Industrial Engineering

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THE HISTORY OF INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING (Part I)

THE HISTORY OF INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING (Part I)

The origins of industrial engineering can be traced back to many different sources. Fredrick Winslow Taylor is most often considered as the father of industrial engineering even though all his ideas where not original. Some of the preceding influences may have been Adam Smith's treatise The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, Thomas Malthus’s Essay on Population, published in 1798, David Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, published in 1817, and John Stuart Mill’s Principles of Political Economy, published in 1848. All of these works provided Classical Liberal explanations for the successes and limitations of the Industrial Revolution. Adam Smith was an economist as were most of his contemporaries at the time. "Economic Science" is the phrase to describe this field in England prior to American industrialization. The amount of influence this literature had on Taylor is unknown.
Another major contributor to the field and precursor to Taylor was Charles W. Babbage. Babbage was mathematics professor at Cambridge University. One of his major contributions to the field was his book On the Economy of Machinery and Manufacturers in 1832. In this book he discusses many different topics dealing with manufacturing, a few of which will be extremely familiar to an IE. Babbage discusses the idea of the learning curve, the division of task and how learning is affected, and the effect of learning on the generation of waste. He also was very interested in different methods of wage administration and even suggested profit sharing as a viable approach. Charles Babbage was the first person to suggest building a mechanical computer, "analytical calculating machine" as he called it, for the purpose of solving complex mathematical problems. An idea that is far beyond the technology of his time but later proves to be a valuable concept to the modern IE.

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