Introduction to IE


Industrial Engineering and Software Development
Origin And Evolution Of Industrial Engineering

Time And Motion Study
Predetermined Motion Time Systems
Modern Industrial Engineering Techniques

Why Industrial Engineering
Selected Bibliography


    Industrial Engineering (IE) is one among the broadest of all management and engineering functions. Time study people consider themselves as industrial engineers, so do process planners, production planners, method study engineers, plant layout designers, manufacturing systems analysts, wage and incentive scheme designers, and so on. The fact is that all of them are performing duties that fall within the broad range of activities generally considered part of the industrial engineering function. In fact, the range of the industrial engineering activities is so broad that, there is a saying among engineers that “Industrial Engineering consists of all of the engineering and management activities that cannot be clearly designated as a part of other engineering or management functions.” The field of industrial engineering is a large umbrella that includes a wide variety of tasks established for the purpose of designing, implementing and maintaining systems for effective operations.

    Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE)[1] define industrial engineering as follows: “Industrial Engineering is concerned with the design, improvement and installation of integrated systems of men, material and equipment. It draws upon specialized knowledge and skill in the mathematical, physical and social sciences, together with the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design to specify, predict and evaluate the results to be obtained from such systems.


    Industrial engineering consists of a host of methods and techniques that are aimed at improving efficiency, reducing and eliminating waste, improving working conditions, reducing stress, improving employee cooperation and morale, increasing development productivity, improving quality and so on. These are also the aims of software engineering or the scientific software development process. Thus the software development discipline could benefit a great deal by applying the industrial engineering principles to the software development process. Most of the industrial engineering techniques that are practiced on the shop floor or manufacturing shops could be applied with equal success to the software development process.

    For example, Harrington Emerson, an Industrial Engineering pioneer of the last century, in his book The Twelve Principles of Efficiency [2], had laid out 12 principles for effective operations. These principles include clearly defined schedules, common sense, competent guidance and training, discipline, reliable and adequate records (documentation), standards and conventions, good working conditions, written instructions for better communication and so on. We can clearly see that the principles espoused by Emerson (in 1911) are just as relevant to software development process as they are to any other industry. In fact, many of these principles are used in the software development process.

    There are many IE techniques (some of them new to the software industry, some of them already in practice in some companies) that could be used to the software development process. These techniques, if implemented to the software development process, will bring all the benefits (like improving efficiency, reducing and eliminating waste, improving working conditions, etc.) that we have discussed above. The author have applied these techniques to software projects of various sizes and complexities and also in different organizations. I have found these techniques successful and their results very rewarding. For example, the skill inventory is a technique that is being used in the shop floor for a variety of purposes like employee selection, line balancing, training, multi-skilling, and so on. Same technique could be for the software professionals and the skill inventory database could be used for a variety of purposes like project team selection, configuration management activities and quality audits, employee training, and so on. I will discuss more about these later.


    We have seen in the earlier section that industrial engineering is an umbrella that includes a wide variety of tasks. The ambiguity of what constitutes industrial engineering probably has its roots in the way it developed as a profession, which dates back many decades before the name ‘industrial engineering’ was ever coined in the years of industrial revolution. Before the industrial revolution goods were produced by individual craftsmen in a cottage-system. The late 18th century saw the beginnings of the industrial revolution. But with the industrial revolution the production methods changed and the factory system of manufacturing goods came into existence. The industrial revolution triggered a number of inventions and innovations like new machinery for mass production of goods, better power sources and so on. Thus the industrial revolution fueled the growth of the factory systems and soon it became difficult to manage and organize the production because of the magnitude of the operations and the lack of any procedures and practices. So people began to think of ways and means to organize the factories and mass production processes. One of the earliest pioneers of in factory organization was Sir Richard Arkwright (England), the inventor of the spinning frame. In the 1760s, he developed and implemented the first management control system to regulate the production and output of factory workers. In 1773, Sir James Watt, another British inventor, along with his associate Matthew Boulton, constructed a factory in Soho to produce steam engines. Sir James Watt introduced skill’s training for craftsmen. This training involved training each worker in a specific skill that he was supposed to perform. The skill’s training system produced dramatic productivity improvements. Sir Watt had also developed many schemes and procedures for organizing and managing factories. In the early 1800s, James Watt, Jr., and Matthew Robinson Boulton established the first complete machine-manufacturing factory in the world. They preplanned and built an integrated manufacturing facility and instituted a cost control system that was designed to decrease waste and improve productivity. Another Englishman who made significant contributions to the industrial engineering field was Charles Babbage. Babbage developed systems for improving the factory operations. He developed a number of analytical methods for productivity improvement. His contributions were published in his well-acclaimed book The Economy of Machinery and Manufacturers [3]. The work of these British researchers were published and spread to the other parts of Europe and to the United States. By the end of the 19th century the methods and procedures that originated in England were being practiced in the United States also.

