How industrial engineering differs from operational research ?

I came across following various which more or less relate to a common idea of making system efficient a) Industrial engineering and operational research b) Operational research c) Industrial and system engineering d) Industrial management e) System engineering

Is there any difference in these programs ?

asked 09 Jul '10, 07:25

Ram's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

To me Industrial Engineering is the "engineering" while Operations Research is the "science" behind it. Just like mechanical engineering and physics. Mechanical engineers use physics to solve complicated problems and come up with solutions. In the PhD level, and in the research, mechanical engineers are basically physicists. For example many mechanical engineering PhD students know molecular dynamics and quantum mechanics theory just as much as a physicist knows. Similarly in higher levels, Industrial Engineers become more like Operations Researchers, they focus more on the science of management and operations research. They think deeply about how LP/MIP solvers work, how they can improve them, they go deep in ideas like Markov Chains, Brownian motions, martingales and try to design techniques based on these ideas or try to deveop new ideas that can make an impact in the science.

Industrial Engineers work on the engineering side, they use simulation, decision making tools, graph theoretical algorithms, optimization techniques and software to solve problems. While Operations Researchers work on the science behind these tools, they develop new algorithms, design new optimization methods, design tools for analyzing systems. They provide tools for Industrial Engineers (and other engineers).

Operations research is based on a number of areas, among them stochastic processes, optimization and mathematical modeling are the ones that we do no see in other professions (or better to say us Operations Researchers have claimed the ownership of these fields). Industrial Engineers take these tools and efficiently use them. Additionally there are topics that come up in Industrial Engineering that are specifically part of that profession; for example, ergonomics, human factors, manufacturing and production systems, (even systems engineering). An Operations Researcher is not focused on these topics just like a physicist is not focused on making a better car and work like a mechanical engineer. (Although I have seen many researchers who were outstanding, both in OR and IE, they actively conduct research in both areas)


answered 09 Jul '10, 08:07

Mark's gravatar image

Mark ♦
accept rate: 9%

edited 09 Jul '10, 08:18

I think Operations Research is not a very good name, most people do not know what it is and the word itself does not give a clue. I would rather use applied math about our field, but it is kind a taken and covers a broader description. Linear "programming" is also a outdated name, but too late to change it :-)

(09 Jul '10, 08:52) Bo Jensen ♦

I agree, I actually like "management science" much more than "operations research"

(09 Jul '10, 08:56) Mark ♦

I personally like Decisioneer. But I've heard that has a bad connotation.

(09 Jul '10, 12:57) larrydag 1 ♦

"Decisioneer"... hahahahahaha!

(09 Jul '10, 13:07) DC Woods ♦

Whatever happened to "quant jock"?

(09 Jul '10, 15:35) Paul Rubin ♦♦

"To me Industrial Engineering is the "engineering" while Operations Research is the "science" behind it. " - I liked this one. Thank you!

(20 Aug '10, 16:29) Ahmet Yuksel...
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments

Really the only difference is what it says on your diploma in my honest opinion. I have an undgraduate degree in Industrial Engineering and a masters in Operations Research. To me its more what you do with the knowledge than more about selling the named skillset. I have worked in a varied industries from telecom, manufacturing, job shop, electronics, financial services, restaurant services, and online marketing. So to me its more about what I can do for the organization other than what is a "skill for sale".

I do understand the brand image that a name provokes. Its hard to beat the brand image of MBA, Lawyer, Doctor, or even Statistician. Yet I don't think putting a label on something is the most important attribute. Its how you use your knowledge and skill sets. That is what sells.


answered 09 Jul '10, 13:03

larrydag%201's gravatar image

larrydag 1 ♦
accept rate: 9%

I looked at the definitions of IE and OR and this is what I got

Industrial Engineering : the branch of engineering that deals with the creation and management of systems that integrate people and materials and energy in productive ways

Operations Research: research designed to determine most efficient way to do something

So I guess, the real difference lies between the words "productive" and "most efficient".


answered 12 Jul '10, 21:03

Venky's gravatar image

accept rate: 15%

I'm inclined to think that the difference (if any) between IE, OR and MS have less to do with the tools, models and algorithms you are trained to use, or whether you do "basic" research or solve actual problems, and more with application context (and what you're trained in besides the core math, stats and OR topics). To me an IE probably also knows a fair bit about engineering in general, and probably works on problems that arise in engineering contexts (though not necessarily exclusively). An MS practitioner probably has learned a fair bit about business management (marketing, production, finance) and probably deals mainly with problems arising in management contexts. An OR person is perhaps the most general (or hardest to describe), with no obvious supplemental training (maybe computer science, but not guaranteed by any means) and no obvious problem context.


answered 14 Jul '10, 15:28

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Paul Rubin ♦♦
accept rate: 19%

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Asked: 09 Jul '10, 07:25

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Last updated: 14 Jul '10, 15:28

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