Research

Industrial engineering is an engineering discipline that focuses on the integration and optimal utilisation of all of the resources of an enterprise (natural resources, capital resources and intellectual resources) in order to create excellence in the enterprise. In modern society, the requirements towards competitiveness and sustainability are so much more than ever before. The industrial engineers of today are extremely well equipped to provide solutions to these modern challenges. These are achieved by analysing the challenges, designing solutions, implementing them, and operating them.

The Department of Industrial Engineering has thirteen full-time academic staff, plus six who teach on a contract basis, and at undergraduate level is responsible for the programme in Industrial Engineering. The postgraduate programme is divided into Industrial Engineering, and Engineering Management, and the Department then focuses on the following research areas for the improvement of global competitiveness, for the enterprise, and for society as a whole:

Engineering Management

This research area covers the management of technical enterprises or processes. In order to achieve this, industrial and other engineers apply their ability to coordinate, integrate and optimise the inputs of other disciplines. Engineering management includes fields such as project management, risk management, quality management, performance management and feasibility studies in the wider sense. In the short term, it also focuses on the operational processes of a firm. Here engineers apply their ability to analyse technical and non-technical processes, redesign them if necessary, implement and operate them. Specific areas covered here include value-analysis, process re-engineering, continuous improvement, facility planning and ergonomics. Emphasis is placed on the contribution of each process towards the strategic goals of the enterprise.

Enterprise Engineering

This area covers the engineering of enterprises as a whole. In order to achieve this, industrial engineers apply their ability to analyse enterprises, design them, implement them and operate them. Strategic industrial engineering includes fields such as enterprise engineering, knowledge and information management, financial management and technology management.

Health Systems Engineering and Innovation Hub

Health Systems Engineering (HSE) is concerned with the optimization of health systems and processes. The focus is on (i) quantitative modelling, forecasting and scenario analysis to support decision making; (ii) analysis to diagnose the root cause of systemic problems in the healthcare delivery process; and (iii) the application of Industrial Engineering skills to problem solving in the healthcare sector. This is an applied research field and projects in this field are often conducted in collaboration with other research units such as the Systems Modelling, Operations Research and Decision Support group and the Supply Chain Optimization group.

Manufacturing

The industrial engineer’s ability to make a difference in specific industries, especially to achieve resource efficiency, applies here. It includes the analysis, redesign, modelling, testing and implementation of improvements to reduce natural-, energy- and human resource wastes. All the individual aspects such as machining, human (operator/manager), automation and supply chain management as well as the holistic combination of these are focussed on. Our resource efficient techniques extend to improvements in wider fields such as manufacturing processes, manufacturing systems, robotics, logistics, electronics, metallurgy, medical technology and more widely their application in services such
as primary- and secondary manufacturing, technology and financial institutions.

Physical Asset Management (Asset Care)

Physical Asset Management is defined as the systematic and coordinated activities and practices through which an organization optimally and sustainably manages its assets and asset systems, their associated performance, risks and expenditures over their life cycles for the purpose of achieving its organizational strategic plan.

PRASA Engineering Research Chair

The PRASA Engineering Research Chair initiates and executes research into aspects of maintenance management, maintenance processes and applicable engineering principles best suited to the needs of PRASA/Metrorail. The PRASA Engineering Research Chair has extended its research boundaries to include other disciplines such as Mechanical-, Mechatronic-, Electrical-, Electronic- and Civil Engineering, which allows for increased versatility and flexibility in finding suitable solutions. Research testing and validation through a virtual laboratory concept allows for access to interdisciplinary research and laboratory facilities of other engineering departments, which results in increased possible research solution opportunities.

Resource Efficient Production Engineering

Resource Efficient Production Engineering improves processes to achieve sustainability in the creation of wealth. Sustainable value chains generate wealth whilsts remaining conscious of the three P’s of sustainability – People, Profit, Planet. This requires the efficient utilization of resources like energy, water, minerals, money, time, and minimizing waste. Efficient resource utilization requires “knowledge”, and “innovation” – the most important resources in our value chain.

Supply Chain Management

This area covers the management of products and services across enterprises. In order to achieve this, industrial engineers apply their ability to coordinate and integrate their own as well as the inputs of other disciplines. SCM includes fields such as supply network design, performance management, and feasibility studies in the wider sense. In the short term, it focuses on the operational processes of a firm aligned to the strategy and contributing to efficient supply chains. Here engineers apply their ability to analyse technical and non-technical processes, redesign them if necessary, implement and operate them. Specific areas covered here include process re-engineering, continuous improvement, information and knowledge management, value-analysis, financial management and facility planning. Emphasis is placed on the value creation of each process in the achievement of the strategic goals of possible various supply chains of which the enterprise is a part of.

Sustainable Systems

The research area focuses on the transition to a more sustainable economy and society, which will place an emphasis on the management of infrastructure and technology, including the planning and design thereof. This, in turn, requires trans-disciplinary, integrated approaches; since our academic and industrial organisations have great expertise in system components, but still lack experience with the management of the ‘systems of systems’ that constitute our infrastructure and technology at the total societal level. This research area then aims to improve our understanding, and develop the associated capacities and capabilities, of how technical, economic, political and other socio-ecological factors interact, particularly in the context of great uncertainties as we embark on the transition.

Systems Modelling, Operations Research, and Decision Support

The group focuses their research on the design and implementation of mathematical and statistical modelling techniques in support of effective decision-making in industry. In order to achieve this, industrial engineers model system responses to changes in their input parameters in the form of sensitivity analyses and scenario planning. They then use this knowledge of the system responses to determine suitable trade-off solutions, which can be recommended as desirable courses of action in complex management problems. The modelling techniques typically used derive from the fields of linear, integer, nonlinear and dynamic programming, multi-objective optimisation, utility theory, Markov chains, queuing theory, inventory theory, game theory, graph theory, simulation and forecasting. This modelling approach finds natural application in areas such as the banking and insurance sector, lean manufacturing, efficient retailing and warehousing, responsible natural resource management, the formulation of robust agricultural practices, military decision support and various instances of streamlining within the public sector (e.g. energy planning and urban traffic congestion alleviation).

Laboratories

The Department maintains a number of in-house laboratories, including:

  • Rapid Product Development Laboratory
  • Two laboratories with advanced computer and CAD facilities
  • The Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (SENROB)
  • Machining Laboratory
  • Micromanufacturing Laboratory
  • Metrology (reverse engineering) Laboratory

Enterprise Engineering



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Health Systems Engineering and Innovation Hub



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Physical Asset
Management



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Manufacturing



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PRASA
Chair



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Systems Modelling, Operations Research, and Decision Support



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Engineering Management



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Research
Outputs



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Supply Chain Management



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Sustainable Systems



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Resource Efficient Production Engineering



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Value
Capture
Systems



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Gateways


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