    One of the pioneers of industrial engineering whose work had a great impact on the profession and also on the fellow researchers (both in the US and Europe) was Frederick Winslow Taylor. In 1878 Taylor joined the Midvale Steel Works where he started as a worker and progressed to become the chief engineer in 1880. During this period, Taylor developed a series of devices to help in cutting metals and came to the conclusion that scientific advancement has to go hand in hand with organizational developments. Taylor saw that if he could improve the way the machinery worked, he could also analyze and improve the operation and management of the machines. He restructured and redefined the jobs in his factory and introduced a set of procedures telling the workers how exactly to perform their jobs. Stopwatches were distributed to the foremen, as Taylor attempted to divide jobs into separate elements. By examining the times taken for each job element, Taylor was able to develop a piece rate system. He was able to prove scientifically that a machine operator could produce a specific quantity of output in a given time. Taylor restructured the pay system around these calculations of what people should be able to achieve, creating a ‘differential piece rate’ for each job.

    The skilled-workers when confronted with the differential piece rate system and other productivity improvement schemes posed a few problems for Taylor and his attentions switched to laborers. Getting the best from each employee required robotic obedience to Taylor’s interpretation of what a job involved. Taylor believed that people worked solely for money. Nothing else mattered except that they did their work in the most efficient, scientific way possible. In a lecture at the Harvard Business School, Taylor argued: ‘The most serious of the delusions and fallacies under which workmen, and particularly those in many of the unions, are suffering is that it is in their interest to limit the amount of work which a man should do in a day.’

    The rudiments of what has to become known as ‘scientific management’ were put in place by the time Taylor left Midvale in 1889. The publication of A Piece Rate System [4] in 1895, created enough of a stir to keep Taylor at work as a consultant to many industries. In Shop Management [5] Taylor wrote that ‘Good manners, education and even special training and skill count for less in an executive position than the grit, determination and bulldog endurance that knows no defeat.’ Taylorism, the movement he gave his name to, was perhaps the first true management movement. Taylor had the loyal and enthusiastic support of many prominent industrialists including the Michelin brothers. Even Lenin observed in Pravda: ‘we should try out every scientific and progressive suggestions of the Taylor system.’ To put his ideas into a more accessible form, Taylor published The Principles of Scientific Management [6] in 1911. In this more popular form, Taylor argued that scientific methods should replace indiscriminate means of measurement and working, people should be scientifically selected and trained, and work should be equally divided between managers and workers. The flaw in his simplistic and populist approach was that it focused the argument on the personnel issue, rather than engineering or mechanics were Taylor excelled. Taylor gained a number of critics who felt that his philosophy on how work should be organized and managed was dehumanizing. But considering the contributions Taylor made to the field of management and management thinking, he became known as the “Father of Scientific Management.”

    Although its form has changed somewhat, Taylor’s formula is still an important and integral part of industrial engineering. Taylor’s formula emphasized that work must be well organized and the worker must be given a specific assignment and a specific method to be followed. Unfortunately, some practitioners following Taylor often achieved outstanding gains in labor productivity simply by establishing piecework and wage incentive plans based on production standards. These schemes began to fail when some of the unscrupulous engineers and managers diluted the production standard thus cheating the workers. The natural result was that workers started resisting each and every change in production standards, even when there were legitimate reasons for the changes. Many worker attitudes that were created by these malpractices remain unchanged to this day in many companies.

