Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Industrial and manufacturing engineering
Industrial engineering is the engineering discipline that is concerned mainly with the design, development, implementation, and evaluation of integrated systems of people, knowledge, equipment, energy, and material. Looking to the applications related to the interactions among the above activities and resources, industrial engineering draws upon the principles and methods of engineering analysis and synthesis, as well as mathematics, physical, and social sciences. Industrial engineers work to eliminate wastes of time, money, materials, energy, and other resources.
Whereas most engineering disciplines apply skills to very specific areas, industrial engineering is applied in virtually every industry. Examples of where industrial engineering might be used include shortening lines (or queues) at a theme park, streamlining an operating room, distributing products worldwide, and manufacturing cheaper and more reliable automobiles.
The name “industrial engineer” can be misleading. While the term originally applied to manufacturing, it has grown to encompass services and other industries as well. Other similar fields include operations research, systems engineering, ergonomics and quality engineering.
There are a number of things industrial engineers do in their work to make processes more efficient, to make products more manufacturable and consistent in their quality, and to increase productivity.
Areas of Expertise
Value engineering is based on the proposition that in any complex product, 80% of the customers need 20% of the features. By focusing on product development, one can produce a superior product at a lower cost for the major part of a market. When a customer needs more features, sell them as options. This approach is valuable in complex electromechanical products such as computer printers, in which the engineering is a major product cost.
To reduce a project's engineering and design costs, it is frequently factored into subassemblies that are designed and developed once and reused in many slightly different products. For example, a typical tape-player has a precision injection-molded tape-deck produced, assembled and tested by a small factory, and sold to numerous larger companies as a subassembly. The tooling and design expense for the tape deck is shared over many products that can look quite different. All that the other products need to have are the necessary mounting holes and electrical interface.
Quality Assurance/Quality Control
Quality control is a set of measures taken to ensure that defective products or services are not produced, and that the design meets performance requirements. Quality Assurance covers all activities from design, development, production, installation, servicing and documentation. This field introduced the rules “fit for purpose” and “do it right the first time”.
It is a truism that "quality is free." Very often, it costs no more to produce a product that always works, every time it comes off the assembly line. While this requires a conscious effort during engineering, it can considerably reduce the cost of waste and rework.
Commercial quality efforts have two foci. First, to reduce the mechanical precision needed to obtain good performance. The second is to control all manufacturing operations to ensure that every part and assembly are within a specified tolerance.
Statistical process control in manufacturing usually proceeds by randomly sampling and testing a fraction of the output. Testing every output is generally avoided due to time or cost constraints, or because it may destroy the object being tested (such as lighting matches). The variances of critical tolerances are continuously tracked, and manufacturing processes are corrected before bad parts can be produced.
A valuable process to perform on a whole consumer product is called the "shake and bake." Every so often, a whole product is mounted on a shake table in an environmental oven, and operated under increasing vibration, temperatures and humidity until it fails. This finds many unanticipated weaknesses in a product. Another related technique is to operate samples of products until they fail. Generally the data is used to drive engineering and manufacturing process improvements. Often quite simple changes can dramatically improve product service, such as changing to mold-resistant paint, or adding lock-washed placement to the training for new assembly personnel.
Many organizations use statistical process control to bring the organization to Six Sigma levels of quality. In a six sigma organization, every item that creates customer value or dissatisfaction is controlled to assure that the total number of failures are beyond the sixth sigma of likelihood in a normal distribution of customers - setting a standard for failure of fewer than four parts in one million. Items controlled often include clerical tasks such as order-entry, as well as conventional manufacturing processes.
Quite frequently, manufactured products have unnecessary precision, production operations or parts. Simple redesign can eliminate these, lowering costs and increasing manufacturability, reliability and profits.
For example, Russian liquid-fuel rocket motors are intentionally designed to permit ugly (though leak-free) welding, to eliminate grinding and finishing operations that do not help the motor function better.
Some Japanese disc brakes have parts toleranced to three millimeters, an easy-to-meet precision. When combined with crude statistical process controls, this assures that less than one in a million parts will fail to fit.
Many vehicle manufacturers have active programs to reduce the numbers and types of fasteners in their product, to reduce inventory, tooling and assembly costs.
Another producibility technique is "near net shape" forming. Often a premium forming process can eliminate hundreds of low-precision machining or drilling steps. Precision transfer stamping can quickly produce hundreds of high quality parts from generic rolls of steel and aluminum. Die casting is used to produce metal parts from aluminum or sturdy tin alloys (they are often about as strong as mild steels). Plastic injection molding is a powerful technique, especially if the special properties of the part are supplemented with inserts of brass or steel.
When a product incorporates a computer, it replaces many parts with software that fits into a single light-weight, low-power memory part or micro-controller. As computers grow faster, digital signal processing software is beginning to replace many analog electronic circuits for audio and sometimes radio frequency processing.
On some printed circuit boards (itself a producibility technique), the conductors are intentionally sized to act as delay lines, resistors and inductors to reduce the parts count. An important recent innovation was to eliminate the leads of "surface mounted" components. At one stroke, this eliminated the need to drill most holes in a printed cricuit board, as well as clip off the leads after soldering.
In Japan, it is a standard process to design printed circuit boards of inexpensive phenolic resin and paper, and reduce the number of copper layers to one or two to lower costs without harming specifications.
- List of industrial engineers
- Institute of Industrial Engineers
- Systems engineering
- Operations research
- Quality control
- Statistical process control
- Value engineering
- Reverse engineering
- List of production topics
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