Industrial Engineer Interview Questions
An industrial engineer manages industrial production processes in order to eliminate waste and increase efficiency on the production line. This can include eliminating waste of time, money, materials, and manpower, among other things.
Industrial engineers study, develop, and manipulate systems in order to develop the most efficient processes possible. Industrial engineers must have general business knowledge as well as knowledge of mathematics, social sciences, and engineering in order to gain, analyze, predict, and evaluate data.
Industrial engineer responsibilities may include:
- Determining how to manufacture parts, products, or services efficiently
- Reviewing production schedules, processing flows, and engineering specifications
- Communicating with clients about product specifications
- Communicating with management personnel about manufacturing processes
- Designing systems to reduce waste within the business
- Developing management control systems
An industrial engineer is critical to improving a business’s bottom line. In order to maximize efficiency and minimize waste, a skilled industrial engineer will:
- Utilize creative problem-solving skills to consistently design new systems to eliminate waste
- Communicate clearly with vendors, personnel, and management
- Have a keen eye for detail in order to identify problem areas within a business
- Demonstrate theoretical knowledge in engineering
- Analyze data accurately to predict and evaluate trends
To qualify for an entry-level position, candidates must have at least a bachelor of science in industrial engineering or a similar field. For those who wish to specialize within a certain field, a master’s degree will provide the education needed. In order to gain a job in the academic world, a doctorate in industrial engineering is typically required.
If you’re getting ready to interview for a position as an industrial engineer, you can prepare by researching the company as much as possible. Learn about the 9 things you should research before an interview.
Salaries for industrial engineers range between $84K and $129K with the median being $105K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as an industrial engineer include:
- Degrees (bachelor's, master's, doctorate)
- Years of Experience
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the manager you report to, number of direct reports)
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations
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Industrial Engineer Interview Questions
Question: Let’s begin with you providing your definition of industrial engineering as well as the importance of statistics in this role.
Explanation: This is an opening question meant to get you talking in order to gain some understanding of what you think the job involves. This should be a very easy question for you to answer if you have prepared for the interview by practicing the questions you believe you will be asked. The key to success in an interview is preparation and practice. The preparation involves researching the company and the job. Practice asking yourself the questions you anticipate and answering them out loud.
Example: “Industrial engineering involves the practice of designing production systems to make them effective and efficient. It begins with an analysis of the products to be produced, the layout of the production plant, and other components of the process to be performed. The industrial engineer then designs a system that incorporates those facilities, equipment, materials, and workers. Each process is carefully examined to make it both effective and efficient. Statistics are used to analyze the processes and implement improvements once production begins.”
Question: Can you describe what plant organization is?
Explanation: This is a general question that an interviewer will ask early in the interview. The purpose of this is to continue the conversation, give them an idea about some aspect of your background, and uncover additional topics about which the interviewer can ask you. Keep this in mind when responding to the question. You will have the opportunity to guide the interview in a direction with which you are comfortable.
Example: “The plant organization can be thought of as a distribution of functions that a business or manufacturing facility performs and the allocation of both material and human resources to achieve this. Human resources are broken into two groups: the first being staff and the second being line employees. Line employees perform the production work while staff employees support the line employees.”
Question: What is process analysis, and how is it used?
Explanation: This is another general question that seeks to understand your knowledge of processes employed by industrial engineers. When asked an operational question, you should respond by first defining the term and then providing an example of how it is used when performing your job.
Example: “Process analysis is the procedure for studying all plant operations and breaking them down into steps or components. The purpose of this is to optimize cost, quality, output, and production times. While each of these is important, there needs to be a balance between each criterion. For instance, optimizing quality may require slightly longer production times.”
Question: What is processed planning, and how does it differ from process analysis?
Explanation: This is a follow-up to the previous question. While you are being asked about a different definition, it still relates to the answer you previously provided. You should always expect follow-up questions to any operational or technical question you answer.
Example: “Process planning involves using the results from the process analysis to create a step-by-step plan for producing a product or providing a service. The analysis you previously performed will identify the best processes to use and enable you to select the specific steps, machinery, materials, and human resources needed to execute the process. It also develops relationships between processes which are needed to move from raw materials to finished goods.”
Question: Can you describe how you would optimize a plant layout to produce the best results?
Explanation: The interviewer is now asking more specific operational questions. Hopefully, you have conducted a great deal of pre-interview research and understand a little bit about the company’s operations. If so, you can tailor your answers to align with their current processes while subtly making suggestions for process improvements.
