April 10, 2019

Industrial Engineering and Operations Management - Distinction and Combination

What is the difference between Industrial Engineering and Operations Management?

Some persons consider both as same. At one time Wikipedia page on Industrial Engineering gave the same answer. But there is a difference between Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management. Now both programs are being offered by Industrial Engineering Departments of US Universities. Similarly, there is a difference between Industrial Engineering and Operations Management. There is a close connection also.

Industrial Engineering and Operations Management - Distinction

Industrial Engineering is a service to management with its foundation and primary task being in engineering. Its main focus is productivity of the engineering organization, departments and tasks.

Operations Management is a branch of management concerned with planning and control of operations of the organization.

F.W. Taylor is the prime contributor to operations management as well as industrial engineering. Henry Towne actually initiated the discussion of the both the subjects in his 1886 paper presented in the ASME meeting, "The Engineer as an Economist.". He wrote. "the organization of productive labor must be directed and controlled by persons having not only good executive ability, and possessing the practical familiarity of a mechanic or engineer with the goods produced and the processes employed, but having also, and equally, a practical knowledge of how to observe, record, analyze and compare essential facts in relation to wages, supplies, expense accounts, and all else that enters into or affects the economy of production and the cost of the product."    "There are many good mechanical engineers; — there are also many good " business men ;"— but the two are rarely combined in one person. But this combination of qualities, together with at least some skill as an accountant, either in one person or more, is essential to the successful management of industrial works, and has its highest effectiveness if united in one person, who is thus qualified to supervise, either personally or through assistants, the operations of all departments of a business, and to subordinate each to the harmonious development of the whole."  "It will probably not be disputed that the matter of shop management is of equal importance with that of engineering, as affecting the successful conduct of most, if not all, of our great industrial establishments, and that the management of works  has become a matter of such great and far-reaching importance as perhaps to justify its classification also as one of the modern arts." 

Operations management was initiated as shop management by F.W. Taylor. Works management is also a term used for designating management of factories and factory related activities during that period. The term production management was developed and it was extended into production- operations management. Then the term "Operations Management" was made popular arguing that it represents activities in service concerns also. Now supply chain management has become the term that describes all activities which are parts of works management. Supply chain management tries to include the distribution side also up to the point of delivery of the item to the customer and receipt of cash from him.

The core of operations management is management which is planning, organizing, resourcing, direction and controlling to  complete a task or to make an organization survive and grow.

Industrial engineering also recognizes Taylor's contribution by designating him as Father of Industrial Engineering. 

What is industrial engineering? In broad terms while engineering is based on mechanics and design of products and machines are based on theories of mechanics, industrial engineers provide their engineering inputs based on the requirements of customers, cost data, and requirements of working environment in which people work along with machines. In more narrow terms, industrial engineering has focus on productivity of the production system with quality and comfort of workers as important criteria. Productivity improvement results in lowering of costs. Therefore cost data is part of productivity measurement.

Thus industrial engineering and operations management are two different areas one a discipline of engineering and the other a discipline of management. But application of industrial engineering is highest in the operations function. Hence industrial engineers are present in operations management organization structure. There are prominent participants in the cost management activity of operations management.

The core of industrial engineering is engineering and it is engineering based on industry data or data generated in commercial operations related to engineering. The basic data relates to cost and quality. Industrial engineering began with focus on reducing cost and increasing productivity while keeping quality at the same level. Subsequently a major development occurred in the quality field and methods were developed to increase design quality as well as production quality.  Product industrial engineering and process industrial engineering are the two prime engineering areas of industrial engineering.

Product Industrial Engineering - Introduction



Process Industrial Engineering - Introduction



Industrial Engineering and Operations Management -  Combination

Industrial engineering is a service to operations managers

Maximum use of industrial engineering was done in the manufacturing area and thus industrial engineering contributes to the productivity improvement or efficiency improvement and cost reduction of operations activities. Thus industrial engineering is a service to operations managers.

Earlier post

Operations Improvement Role of Industrial and Systems Engineer - Conception of Gavriel Salvendy

Paper Gouvea Da Coasta was mentioned in IE Research Papers Summaries 2012 Sec A.


  1. Great theme! I'm not sure I understood everything, but great theme ;))

  2. It looks like you're very knowledgeable in the engineering field. I work for a robotics engineer, but my work is the bookkeeping. We're a very small company, so it's pretty easy to manage.

    1. Thank you. Industrial engineering has close relation to accounting. It is because it is engineering modifications done in response to cost data which is generated by accounting. Robotics is an important technology now along with 3D printing also known as additive manufacturing.

  3. Everyone wants to read the quality content. Your article is informative and full the quality content. I would like to read more on the maintenance services. Thank you for the useful blog.