Friday, January 6, 2012

What is industrial engineering? Going's Explanation in 1911

The book, Principles of Industrial Engineering, by Charles Buxton Going was published in the year 1911. 2010-11 is its centenary year. Industrial engineers can read this book now in

McGraw Hill is the publisher of the book.

In the first chapter Going explained the work of industrial engineers in a very clear and vivid manner. Every industrial engineering student is to be advised to read this chapter to get the conception of industrial engineering in 1911. The chapter is given below.

This book has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to 
enter  the public domain.  A public domain book is one that was never subject to 
copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. 

What is industrial engineering? Going's Explanation in 1911
(Chapter of the book Principles of Industrial Engineering  )

INDUSTRIAL engineering is the formulated science of management. It directs the
efficient conduct of manufacturing, construction, transportation, or even 
commercial enterprises of any undertaking, indeed, in which human labor is 
directed to accomplishing any kind of work. It is of very recent origin. 
Indeed, it is only just emerging from the formative period has only just 
crystallized, so to speak,from the solution in which its elements have been 
combining during the past one or two decades. The conditions that have brought 
into being this new applied science, this new branch of engineering, grew out 
of the rise and enormous expansion of the manufacturing system. This phenomenon 
of the evolution of a new applied science is like those that have been 
witnessed in other fields of human effort when some great change, internal or 
external, forced them from a position of very minor importance into that of a 
major service to civilization. Columbus could blow across the ocean in a 
caravel to an unknown landfall; but before a regular packet service could be 
run between New York and Liverpool navigation must be made a science. 
It has drawn upon older, purer sciences for its fundamental data upon astronomy,
meteorology and hydrography, and later upon marine steam engineering and 
electricity; but out of all these it has fused a distinct body of science of 
its own, by which new practitioners can be trained, by which certainty, safety 
and efficiency of performance may be substantially assured. 

Navigation is not merely making correct observation of the sun and stars, of 
lights and beacons, of log and lead; it is not merely directing the propelling 
and steering machinery; it is not merely knowledge of courses and distances; 
it is not merely storm strategy. It is the co-ordination of all these in 
handling the equipment provided by the marine engineer and naval architect, 
through the work of a crew of men. 
In somewhat like manner, industrial engineering  has 
drawn upon mechanical engineering, upon economics, sociology, psychology, 
philosophy, accountancy, to fuse from 
these older sciences a distinct body of science of its own. It 
does not consist merely in the financial or commercial direc- 
tion, nor merely in running the power-plant or machinery, 
nor merely in devising processes or methods. It consists in 
co-ordinating all these things, and others, in the direction of 
the work of operatives, using the equipment provided by 
the engineer, machinery builder, and architect. 

The cycle of operations which the industrial engineer di- 
rects is this: Money is converted into raw materials and 
labor; raw materials and labor are converted into finished 
product or services of some kind; finished product, or serv- 
ice, is converted back into money. The difference between 
the first money and the last money is (in a very broad sense) . 
the gross profit of the operation. Part of this is absorbed 
in the intervening conversions, or, in other words, in the 
operations of purchase, manufacture, sale, and the adminis- 
tration connected with each. 



1 A systematic presentation of the field of industrial engineering from 
an entirely different point of view and by a very different method will 
be found in " Factory Organization and Administration," by Prof. Hugo 
Diemer; McGraw-Hill Book Co. 


Now the starting level (that is, the cost of raw materials 
and labor) and the final level (the price obtainable for fin- 
ished product) these two levels are generally fixed by com- 
petition and market conditions, as surely and as definitely as 
the differences in level between intake and tail race are 
fixed in a water power. Hence our profit, like the energy 
delivered at the bus bars, varies not only with the volume 
passing from level, to level, but with the efficiency of the 
conversions between these levels. In the hydroelectric 
power-plant, the conversion losses are hydraulic, mechanical 
and electrical. In any industrial enterprise the conversion 
losses are commercial, manufacturing, administrative. It is 
with the efficiency of these latter conversions that industrial 
engineering is concerned. 

