University of Wisconsin-Madison Industrial and Systems Engineering College of Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison Industrial and Systems Engineering
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Industrial and Systems Engineering: Technology’s link to people

More sophisticated and demanding consumers, along with an emerging global economy, are causing organizations of all types to improve quality and productivity. To meet those goals, more and more organizations require the problem-solving expertise of industrial and systems engineers (ISyEs).

Student researching assembly cell

The IE major's manufacturing component introduces students to a state-of-the-art automated assembly cell. view larger image

Providers of goods and services rely on ISyEs to design and improve systems that involve people, equipment and materials. Specifically, their real-world duties might include analyzing economic factors, designing facilities, studying feasibility issues, training employees, analyzing the interface between workers, equipment and environment (ergonomics), and designing computer systems to help people make better decisions.

The ISyE’s collaboration with many kinds of professionals within an organization helps achieve smooth and efficient operations. Such flexibility and creative approaches make ISyEs appealing to employers seeking candidates for management.

A Universal Need

Industrial and systems engineers design the systems that organizations use to produce goods and services. In addition to working in manufacturing industries, ISyEs are vital links to quality and productivity in places such as medical centers, communication companies, food service, education systems, government, transportation companies, banks, urban planning departments and an array of consulting firms. ISyEs educate and direct these groups in the implementation of Total Quality Management (TQM) principles. Especially “hot areas” are manufacturing, health care, occupational safety and environmental management.

Workplace environment research

Workplace environment and equipment affect worker health, stress and performance. view larger image

A People-Oriented Career

Industrial and systems engineering is the most people-focused area in engineering. Those who pursue careers in ISyE generally have strong leadership skills and a commitment to working with teams of managers, scientists and other personnel to solve important problems. They enjoy helping organizations serve human needs and accommodate many different concerns.

Industrial and Systems Engineering at UW-Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s ISyE program encompasses many facets. In addition to a core of engineering courses, students take classes in statistics, mathematics, computer sciences, economics, management and organization, and health sciences. Students have the opportunity to become involved in world-class projects conducted by ISyE faculty.

Industrial and systems engineering students learn to design and improve systems through these five program components:

  1. DECISION SCIENCE/OPERATIONS RESEARCH: Computer simulators and special-use programs help people better understand difficult decisions and teach them how to formally include values as well as facts into a process for making better decisions. Operations research involves the development of tools to plan, predict and control many different systems and find optimal solutions to complex problems.

    For example, industrial and systems engineers have led the development of computer scheduling systems that reduce airport delays and improve aircraft safety.

  2. HEALTH SYSTEMS: Industrial and systems engineers help the health-care community design systems to more effectively prevent illness, detect and treat illnesses, and cope with the crises that accompany serious illness. As a result, people are healthier and the cost of care goes down.

    Women with breast cancer are now using computer systems designed by industrial and systems engineers to anonymously talk to other women with breast cancer, decide what kind of surgery to have and learn more about their disease.

  3. HUMAN FACTORS AND ERGONOMICS: Industrial and systems engineers examine how design of workplace environments, tools and processes affect employee stress levels, productivity, quality of working life and health. They also seek ways to minimize physical stress, maximize productivity and work quality, and make equipment and products safer and easier to use by everyone, including people with reduced abilities.

    ISyEs have studied the health effects that the use of computer technology has on employees who use it every day, and industrial and systems engineers have influenced redesign to make the computer-technology safer and easier to use.

  4. MANUFACTURING AND PRODUCTION SYSTEMS: Industrial and systems engineers design integrated systems of people and machines that produce products of the highest quality — with the most appropriate inputs of labor, — materials, information and capital.

    ISyEs use analytic models, computer simulation and economic analysis to assess the impact of new systems or system changes before they are implemented.

  5. QUALITY ENGINEERING: Applying statistics, management and change theories, as well as systems-design methods, industrial and systems engineers find ways to achieve higher quality products and services while decreasing production costs.

    Industrial and systems engineers design training programs that let every employee in a company become skilled in new ways of improving the work they do.

Pipe production facility

The college's Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement worked with a Wisconsin company to evaluate production systems and improve quality. view larger image

This wide range of academic tools prepares industrial and systems engineering students to apply their knowledge. Madison, the seat of state and county government and home to many industries, offers real-world laboratories in which the theories and tools developed by industrial and systems engineers can be applied.

The Road to an ISYE Career

The Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering develops students’ technical expertise and communication skills while allowing room for other interests. It is possible to achieve a degree of specialization through your choice of electives.