    In the 1912, Frank and Lillian Gilberth set about advancing Taylor’s theories on scientific management. Frank was a successful businessman and Lillian was an eminent industrial psychologist. Gilberth believed in discovering the best means of performing each part of a job so that it could be carried out more effectively. This required the thorough analysis of each element of the job and Gilberth pioneered the use of cameras in examining how people went about their work. According to Gilberth [7], a general rule of motion economy is to make the shortest motions possible. Eliminating unnecessary distances that worker’s hands and arms must travel will eliminate miles of motions per man in a working day as compared with usual practice. In his work Gilberth studied acceleration, to what degree motions were automatic, how motions combined in sequence and the costs of a motion. He found that each motion should be made so as to be most economically combined with the next motion, like a ‘billiard player who plays for position.’ Gilberth’s experience in the construction industry encouraged him to use his methods in bricklaying and during the First World War for training and rehabilitating the disabled. With the bricklayers, Gilberth was able to raise the individual output from 1000 to 2700 bricks per day. Lengthy research allowed him to classify the elements of human motions. He isolated and identified the basic motions that make up all human activity and called them ‘therbligs’ (Gilberth spelt backwards). He recorded seventeen basic elements and developed a therblig chart, which recorded a series of elements involved in a complex activity such as working a machine tool.

    The Gilberths took a broader view than Taylor, arguing that if an organization is not concentrating on the welfare of the individuals in that organization but only on the welfare of the organization as a whole, then it will not be able to keep its employees. At New England Butt Company in Providence, Gilberth put Taylor’s principles into practice but the difference was that the employees were not depersonalized automatons. Achieving the greatest level of efficiency demanded the attention of a wide variety of specialists. According to Gilberth [8], the determination of the path, which will result in the greatest economy of motion and the greatest increase of output, is a subject for the closest investigation and the most scientific determination. Not until data are accumulated by trained observers can standard paths be adopted. The laws underlying Physics, Physiology and Psychology must be considered and followed. The development of therbligs paved the way for research for the development of predetermined standard times for jobs based on predetermined methods and time values.

    Time and Motion Study

    Therbligs formed the basis for the research that ultimately led to the development of methods-time-measurement (MTM), which is still widely used by industrial engineers.

    We have seen that the spectacular increases in production that came from the wage incentive plans failed after sometime because of the shady practices of the engineers and managers who manipulated the production standards. This led to two important aftereffects. One, because the production could be raised by manipulating the standards, very little attention was paid to the importance of good methods in production. Two, the workers realized that if they produced more, the managers would manipulate the standards and so they started manipulating their output so that their earnings did not appear to be excessive. These two factors led to an increased interest in the benefits of method studies. The Gilberth’s efforts in the field of motion study were till that time considered rather theoretical and impractical. In the 1920s and 1930s, there was a renewed interest in their work. In 1927, Maynard, Stegemerten and Lowry [9], wrote Time and Motion Study, which pointed out the importance of motion study and good methods. In 1932, Mogensen [10] published Common Sense Applied to Time and Motion Study, in which he stressed the work simplification principles. In 1937, Barnes [11] published Motion and Time Study, in which he stressed on the motion study aspect of industrial engineering.

    During the depression and economic recession of the 1930s, many engineers started working on finding better ways to improve operations and efficiency. Mogensen [10] developed his work simplification procedure, which concentrated on using the talents of shop workers to improve methods. His approach was to train key manufacturing people in the correct working practices so that they could, in turn, conduct similar training in their own plants. The trainees applied what they learned (the correct working practices) to actual shop operations, which resulted in countless improvements. In 1939, Maynard and Stegemerten [12] wrote a book titled Operations Analysis that detailed a procedure whereby an industrial engineer could systematically analyze all the working conditions (like workplace arrangement, heat, noise, lighting, etc.) of an operation to arrive at the best method for doing the job. Along with improved methods and time study procedures, various job evaluation and merit rating methods were developed that scientifically determined wage rates that were closely related to job content.

    Predetermined Motion Time Systems

    The scope of industrial engineering function began to expand rapidly in the years immediately following World War II and has continued to do so since then. In the 1940s and 1950s, many researchers concentrated their efforts on developing predetermined motion time systems. The first person to develop such a system was A.B. Segur, who created the MTA or Motion Time Analysis. This system did not become popular as Segur published little information on the system preferring to use it only in his consulting practice. In the late 1940s Maynard, Stegemerten and Schwab developed MTM or Methods-Time Measurement. This was the result of a motion-time study sponsored by Westinghouse Electric Corporation. This system gained universal acceptance and became the de facto standard. There were many other systems like the Work Factor (WOFAC) system developed by Quick, Shea and Koehler at the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) plant in Camden, New Jersey.