The industrial engineer may have in his organization staff 
many mechanical engineers superintending special depart- 
ments  design or construction, or the power-plant, for in- 
stance  while his own duty is to co-ordinate all these factors, 
and many more, for the one great, central purpose of effi- 
cient and economical production. He is concerned not only 
with the direction of the great sources of power in nature, 
but with the direction of these forces as exerted by ma- 
chinery, working upon materials, and operated by men. It 
is the inclusion of the economic and the human elements es- 
pecially that differentiates industrial engineering from the 
older established branches of the profession. To put it in 
another way : The work of the industrial engineer not only 
covers technical counsel and superintendence of the technical 
elements of large enterprises, but extends also over the man- 
agement of men and the definition and direction of policies 
in fields that the financial or commercial man has always 
considered exclusively his own. 

In general, the work of the industrial engineer, or, to use 
a yet more inclusive term which is coming into general use, 
the efficiency engineer, has two phases. The first of these 
is analytical  we might almost call it passive to distinguish 
it from the second phase, which is synthetic, creative, and 
most emphatically active. The analytical phase of indus- 
trial or efficiency engineering deals merely with the things 
that already exist. It examines into facts and conditions, 
dissects them, analyzes them, weighs them, and shows them 
in a form that increases our useful working knowledge of 
the industry with which we have to deal. To this province 
of industrial engineering belong the collection and tabula- 
tion of statistics about a business, the accurate determination 
and analysis of costs, and the comparison of these costs with 
established standards so as to determine whether or not they 
are normal. To this sort of work Harrington Emerson ap- 
plies the term ** assays," speaking of labor assays, expense 
assays, etc., and maintaining (with good reason) that the 
expert efficiency engineer can make determinations of this 
sort as accurately, and compare them with standards as in- 
telligently, as an assayer can separate and weigh the metal 
in an ore. To this province belong also such matters as 
systematic inquiry into the means and methods used for re- 
ceiving, handling, and issuing materials, routing and trans- 
porting these materials in process of manufacture, the gen- 
eral arrangement of the plant, and the effect of this 
arrangement upon economy of operation. To this province 
belongs, also, the reduction of these data and other data to 
graphic form, by which their influence and bearing upon 
total result are often made surprisingly and effectively man- 
ifest. It is wonderful how much new knowledge a man 
may gain about even a business with which he thinks he is 
thoroughly familiar by plotting various sorts of data on 
charts where, say, the movement of materials back and 
forth, or the rise of costs under certain conditions, are trans- 
lated immediately into visible lines instead of being put into 
the indirect and rather unimpressive form of long descrip- 
tions or tabular columns of figures. 

The great purpose and value, indeed, of these analytical 
functions of industrial engineering is that they visualize the 
operations of the business and enable us to pick out the weak 
spots and the bad spots so that we can apply the right rem- 
edies and apply them where they are needed. They make 
us apprehend the presence and the relative importance of 
elements which would otherwise remain lost in the mass, un- 
detected by our unaided senses. 

The second phase of industrial engineering the active, 
creative and synthetic phase, goes on from this point and 
effects improvements, devises new methods and processes, 
introduces economies, develops new ideas. Instead of 
merely telling us what we have been doing or what we are 
doing, it makes us do the same thing more economically or 
shows us how to do a new thing that is better than the old. 
To this part of works management belongs, for example, 
the rearrangement of manufacturing plants, of depart- 
ments, or of operations so as to simplify the process of man- 
ufacture; the correction of inefficiencies, whether of power, 
transmission, equipment or labor; the invention and appli- 
cation of new policies in management which make the ideals 
and purposes of the head operate more directly upon the 
conduct of the hands; the devising of new wage systems by 
which, for example, stimulus of individual reward propor- 
tioned to output makes the individual employee more pro- 

The exercise of these functions, whether analytical or 
creative, by the industrial engineer or the efficiency engineer, 
requires that he shall have technical knowledge and scien- 
tific training, but in somewhat different form from the equip- 
ment of the mechanical engineer and somewhat differently 

Industrial engineering deals with machinery; but not so 
much with its design, construction, or abstract economy, 
which are strictly mechanical considerations, as with selec- 
tion, arrangement, installation, operation and maintenance, 
and the influence which each of these points or all of them 
together may exert upon the total cost of the product which 
that machinery turns out.
It deals with materials, but not so much with their me- 
chanical and physical constants, which are strictly technical 
considerations, as with their proper selection, their standard- 
ization, their custody, transportation, and manipulation. 

