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     Volume 2 Issue 60 | March 16 , 2008|


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All about IPE

Afsaruzzaman Noor

Industrial engineering is a branch of engineering that concerns the development, improvement, implementation and evaluation of integrated systems of people, money, knowledge, information, equipment, energy, material and process(Wikipedia). 'Industrial and Production Engineering' or IPE is being taught right here in Bangladesh at 4 public universities, namely BUET, KUET, RUET and SUST. And within a short time more universities will initiate this subject. Still being quite a new one, it is unknown to many and this is a work for them, especially for those having interest in studying engineering. To give the readers precise information I talked with two persons: a teacher and a final year student. So, let's hear from them.

The teacher I talked to is Mr. Ahsan Akhter Hasin who is the Departmental head of IPE- BUET. In 2000 he joined the IPE department of BUET. . I went for a formal interview, but in the end it was more like an informal conversation rather than an interview.

When asked about the history of IPE in Bangladesh he answered like this: “In developed countries like USA this subject was initiated long ago. Even in developed countries of Asia like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand or Philippines this has been a popular subject for long. But in third world countries like ours this subject was not known. It was started in 1981 as a specialized part of Mechanical Engineering. Only M.Sc. was offered then. In 1997 it was made fully independent and separated department as B.Sc. Engineering course was initiated. The first batch was consisted of only 20 students. They passed in 2003 and since then 6 batches have been passed out.” He added by his own, “subject's name can be confusing here. It is known by different names throughout the world. Like only Industrial Engineering, Industrial Engineering and management, Production and Manufacturing Engineering, Industrial and Production Engineering, Operations Management or even Managerial Science. But actual contents under all these names are very much similar.” As the meeting went on we came to the important question: 'What's the purpose of IPE?' Some interesting speculations came out from Mr. Hasin: “Think about a machine. A machine is hardware to a Mechanical Engineer, just like a human body is a combination of organs to a Doctor. From the point of view of an Economist it's a financial asset which belongs to either profit or loss.” He continues, “But for an IP Engineer it's a production resource. Like that a man or woman is a human resource to him or her. He or she should have a plan how to manage and run a machine. The target is optimum production or in other words we can say it as maximum output. It's been a problem for our country that we are not being able to produce maximum possible products in spite of having adequate equipments. So it's clear that we are lacking in managerial skill. IP Engineers are now filling this gap.” The next topic was the job fields. A happy but firm answer came: “Any kind of production industry is suitable for IP Engineers. An industry can be based on Chemical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Computer Engineering or other fields of engineering. But for every kind IP Engineers are necessary. IP Engineers are needed for service organizations also. It may seem that I'm joking but the fact is even hospitals require IP Engineers for management. Personally I have consultancy experiences at Red Crescent, Merry Stopes and 'Paribar Parikalpana Samity Hospital's. It's not been a usual scene in our country but in countries like USA it's a regular practice.” Talking about the demand in abroad he said, “Any developed country means the country is industrially developed.

So demand in any developed country is abundant to be true.” When asked about the employment opportunities he answered happily, “So far we have got 100% employment record, means graduates have got jobs based on their subject. There should be no worries about employment in near future. But to retain the employment rate intact after that we have to create more field or post for IPE. It's true that until now this subject is not known to all employers. The jobs of IPE had been done by graduates of other subjects in past. We have to change this scenario and we are doing our best to do it. We can say that we are successful enough so far.”

This is the end of the interview. Now let's focus on Mr. Abu Hasan who is a final year student of IPE in BUET. Questions and answers will come one by one.

Q: What courses are being taught here?

A: “We can divide the subjects of IPE into two sections:

1. Industrial engineering

2. Manufacturing engineering
Again we can classify the industrial engineering subjects into three parts including:

1. Basic sciences such as Physics, Chemistry or Mathematics which are mandatory for other engineering subjects too.

2. Industrial engineering courses or operational sciences which include engineering economics, operation research, operation management, ergonomics, safety, quality management and environment management, simulation- a very important one which we study here as a sessional subject etc.

3. Management courses like project management, marketing management, industrial and business management etc.

In the part of Production engineering or Manufacturing engineering the following subjects are being taught: Mechanics, Manufacturing processes, Product design Material Handling and Maintenance Management, Machine Tools etc.”

Q: There is a much debated question among the students whether it can be said a subject of engineering or commerce. What's your comment?

A: “That's totally baseless. Yes, you can say that it has got some similarities with business administration education like MBA. But again one should know that commerce and BBA or MBA are not the same. In USA this subject (Industrial Engineering) is often termed as Operational Sciences which is almost totally based on mathematics. So how can one say that it's a subject of commerce? .The students basically learn 'Scientific Management/ Engineering Management' studying this subject.

Q: The engineering admission seeking students often want to know among physics, chemistry or maths which are more related with their desired subject. What's your opinion over this?

A: “I will encourage the students who are good at math and physics to take IPE. Also he or she should be interested in management. But mind it this is not mere management but 'scientific management' which is calculative. In US this subject's curriculum can be compared to Applied Math's curriculum. Yes, it s true that to make this subject applicable to our country the mathematical portion has been shortened in contrast to US. But still mathematics has a key role here.”

Q: Currently IPE is ranked as the no.3 subject of BUET. But still there are many students who are able to take IPE, opting to take subjects which are ranked below to it. Why is it?

A: “Well of course there's a matter of personal interest. Moreover some wrong conceptions (like the one 'it is a subject of commerce') and also ignorance about the
subject discourage them to choose it.”

Q: Tell us about the activities of the teachers and graduates if there is any speciality.

A: “There is an organization called AIPE (Association of Industrial and Production Engineers). Through this the students alongwith the graduates organize various conferences, workshops. What these make is a linkage between us and the industries, corporate houses. Also IPE day is celebrated every year. The business leaders of the nation come here and get to know us. These initiatives certainly make this subject familiar to the job market. I should also mention the contribution of the teachers here in BUET. They are very much interactive and helpful to the students, often which is missing in case of other departments.”

Q: Lots of people believe that Bangladesh is still industrially a very backward country. So there is not much for IPE in our country. Do you agree with them?

A: “Absolutely not. This is totally a misconception. In our country usually what happens- light industries are setup with machines with the help of foreign experts, operated by locals and if there is any problem, foreigners are called to solve. In this way huge money is spent. To save it we need local experts who know machines (may be not much deeply) and also who can manage the whole process well. That demand can be meet by IPE graduates. And also if you set up heavy industries, even then the words maintenance, management come into business. Besides technically we are advanced enough. For example we have got CAD, CAM courses which even a few basic engineering departments don't have. So, there is a great demand and in future it will continue expanding.”

The interview ends here. I hope the readers who were not exactly known to this subject will get to know it well. Answers to some burning questions are also given- I believe. I hope this year's admission seekers will greatly be benefited reading the article. For further information you can contact via email: zaman.jyoti@gmail.com or hasan_ie@yahoo.com

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