    Another system was the BMT or Basic Motion Times, developed by Barnes in Canada. Engineers at General motors, General Electric and other companies came up with systems similar to MTM for their internal use. Now the predetermined motion time standards have been computerized thus making it easier and faster to use. Some such systems are Computerized MOST or Maynard Operation Sequence Technique (H. B. Maynard and Company, Inc.), CATS or Computer Assisted Time Standards (US Department of Defense), Autorate (IBM Corporation), UniVation (Management Science, Inc.), etc. The next step in the field of work measurement was the integration of computerized time standards with automated process planning and other forms of computer assisted design and manufacturing (CAD-CAM) and computer integrated manufacturing (CIM). One such system is AutoMOST (H. B. Maynard and Company, Inc.), which processes information from other manufacturing systems to set standards automatically.

    Modern Industrial Engineering Techniques

    While the industrial engineers in the manufacturing industries were concentrating on the time and motion studies, many changes were taking place in other areas of industrial engineering. Industrial engineers began to use mathematical techniques and accounting solutions to manufacturing problems and costs. Computers improved the efficiency and accuracy of industrial engineers, resulting in improved productivity of the industrial engineering function. Along with computer technology, innovative management techniques that incorporated team approach, small group teams, ergonomics, just-in-time (JIT) technologies and quality programs like quality circles, zero-defect manufacturing, value analysis, etc. increased productivity through the combined effort of employees at all levels of the organization. All these new techniques are having a positive effect on the industrial engineering profession. Today, the challenge the industrial engineers face is the integration of the technological tools and human resources in the best possible manner.

    Today, the industrial engineering function is not limited to the production and pre-production activities. It has become an integral part of all functions of the organization—from product design to logistics management, from purchasing, inventory control and financial management to plant layout and quality assurance. Industrial engineers are actively involved in jobs ranging from employee training to ERP implementation.

    More and more jobs in the shop floor are getting automated. Robots, artificial intelligence and expert systems are improving the manufacturing process. All these developments mean that the number of blue-collar workers is reducing and the ratio of the blue-collar to white-collar workers is becoming less and less. In the early 1960s, the ratio of the blue-collar to white-collar workers reached 50:50. In 1990, the Bureau of Labor Statistics [13] showed that 65% of the work force was in the white-collar or service area. In the year 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 90% of the work force is white-collar workers. According to the projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics [14], the percentage of white blue-workers in 2008 will be less than 10%.

    The reduction in the number of blue-collar workers and the increase in the number of white-collar workers are posing new challenges to the industrial engineering function. Industrial engineers who have been dealing with the shop floor productivity and efficiency problems have now turned their attention towards finding ways and means of improving white-collar productivity. Most of the techniques that the industrial engineers have applied in the shop floor are applicable to the offices also. So even though there are changes in the environment in which the industrial engineer works, the work of the industrial engineer remains, to a large extent, the same—improving efficiency and productivity, eliminating waste, improving working conditions and so on.


    Industrial engineers determine the most effective ways for an organization to use the basic factors of production—people, machines, materials, information, and energy—to make a product or provide a service. They are the bridge between management goals and operational performance. They are more concerned with increasing productivity through the management of people, methods of business organization, and technology than are engineers in other specialties, who generally work more with products or processes.

    To solve organizational, production, and related problems most efficiently, industrial engineers carefully study the product and its requirements, use mathematical methods such as operations research to meet those requirements, and design manufacturing and information systems. They develop management control systems to aid in financial planning and cost analysis, design production planning and control systems to coordinate activities and control product quality, and design or improve systems for the physical distribution of goods and services. Industrial engineers develop wage and salary administration systems, job evaluation and merit rating programs.