It deals very largely with methods ; but the methods with 
which it is particularly concerned are methods of performing 
work; methods of securing high efliciency in the output of 
machinery and of men; methods of handling materials, and 
establishing the exact connection between each unit handled 
and the cost of handling; methods of keeping track of work 
in progress and visualizing the result so that the manager 
of the works may have a controlling view of everything that 
is going on; methods of recording times and costs so that 
the efficiency of the performance may be compared with 
known standards; methods of detecting causes of low effi- 
ciency or poor economy and applying the necessary remedies. 

It deals with management that is, with the executive 
and administrative direction of the whole dynamic organ- 
ization, including machinery, equipment and men. 

It deals with men themselves and with the influences which 
stimulate their ambition, enlist their co-operation and insure 
their most effective work. 

It deals with markets, with the economic principles or 
laws affecting them and the mode of creating, enlarging, or 
controlling them. 

The most important elements of industrial engineering 
are summed up in this alliterative list machinery, mate- 
rials, methods, management, men and markets. And these 
six elements are interpreted and construed by the aid of an- 
other factor whose name also begins with  Money. 
Money supplies the gauge and the limit by which the other 

factors are all measured and adjusted. This of course is true 
not alone of industrial engineering; the civil engineer, the me- 
chanical engineer, the electrical engineer, the mining en- 
gineer, each and all must normally be expected to make 
money for his employer or client. One of the simplest prin- 
ciples of the profession, but one which the mere technician 
sometimes finds it hardest to keep in mind, is that the pri- 
mary purpose for which the engineer is usually engaged is 
to direct the employment of capital so that it may pay back 
dividends to its owners. And while this is generally true 
of all engineering employment, it is most particularly, con- 
tinuously and everlastingly true of works management. It 
is much easier to conceive of the civil engineer or the me- 
chanical engineer being retained to carry out some piece of 
work in which scientific accuracy is demanded regardless of 
cost, than it is to conceive of a shop superintendent being 
directed or even permitted to manufacture a line of product 
regardless of cost. 

It is the ever-present duty of the industrial engineer, of 
the efficiency engineer, to study constantly, and to study con- 
stantly harder and harder, the question of equivalency be- 
tween the dollars spent and the things secured. It is not 
sufficient, for example, for him to know that a machine sold 
for $100 costs $75 to make. This may be a very good 
profit and the machine itself may be an excellent one. 
There may be vouchers honestly connecting every cent of 
the $75 cost with some actual item of material, labor, or 
expense. Nevertheless, the industrial engineer must con- 
stantly look back of these figures to see whether by some 
change of machinery, some modification of materials, some 
alteration of methods, some higher skill in management, 
some stimulus to the men, he can make the machine cost less 
than $75 for its manufacture, or can make it a better ma- 
chine for the same cost, or perhaps can do both. 

In short, the industrial engineer is under unending and 
unremitting pressure to secure a true proportion between 
what he spends and what he gets. And the proportion is 
never true so long as the smallest opportunity remains for 
getting more in return for what he spends, or for spending 
less in payment for what he gets. The function of the in- 
dustrial engineer is tt) determine with the utmost possible 
wisdom and insight whether and where any disproportion 
between expenditure and return exists, to find the amount of 
the disproportion, the causes of such disproportion, and to 
apply effective remedies. 

The forces causing this pressure for the reduction of cost 
are principally two. The older and cruder is competition. 
The later and larger, which in itself carries the answer to 
competition, is the effort toward efficiency. 

