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Industrial Engineering

Studying Industrial Engineering in Germany

An article by Maria Retter. Cooperation from: Christian Heinrich

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That is what it's about

Industrial engineers understand as much about management and the processes in a company as they do about the technical details of a product. "They speak the language in both areas," says Uwe Dittmann, professor at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences and Chairman of the Faculty of Industrial Engineering.

They analyse operational processes under aspects such as economic efficiency, technology, quality and increasingly also sustainability. They check, for example, which production plant a company should buy, or they support the management in bringing new products to market. In doing so, they must also keep an eye on digitisation and new manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing. Depending on the university, courses are offered on topics such as information technology, digital product management or digital manufacturing technology. The latter subject is involved, for example, when digital cameras inspect sterile pharmaceutical packaging.

This is how the course runs

In the first three to four semesters, technical and economic basics are taught. These include engineering mechanics - which deals with how forces act on bodies - manufacturing technology, programming and the basics of business and economics. The technical content usually makes up at least 40 percent of the course, while the economics content is usually around 30 percent. In addition, there is the so-called integration area with about 20 percent, which is considered the heart of industrial engineering degree course: Questions from all areas are combined here. Typical "integration subjects" are project and process management, production management, factory planning or quality management. Foreign languages and soft skills account for the remaining ten percent.

In the higher semesters, project tasks are increasingly added. Then, for example, the students plan the production line of a car factory or consider how the logistics concept of a company can be designed.

The subject suits you,...

... "you are open-minded to new things, like to solve problems and work in a team", says Uwe Dittmann. These teams are often international, as companies frequently have branches in several countries and work processes are also organised across borders.

Many prospective industrial engineers experience the large number of different subjects as a challenge. On a typical day in the first semester, the curriculum could include events in business administration, materials science, programming and business law. Students must engage in different ways of thinking in a fast moving environment. The demands are high, but it keeps things exciting.

Is there a numerus clausus?

Around half of the degree programs have admission restrictions (numerus clausus). Often it is in the higher grades range. At some universities there are selection procedures with tests and interviews. Compulsory internships before graduation are sometimes required, but often these can be caught up. Approximately a quarter of students are women.