Example: “For a manufacturing process to work smoothly, a proper plant layout is required. The layout is designed to minimize handling costs, reduce throughput times, and increase product output. There are two main types of plant layouts: the first is straight line which minimizes the flow between each production station, and the second type is process or functional arrangements which cluster similar operations in nearby facilities to take advantage of economies of scale for both materials, equipment, and personnel.”
Question: Can you explain the concept of total quality control and identify what standards are used in this practice?
Explanation: This is a technical question which asks you to define a term and provide additional related information. Technical questions are best answered in a straightforward manner, providing just enough information with little embellishment. The interviewer will follow up with additional questions if they require more information.
Example: “The purpose of total quality control, or TQC, is to produce a 100%-defect-free product at the end of the production line. This is achieved by focusing on quality at each step of the process. It is process focused versus inspection focused, meaning the product will ideally only need to be inspected at the end of the process to ensure there are no defects. Four standards apply to TQC which are ISO 9001, 9002, 9003, and 9004. Each of these deals with a different aspect of the TQC process.”
Question: What are the main two methods for calculating costs in a production environment?
Explanation: This is another technical question with a twist. On the surface, this appears to be an accounting-related question, and it is. However, as an industrial engineer, part of your role is to design processes that help reduce costs. Knowing how to calculate production costs is a critical element to being successful in this task.
Example: “The two main methods for calculating production cost are job-order cost and process cost. Job-order cost is used when orders are placed at the factory for specific jobs or lots of products. Since the job or lot is easily identified throughout the entire process, the cost can be directly related to a job or lot. The process-cost method, on the other hand, is used when production proceeds in a continuous manner. In this scenario, the individual products are not identifiable as a specific job or lot.”
Question: What are the three management functions performed in a production facility, and can you briefly describe each one’s purpose?
Explanation: This operational question seeks to understand if you are aware of how management is structured in a production environment. Again, this is a component of engineering a cost-effective and efficient manufacturing environment. The best way to answer this question is by stating what each one is and briefly describing their function or importance within the production environment.
Example: “As you mentioned, there are three different types of managerial functions within a production environment. The first one is planning which establishes the organization's objectives. Naturally, this has to occur first. The next managerial function is organizing which involves creating a framework for the production process, specifying the equipment and materials that will be needed, and setting up the organization in functional units. The final type of management is controlling which occurs on the factory floor during the production process.”
Question: What are time studies, and what methods are used in this process?
Explanation: This is another technical question in which the interviewer is seeking to understand how you perform your job and improve production processes. As the interview progresses, the questions will become more difficult. This is an indication that the interviewer is gaining confidence in your qualifications and now seeks to understand your skillset around specific functions they need you to perform.
Example: “Time studies seek to measure the amount of time required for a production process. The goal of performing these studies is to reduce the time and make the process more efficient. There are three different methods for performing time studies. The first is the application of past experience which is simply reviewing records to determine how much time it has taken to perform the process. The next method is direct observation and measurement which involves observing the process and measuring the current time it takes. This enables the observer to make adjustments for abnormal issues and arrive at a more accurate estimate of the time required. The final method is known as synthetic techniques which involves breaking a process into individual steps, using published data to determine the time required for each step, and then combining all the information to come up with the time required for the entire process.”
Question: What are some ways you can make improvements in how products are designed and manufactured?
Explanation: While this is an operational question, it may surprise you at first. It appears like the interviewer is asking you about product design, not industrial engineering. However, what they’re looking for is how you can collaborate with a designer to help them create a product design that is easier or more efficient to manufacture. This is another important role an industrial engineer performs.
Example: “There are several different ways I can assist in the product design process to make the product more efficient to manufacture. The first is to simplify the design and reduce the number of parts required. I can also make suggestions on how to reduce the number of steps it takes to manufacture the product. Combining these, I can recommend ways to set up a manufacturing process to be more effective and efficient. Finally, I can help the designer understand which materials are easier to work within manufacturing and will result in a better design for the product.”
Additional Industrial Engineer Interview Questions
Can you tell me how to avoid flow marks in an injection-molded product?
How do you deal with conflicts within the workplace?
What computer software programs have you worked with and for how long?
What is your biggest challenge when building a product from design to processing?
What types of inventory would you find in a manufacturing facility?
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