Opportunities to gain hands-on experience in industrial engineering in high school are somewhat limited. However, you can obtain part-time work or summer jobs in industrial settings, even if not specifically in the industrial engineering area. Although this work may consist of menial tasks, it offers firsthand experience and demonstrates interest to future employers. Part-time jobs often lead to permanent employment, and some companies offer tuition reimbursement for educational costs.
Joining a science club, such as the Technology Student Association (TSA), which provides students a chance to explore career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, enter academic competitions, and participate in summer exploration programs. TSA administers a competition that allows high school students to use their technology skills. The Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science (https://tsaweb.org/teams) is an engineering problem competition.
Insights into the industrial engineering field can also be obtained in less direct ways. Professional associations regularly publish newsletters (such as Certified Engineering Technician, which is published by the American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians) and other information relevant to technicians. Industrial firms frequently advertise or publish articles in professional journals or in business and general interest magazines that discuss innovations in plant layout, cost control, and productivity improvements. By reading these articles, you can acquaint yourself with and stay informed about developments in the field.
The type of work done by an industrial engineering technician depends on the location, size, and products of the company for which he or she works. Usually a technician's duties fall into one or more of the following areas: work measurement, production control, wage and job evaluation, quality control, or plant layout.
Industrial engineering technicians involved in methods engineering analyze new and existing products to determine the best way to make them at the lowest cost. In these analyses, methods engineering technicians recommend which processing equipment to use; determine how fast materials can be processed; develop flowcharts; and consider all materials-handling, movement, and storage aspects of the production.
The materials-handling technician studies the current methods of handling material, then compares and evaluates alternatives. The technician will suggest changes that reduce physical effort, make handling safer, and lower costs and damage to products.
Work measurement technicians study the production rate of a given product and determine how much time is needed for all the activities involved. They do this by timing the motions necessary for a complete operation, analyzing video of workers, and consulting historical statistics collected by the factory. Time study technicians analyze and determine elements of work, their order, and the time required to produce a part.
The engineering technicians in production control often work in scheduling departments, where they coordinate many complex details to ensure product delivery on a specified date. To do this, production control technicians must know the products and assemblies to be made, the routes to be used through the plant, and the time required for the process. These technicians also issue orders to manufacture products, check machine loads, and maintain constant surveillance of the master schedules. Production control technicians also work in dispatching offices, where they issue orders to the production areas, watch department machine loads, report progress of products, and expedite the delivery of needed parts to avoid delays.
Inventory control technicians maintain inventories of raw materials, semifinished products, completed products, packaging materials, and supplies. They ensure an adequate supply of raw materials, watch for obsolete parts, and prevent damage or loss to products.
In quality control, technicians work with inspection departments to maintain quality standards set by production engineers. They check all incoming materials and forecast the quality of obtainable materials. Quality control technicians use a variety of techniques to perform duties that include part-drawing surveillance, checking of parts with inspection tools, identifying trouble, and providing corrective procedures.
Cost control technicians compare actual product costs with budgeted allowances. These technicians investigate cost discrepancies, offer corrective measures, and analyze results.
Budget technicians gather figures and facts to project and graph break-even points. They help prepare budgets for management and present the effects of production schedules on profitability.
Technicians working in the area of wage and job evaluation gather and organize information pertaining to the skill, manual effort, education, and other factors involved in the jobs of all hourly employees. This information helps to set salary ranges and establish job descriptions.
Plant layout technicians work with materials-handling personnel, supervisors, and management to help make alterations in manufacturing facilities. These technicians study old floor plans; consider all present and future aspects of operations; and revise, consult, and then propose layouts to production and management personnel.