"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
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.