Competition was not created by the manufacturing sys- 
tem. It existed from the foundation of the world. But 
it took on a new meaning and new activity when the things 
began to be made first and sold after (as they are under the 
manufacturing system) instead of being sold first and made 
afterward, as they were under the older order. If you con- 
tract to buy something which is not yet in existence a 
bridge, a house, a suit of clothes, or what not the bar- 
gain is largely a matter of estimate, often, indeed, a matter 
of guess work, on both sides. You have to strike a mental bal- 
ance between the several alternatives presented and compare 
in your mind net results of cost, design, quality, certainty and 
promptness of delivery, personality, credit, and perhaps 
many other things, some of them intangible, and some only 
to be proved by the outcome. The proposition that seems 
most attractive is closed; the competing ones are never car- 
ried out at all. The buyer never can tell with absolute cer- 
tainty whether or not he got the best value for his money; 
he can only compare the thing which has been made with what 
he thinks the other things would have been if they had been 
made. The seller does not know until everything is over 
whether or not he made a profit, or how much. But when 
you sell things already made, like lathes or high-speed en- 
gines or dynamos, off the sales-room floor, the prospective 
buyer can make the most absolute and intimate comparison 
between the things and their prices. He can compare 
Brown & Sharpe with Lodge & Shipley, Harrisburg with 
the Ball engine, Westlnghouse with Crocker- Wheeler. He 
can compare accurately design, quality, cost before a word or 
a dollar passes. The necessity for offering the best goods 
for the least money and yet making a fair profit becomes 
vital and insistent, and so the knowledge of actual costs and 
the ability to reduce costs become fundamental. Competi- 
tion has therefore been in one way a tremendous force for 
economy in manufacturing. And yet, by a paradox, in an- 
other way competition has been one of the great sources of 
waste, by causing duplication of plant, of organization, of 
equipment, of sales effort, and of middle-men — none of 
which may have any better reason for existence than some- 
one's desire to share in tempting-looking profits, but all of 
which must be paid by the consumer — all of which become 
a burden on society at large. 

The new and ethically fine ideal, therefore, is efficiency 
the reduction of costs and the elimination of waste for 
the primary purpose of doing the thing as well as it can 
be done, and the distribution of the increased profits thus 
secured among producer, consumer, and employee. Effi- 
ciency is a concept as much finer than competition as crea- 
tion, conservation, is finer than warfare. It is a philosophy an 
interpretation of the relations of things that may 
be applied not only to industry but to all life. Let me quote 
a few sentences from Harrington Emerson's ** Efficiency as 
a Basis for Operation and Wages " : 

** If we could eliminate all the wastes due to evil, all men 
would be good; if we could eliminate all the wastes due to 
ignorance, all men would have the benefit of supreme wisdom; if we could 
eliminate all the wastes due to laziness and 
misdirected efforts, all men would be reasonably and health- 
fully industrious. It is not impossible that through efficiency 
standards, with efficiency rewards and penalties, we could 
in the course of a few generations crowd off the sphere the 
inefficient and develop the efficient, thus producing a nation 
of men good, wise and industrious, thus giving to God what 
is His, to Caesar what is his, and to the individual what is 
his. The attainable standard becomes very high, the at- 
tainment itself becomes very high. . . 

" Efficiency is to be attained not by individual striving, 
but solely by establishing, from all the accumulated and 
available wisdom of the world, staff-knowledge standards 
for each act by carrying staff standards into effect through 
directing line organization, through rewards for individual 
excellence; persuading the individual to accept staff stand- 
ards, to accept line direction and control, and under this 
double guidance to do his own uttermost bpst." 

Efficiency, then, and in consequence industrial engineer- 
ing, which is the prosecution of efficiency in manufacturing, 
involves much more than mere technical considerations or 
technical knowledge. If we consider the way in which the 
manufacturing system came into existence, we can quite 
easily and clearly discover its most important elements; wc 
shall see particularly something that it is of the utmost im- 
portance for us to understand, and that is that it did not 
originate in technical advances alone, and it has never de- 
pended upon technical advances alone, but it has been in- 
fluenced at least in equal and perhaps in larger proportion 
by economic or commercial conditions, and by another set 
of factors which are psychological that is, which have to 
do with the thoughts and purposes and emotions of men. 

