Expanding industrial thinking by formalizing the industrial engineering identity for the knowledge era
This PhD study provides a multi-perspective view of Industrial Thinking and the Industrial Engineering profession. The aim is to formalize the Industrial Engineering identity and expand its associated thinking style to deal with the challenges of the knowledge era. To date, however, the identity of the industrial engineer remains vague. Due to the broad knowledge base and application areas made available to industrial engineers, pinning down the commonality has proven difficult. This problem is further magnified by global forces shaping the knowledge era. Various works touch on some elements that can help in forming an identity, but they have not been combined into a common identity. Doing so is a critical development for the sake of communal advancement in the Industrial Engineering field. Defining this identity can significantly improve awareness within society about the field itself. This PhD argues that a modern understanding of the role of the industrial engineer can be established by formalizing the identity as a profession that is connected to all fields of knowledge and is a master of some. Industrial Thinking, on the other hand, is poorly defined in literature. Often, it is merely used as a term to describe the shift in the cognitive thinking style of pre-industrial to industrial society. This description may have been sufficient for many. However, for the Industrial Engineering profession, this thinking style forms the root of its core value proposition and is the generator of the field’s asymmetrical knowledge. This thinking style is naturally available in others but is leveraged most by the industrial engineer. However, given that industrial engineering is interdisciplinary in nature, it has always been difficult to explain this cognitive style with a single methodology, approach or process. This study tackles the specific problem of expanding this thinking style by defining and giving a fuller account of Industrial Thinking as well as discussing areas of concern that need to be addressed. Ultimately, the results are presented in an Industrial Thinking Systemigram which helps guide and expand the thinking process in a methodological way to meet the challenges of the knowledge era. To achieve this modern outlook, a system context is drawn to identify key areas of concern (themes) surrounding the field of Industrial Engineering and its associated thinking style. As part of the methodology the overarching goal is separated from sub objectives (using suitable action research and soft system methodology). The sub objectives are explored in 5 individual articles addressing each area of concern/theme. They form the systemic stream of the document. These articles address the relationship of Industrial Engineering with issues on the individual, professional, economic, societal and environmental levels. The cultural stream is addressed in the overarching objective by defining industrial thinking and expanding it for the knowledge era. The findings are verified using semi-structured interviews with experts.
- Engineering