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Figuring Out Industrial Engineering

July 19, 2017

About Me

Keith Fleming is a fifth year Industrial Engineering student who is also pursuing his master's degree in Industrial Engineering. While at Northeastern, Keith has completed two co-ops; at Textron Systems and Sanofi Genzyme. He is also a member of IISE and Tau Beta Pi.

Figuring Out Industrial Engineering

Whenever I tell someone that I study industrial engineering, they typically follow up by asking what industrial engineering is. I find this to be one of the hardest questions to answer. Merriam-Webster's defines industrial engineering as "engineering that deals with the design, improvement, and installation of integrated systems." While accurate, it doesn't really describe what IEs do. This is partially because IEs have such a breadth of knowledge. After completing co-ops in different industries I am beginning to see just how much IEs can do.

My first co-op at Textron Systems, a defense contractor, was a more typical IE position. I focused on Sensor-Fused Weapon production, analyzing manufacturing processes for potential improvements and implementing those solutions. This utilized many traditional IE techniques like time studies, Ishikawa diagrams, and poke-yoke. By being outside the classroom I was starting to develop an approach to solving these problems and see one application of IE.

For my second co-op I worked at Sanofi Genzyme, a biotech company. While the two industries were completely different, I was still able to apply my IE knowledge to both. Instead of working to improve processes, I was solving production issues. I worked on projects to improve safety and prevent future production stoppages. I was able to apply the same thought process I've used on other projects to these ones and reach successful solutions.

Beyond these two co-ops, there are still many more opportunities for IEs. With my two co-ops I was able to see some things I liked and didn't like and can use that knowledge after I graduate.  No matter where industrial engineering takes me, I'll continue to learn more and be better able to answer that question.