The 121-credit undergraduate curriculum is designed to fit into four academic years. Course areas include:

  • industrial and systems engineering (37 credits)
  • mathematics and statistics (27 credits)
  • engineering courses outside of IE (12 credits)
  • basic sciences (14 credits)
  • humanities (15 credits)
  • other courses, including computer science, accounting, technical
  • writing, and free electives (16 credits)

One-Year Master’s Program

After receiving a bachelor’s degree, a BSIE may take an additional 24 credits of graduate study during a fifth academic year to obtain a MSIE. The Professional Industrial and Systems Engineering Option provides the opportunity to focus in an area of ISyE. Working with a faculty advisor, students custom-design their program to achieve a particular specialization.

The Graduate Record Examination is not required for ISyE applicants already studying at UW-Madison. Students should consult their advisor to discuss the option before applying.

Extracurricular Opportunities

Other activities related to an ISyE career provide further training, professional development and networking. UW-Madison’s ISyE students have benefited from the Co-op Education / Internship Program by working in companies such as Harley-Davidson Inc., Eastman Kodak Co., UW Hospital and Clinics, Rayovac, IBM, Wisconsin Power & Light, Dow Chemical Co. and Oscar Mayer.

In addition to cooperative educational experiences, UW-Madison offers student chapters of two ISyE organizations:

  • Alpha Pi Mu, the national IE honor society whose members participate in academic, service and social events; and

  • Institute of Industrial Engineers, an international professional society that sponsors activities offering practical knowledge of IE occupations. For example, students visit work sites and host guest speakers from the professional world.

Disability accessability research

IE researchers develop methods to make technology more accessible, such as this device to translate visual information for the blind. view larger image

Listen to Our Alumni

“We feel that an IE degree from UW-Madison prepared us to be successful engineers. It’s a versatile degree that teaches one not only how to work on detailed industrial and systems engineering projects, but provides an overall structure for solving real-world problems effectively. The teamwork and presentation skills learned through class projects are invaluable.”

    Kevin Hartberg and Kristina Lamers, 1996 BSIE

Kevin worked for three years as a process engineer at Hewlett Packard before finishing his master’s degree in manufacturing systems engineering at Stanford University. He is currently a product manager with the Integrated Circuit Business Division of Agilent Technologies (a spin-off of Hewlett Packard).

Kristina worked for Hewlett Packard as a manufacturing development engineer for two years, and later spent a year working on program management for new computer chips. She received her master’s in manufacturing systems engineering from Stanford University and returned to Agilent Technologies as a new technology introduction program manager.

“A degree in Industrial Engineering not only provides you with technical engineering skills, but also helps you develop a completely new mind-set. Industrial and systems engineers solve abstract problems which require creativity. In these situations, finding the right solution isn’t as important as finding the best solution given the circumstances.”

    Mike Koplin, 1999 BSIE

As an engineering consultant, Mike is able to apply ISyE techniques to multiple companies and industries, each with a new and exciting challenge.

“IE’s will be the superheroes of industry because they can find ways to do things better, less expensively and with higher quality. IE is a very team-oriented degree; there’s a lot of interaction with classmates, and that prepares you to work in real-life professional settings.”

    Michael Yadgar, 1992 BSIE

Michael is a partner for Accenture. He implements enterprise resource planning solutions. He has worked with Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industries including oil & gas, paper products, utilities and consumer products.

Finding a Job

The demand for industrial and systems engineers has grown — and continues to grow — dramatically as the need to be competitive in price, efficiency and quality prevails in the domestic and global marketplaces.

The College Placement Council recently reported that, of 652 BSIEs who received employment offers through college placement offices nationwide, the average salary offer was $43,086 per year ($47,618 at UW-Madison). Ten percent were less than $37,000 and 10 percent were more than $49,000 ($38,500 and $56,500 for UW-Madison).

Industrial and systems engineering students with a master’s of science degree saw an average first offer of $49,872 nationwide.

Students may obtain career counseling and employer information through the college’s Engineering Career Services office (ECS). ECS also arranges interviews between prospective employers and graduating engineering students.

For more information about bachelor’s or master’s degrees in industrial and systmes engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering, please contact:

Department of Industrial Engineering
1513 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706-1572
Telephone: 608/263-4025

Copyright 2011 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
Date last modified: 20-Sep-2011
Date created: 16-Aug-2000
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