The point is very important, because true and stable in- 
dustrial progress, whether for the individual, the manufac- 
turing plant or corporation, or the nation at large, depends
upon a wise co-ordination and balance between technical, 
commercial, and human considerations. It is frequently 
necessary in addressing a commercial audience to empha- 
size the importance of the technical element. Before a 
technical audience, on the other hand, emphasis must often 
be laid on the commercial and psychological factors that in 
practical achievement must always be interwoven with the* 
technical factor. Every great industrial organization and 
every great step in industrial progress to-day includes all 
three elements, but they will perhaps appear more distinct 
if we look at the origin and source of the manufacturing sys- 
tem, out of which this new science of industry has sprung. 
The origin of the manufacturing system was clearly enough 
the introduction of a group of inventions that came in close 
sequence about the end of the eighteenth century and be- 
ginning of the nineteenth. These were the steam engine, 
mechanical spinning and weaving machinery, the steamboat, 
the locomotive, and the machine-tool. It is commonly as- 
sumed that the great cause of the entire movement was 
Watt's improvement of the steam engine — that the indus- 
trial era which began a little more than a century ago was, 
so to speak, waiting in suspense, in the hush of things un- 
born, ready to leap into being as soon as the prime mover 
had been perfected to a point of practical service. 
This view seems to be incomplete. The steam engine 
had been discovered, forgotten, and rediscovered, it would 
be difficult to say how often, from the time of Hero or 
earlier down to the time of Watt — forgotten and ignored 
because the world had no use for it ; the economic conditions 
were not ripe for it. If there had been the same demand 
for power to pump the mines in England, the same demand 
for machinery in the textile industries of England, the same 
need for better vehicles to transport commercial products by 
land and by sea, in the time of Papin or the Marquis of 
Worcester that there was in the time of Watt, I think it is
quite conceivable that the inventions which made Watt fa- 
mous would have come a full century earlier, and his genius 
would have been exerted upon a later stage of the problem, 
as the genius of Willans and Corliss and Parsons and Curtis 
has been within the period of our own lives. 

I am strongly inclined to believe that the world has al- 
ways had something near the quality and quantity of en- 
gineering talent it has been able to use. When civilization 
was dependent chiefly upon roads, aqueducts, bridges and 
buildings, it got them. We have never done some of these 
things better, technically speaking, than the Assyrians, or 
the Romans, or the architects of the great cathedrals of the 
middle ages; some, indeed, we perhaps never shall do again 
as well. Newcomen, Watt, Arkwright, Stephenson, Besse- 
mer, applied genius to a new sort of opportunity, rather than 
embodied in themselves a new order of genius. They may 
indeed have been greater than other workers who preceded 
them, but the more important element in their success is that 
the world was at last ready and waiting as it never had been 
before for the peculiar product of genius they had to offer. 
This readiness that opened the door to their success was due 
to economic or commercial conditions, not merely to the 
technical invention. In its larger relations, then, technical 
success depends upon commercial opportunity. There must 
be a potential market. Bessemer steel could not have found 
any welcome in the Stone Age. The typewriter would not 
have succeeded in the dark ages when no one but a few 
clerics could read and write. Savages who traded cocoa- 
nuts for beads and brass wire could afford no encouragement 
to the manufacturer of the cash register or the adding ma- 
chine. It was not because of thermodynamic inefficiency 
that Hero's engine failed of adoption. On the other hand, 
when the world was ready for steam power it accepted very 
gladly to begin with a very crude machine, and technical im- 
provement went step by step with larger practical utilization, 
sometimes leading and sometimes following. There must, 
then, be a potential market or application, or advance in the 
applied sciences will be limited. This is an axiom to be 
placed alongside of another — that there must be scientific 
study and research, or industries based upon the applica- 
tions of science will stagnate and remain at a low stage of 

The second factor in industrial progress, then, is the com- 
mercial factor. There must be a potential market; but it 
does not follow from this that technical progress is wholly 
subordinate to economic conditions. The inventor or the 
engineer is not of necessity merely a follower of progress in 
commerce or industry. Many of the great* advances in ap- 
plied science, or in branches of industrial achievement per- 
haps too lowly to be called applied science, have been made 
by man who foresaw not only technical possibilities but 
commercial possibilities — who undertook not only to per- 
fect the invention but to show the world the advantage of 
using it. I think this was substantially the case with wire- 
less telegraphy, with the cash register and typewriter. No- 
body had demanded these things because nobody had thought 
of them, and the productive act in each instance included 
not only technical insight into the possibilities of doing the 
thing, but human insight into the fact that people would ap- 
preciate these things and use them if they could be furnished 
at or below a certain cost. Modern industrial methods have 
shown us that in many cases there is no such thing as a fixed 
demand beyond which supply can not be absorbed, but that 
demand is a function of cost of production. There may be 
no demand at all for an article costing a dollar, but an al- 
most unlimited demand for the same article if it can be sold 
at five cents. A large part of the work of the production 
engineer lies in the creation of methods by which the cost of 
production is decreased and the volume of production is 
thereby increased, with advantages to both the producer and 
the consumer. 