    We have already discussed the highly competitive business environment that exists today. We have also seen the increasing complexity of the software development process. We have seen that industrial engineering function aims at improving productivity and efficiency and reducing defects and unnecessary work. We have seen the increase in the number of white-collar workers from 50% in the 1960 to 90% in 2000. This number is projected to increase as more and more blue-collar jobs get automated. Industrial engineers, for the last few decades have been concentrating on methods and practices to improve white-collar productivity. Improving white-collar productivity is not as easy as improving productivity on the shop floor as the white-collar work involves thinking, evaluation, decision-making, etc.—jobs that do not lend themselves readily for method study and other productivity improvement measures. But there are many elements in the white-collar work that can be improved. Also there are many areas where the industrial engineer can work in the case of the white-collar worker to make the working conditions better and more conducive for higher productivity. For example, redesigning the workstation of a computer programmer using principles of motion economy and ergonomics can result in higher productivity as the person can work for more time without fatigue. Also, an ergonomically designed workstation will go a long way in preventing cumulative trauma disorders and repetitive stress injuries that are associated with these jobs.

    We know that the software development process is very different from other production or manufacturing processes. According to Jones [15] software products are intangible, as there is no need for physical mechanisms, structures, or processes. The software engineers do not use most of the concepts familiar to traditional engineering and their work is mostly independent of natural science. Also software products are much more complex and sophisticated thus requiring special care in conceptualizing, managing, organizing, and testing them. Software products are manufactured by a simple copying process, so almost all of the production effort is dedicated to design and development. But irrespective of these differences, there are a lot of areas in software development where industrial engineering techniques can be used. For example, method study is the systematic recording and critical examination of existing and proposed ways of doing work, as a means of developing and applying easier and more effective methods and reducing costs. The main objective of method study is the improvement of processes and procedures. If you look closely, method study has a lot of similarities with requirements analysis and system design. So the techniques used to analyze and critically examine the current method in method study could very effectively be used in the requirements analysis and system design phases of software development. Similarly, the principles of ergonomics, human-machine interaction, and motion economy could be used in designing more effective user interfaces for the software products. The total quality management (TQM) techniques that enable a company to achieve higher quality levels and elimination of defects can be employed in the software development process with equal success. The techniques used in designing plant layouts and the principles of designing safe and comfortable workplaces could be used in designing the computer workstations for the software professionals. In this book we will see how the different industrial engineering techniques, principles and procedures that could be applied to the software development process and how they could be applied effectively.


    This article is an introduction to the discipline of Industrial Engineering. It discusses the evolution of industrial engineering, the major developments and the major players in that led to the development of this discipline. The article discusses how industrial engineering is practiced today—current role of industrial engineering. This is basically an article, which gives a bird’s eye-view of Industrial Engineering.


    [1] Institute of Industrial Engineers, 25 Technology Park, Atlanta/Norcross, GA.
    [2] Emerson, H., The Twelve Principles of Efficiency, The Engineering Magazine, 1911.
    [3] Babbage, C., The Economy of Machinery and Manufacturers, Charles Knight, 1825.
    [4] Taylor, F. W., A Piece Rate System, McGraw-Hill, 1895.
    [5] Taylor, F. W., Shop Management, Harper, 1903.
    [6] Taylor, F. W., The Principles of Scientific Management, Harper, 1911.
    [7] Gilberth, F. B., Motion Study, Van Nostrand, 1911.
    [8] Gilberth, F. B., Primer of Scientific Management, Van Nostrand, 1912.
    [9] Lowry, S. M., Maynard, H. B. and Stegemerten, G. J., Time and Motion Study and Formulas for Wage Incentives, McGraw-Hill, 1927.
    [10] Mogensen, A. H., Common Sense Applied to Time and Motion Study, McGraw-Hill, 1932.
    [11] Barnes, R. M., Motion and Time Study, Wiley, 1937.
    [12] Maynard, H. B. and Stegemerten, G. J., Operation Analysis, McGraw-Hill, 1939.
    [13] U.S. Department of Labor, Outlook 2000: Projection of Occupational Employment, 1988-2000, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1990.
    [14] Braddock, D., Employment Outlook 1998-2008: Occupational Employment Projections to 2008, Occupational Employment, Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 1999 (Revised March 2000), pp 51-77.
    [15] Jones, G.W., Software Engineering, John Wiley & Sons, 1990.


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