manual operations in the textile industry. These include the flying shuttle developed by John Kay in 1733, the spinning jenny invented by James Hargreaves in 1765, and the water frame developed by Richard Arkwright in 1769. Perhaps the most important innovation, however, was the steam engine developed by James Watt in 1765. By making steam practical as a power source for a host of applications, Watt’s invention freed manufacturers from their reliance on waterpower, opening up far greater freedom of location and industrial organization. It also provided cheaper power, which led to lower production costs, lower prices, and greatly expanded markets. By facilitating the substitution of capital for labor, these innovations generated economies of scale that made mass production in centralized locations attractive for the first time. The concept of a production system, which lies at the core of modern industrial engineering practice and research, had its genesis in the factories created as a result of these innovations.

Before entering into the history of the profession, it is important to note that the birth and evolution of industrial engineering are analogous to those of its engineering predecessors. Even though there are centuries old examples of early engineering practice and accomplishments, such as the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, and the Roman construction projects, it was not until the eighteenth century that the first engineering schools appeared in France. The need for greater efficiency in the design and analysis of bridges, roads, and buildings resulted in principles of early engineering concerned primarily with these topics being taught first in military academies (military engineering). The application of these principles to non-military or civilian endeavors led to the term civil engineering. Interrelated advancements in the fields of physics and mathematics laid the groundwork for thedevelopment and application of mechanical principles. The need for improvements in the design and analysis of materials and devices such as pumps and engines resulted in the emergence of mechanical engineering as a distinct field in the early nineteenth century. Similar circumstances, albeit for different technologies, can beascribed to the emergence and development of electrical engineering and chemical engineering. As has been the case with all these fields, industrial engineering developed initially from empirical evidence and understanding and then from research to develop a more scientific base.

Another key development in the history of industrial engineering was the concept of inter- changeable parts. The feasibility of the concept as a sound industrial practicewas proven through the efforts of Eli Whitney and Simeon North in the manufacture of muskets and pistols for the U.S. government. Prior to the innovation of interchangeable parts, the making of a product was carried out in its entirety by an artisan, who fabricated and fitted each required piece. Under Whitney’s system, the individual parts were mass-produced to tolerances tight enough to enable their use in any finished product. The division of labor called for by Adam Smith could now be carried out to an extent never before achievable, with individual workers producing single parts rather than completed products. The result was a significant reduction in the need for specialized skills on the part of the workers a result that eventually led to the industrial environment, which became the object of study of Frederick W. Taylor.

The concepts presented by Adam Smith in his treatise The Wealth of Nations also lie at the foundation of what eventually became the theory and practice of industrial engineering. His writings on concepts such as the division of labor and the “invisible hand” of capitalism served to motivate many of the technological innovators of the Industrial Revolution to establish and implement factory systems. Examples of these developments include Arkwright’s implementation of management control systems to regulate production and the output of factory workers, and the well-organized factory that Watt, together with an associate, Matthew Boulton, built to produce steam engines. The efforts of Watt and Boulton and their sons led to the planningand establishment of the first integrated machine manufacturing facility in the world, including the implementation of concepts such as a cost control system designed to decrease waste and improve productivity and the institution of skills training for craftsmen. Many features of life in the twentieth century including widespread employment in large- scale factories, mass production of inexpensive goods, the rise of big business, and the existence of a professional manager class are a direct consequence of the contributions of Smith and Watt.

Another early contributor to concepts that eventually became associated with industrial engineering was Charles Babbage. The findings that he made as a result of visits to factories in England and the United States in the early 1800s were documented in his book entitled On the Economy of Machinery and Manufacturers. The book includes subjects such as the time required for learning a particular task, the effects of subdividing tasks into smaller and less detailed elements, the timeand cost savings associated with changing from one task to another, and the advantages to be gained by repetitive tasks. In his classic example on the manufacture of straight pins, Babbage extends the work of Adam Smith on the division of labor by showing that money could be saved by assigning lesser-paid workers (in those days women and children) to lesser-skilled operations and restricting the higher-skilled, higher- paid workers to only those operations requiring higher skill levels. Babbage also discusses notions related to wage payments, issues related to present-day profit sharing plans, and even ideas associated with the organization of labor and labor relations. It is important to note, however, that even though much of Babbage’s work represented a departure from conventional wisdom in the early nineteenth century, he restricted his work to that of observing and did not try to improve the methods of making the product, to reduce the times required, or to set standards of what the times should be


industrial engineering website that contains engineering information, engineering books, projects, exams, manufacturing, quality, project management, health and safety.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button