Industrial engineering: Key factor in the manufacturing industry

On Wednesday, September 30th of 2020, the PRPDG team had the opportunity to interview Eng. Luis A. Torres Fernández, president of the Industrial Engineers Institute from the CIAPR and General Manager of C-Axis, about industrial engineering as a key factor in the manufacturing industry. Here we will be sharing some of the most important talking points that stood out during our conversation.

Q. What does an industrial engineer do in the manufacturing industry?

A. “As a principal function, typically when we graduate college, we’re involved in improving layouts, calculating standards and operation costs, balancing production lines, but we also focus on other functions to improve any type of process. Besides working in engineering, we’re also involved in the supplying of materials, and in the quality aspect as well in order to identify the biggest problems, amongst other things”.

Q. In what other industries, besides manufacture, can industrial engineers offer their services and knowledge?

A. “There are quite a few, but one that has been increasing lately is the service industry. Industrial engineers are perfect for this, because they focus in how to improve and maximize these processes. For example, in the banking industry, industrial engineers could analyze the factors that make people spend more time or less time in a line, and work to minimize it”.

Q. What has been, in your opinion, the greatest contribution that industrial engineers have made to the industry?

A. “There are many and diverse reasons, but lately, the continuing improvement has been vital and fundamental. Not only do we apply it on our own, as individuals and professionals in the field, but we also help others develop that same continuing improvement. Puerto Rico is turning into a more competitive region each time thanks to how we improve processes and products every day, to keep growing as businesses, and to be able to be more cost-effective than other countries”.

Q. Based on your experience, what has been the role of women who are industrial engineers?

A. “I’ve seen that there are more and more women engineers each day, particularly in management positions, which proves that women have been evolving in the industry. I do believe that there’s still more space for involvement in the College of Engineers. When I started off as president last year, I noticed that only 3 out of 10 members of the Institute of Industrial Engineers were women. To me, that represents very little participation, so we decided to get more women involved, especially in leadership positions, and were able to make some progress last year. This year, we were able to have even more participation and involvement.  We’ve included more women in the Board of Directors to keep highlighting their experience and leadership skills, while they help us maintain equal participation between men and women”.

Q. What is the strategic plan that the Institute has for 2021?

A. “We’re going to focus on five main things, the first being increasing the participation of women, something which we’re already working on. Number two would be to offer the members a continuing education program that makes sense, or in other words, that includes relevant topics and information that they can use today. We would also like to make strategic alliances, where we can share knowledge between organizations that will benefit everyone. In addition, we would like to improve our communication from the inside. Something that I learned is that we did many things, but we did not communicate them all. Therefore, we would like to be more effective in communicating the efforts and initiatives being developed. Lastly, I would like to make sure that we’re leaving a great legacy, so that following presidents can keep improving what we want to leave for future generations”.

Q. To close this interview, we would like to ask a final, but very important question: what does the future look like for industrial engineers here in Puerto Rico?

A.  “The future looks bright, especially if what we’re all waiting for does happen, which is the development of new biotechnology and medical equipment projects on the island in order to manage the COVID-19 emergency, which is a national security problem. Industrial engineers have an opportunity to keep learning, developing, and improving these processes, and of being a key factor in this industry so that Puerto Ri o can become as cost-effective as possible. We need these leadership skills, so that Puerto Rico can go back to being what it used to be”.