In all these cases you see that technical achievement, tech- 
nical success, is closely interlocked with industrial or eco- 
nomic conditions, and with the understanding and control of 
industrial or economic influences and forces. 

The third factor in industrial progress is the psychological 
factor — the element contributed by the mental attitude, 
emotions, or passions of men. I might suggest its possible 
importance by reminding you that there were centuries in 
which the inventor of the steam engine, far from being re- 
warded, would have been burned at the stake as a magi- 
cian. This would not have been because the extraordinary 
character of the achievement was unrecognized, but because 
its nature was misinterpreted. That particular form of ex- 
pressing intellectual dissent has gone out of date. We are 
much more civilized now, and nineteenth- or twentieth-cen- 
tury inventors who are far ahead of their times are no longer 
burned; they are merely allowed to starve to death; while 
those who are timely, but not commercially shrewd, are us- 
ually swindled by some promoter, who in turn is frozen out 
by a trust. In any case, you see, the simple technician gets 
the worst of it industrially, not because his physical science 
is weak, but because his commercial and mental shrewdness 
is not correspondingly developed. 

Taking a larger view of it, we shall see that almost every 
important advance in engineering progress is made only after 
a period of pause, an interval following proof of the tech- 
nical achievement, following even demonstration of its com- 
mercial economy. We might call this the psychological lag 
the time necessary for the growth of human faith suf- 
ficient to energize an industrial movement. In the case of 
the electric railway, or the motor vehicle, for example, this 
lag was measured by years. Bessemer could not convince 
the ironmasters of England, and had to build his own plant. 
Westinghouse, having gained after much difficulty an audi- 
ence with the greatest railroad manager of that day, was 
told that this practical railroad man had no time to waste 
on a damn fool who expected to stop railroad trains with 
wind. The matter deserves emphasis because it is almost 
certain to enter into the individual experience of every man. 
You will have to make someone believe you, and believe in 
you, before you can get anywhere or do anything. When a 
technical man has a proposition to put before an individual, 
or a group of individuals, or society at large, he is very 
likely to think that scientific demonstration of its technical 
soundness ought to be convincing. You will find, however, 
that men at large will substantially ignore scientific proof, 
and that you must add to it, second, proof of the commer- 
cial or economic argument, and third, that psychological 
force which convinces not the reason, but the emotions. In 
all industrial engineering, which involves dealing with men, 
this psychological or human element is of immense, even 
controlling importance. The principles of the science are 
absolute, scientific, eternal. But methods, when we are 
dealing with men, must recognize the personal equation 
(which is psychologic) or failure will follow. The differ- 
ences between the several philosophies of works management 
as expressed in the wage systems which we are going to con- 
sider later are psychological. Success in handling men and 
women, which is one of the most important parts of the 
work of the industrial engineer, is founded on knowledge 
of human nature, which is psychology. 

The great industrial movement, then, with which we have 
to do is triune in its nature, the three chief elements being 
the technical or scientific, the economic or commercial, and 
the psychological or human. They seldom respond at equal 
rates to the impetus of advance. Sometimes the technician 
pushes so far ahead that the world loses touch with what he 
is doing and his work lies long unused until civilization 
catches up; sometimes the commercial tendency is unduly 
aggressive, and discourages or impedes real scientific achieve- 
ment; very often the men most concerned with the indus- 
trial activities go badly wrong in their philosophy, and get 
disastrously false notions as to what makes for real progress 
and real welfare. More difficulties, perhaps, come from this 
cause than from any other. 

To the technical man, it is an ever-present duty to keep in 
view absolute ideals, to seek every chance for their advance- 
ment, and to mould conditions and men so as to obtain con- 
stantly nearer approach to these ideals; but in doing this he 
must never forget to attach full weight to economic condi- 
tions, and he must never allow himself to ignore human na- 


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