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Studying Industrial Engineering in Germany

Industrial engineers deal with business administration and technology
An article by Maria Retter

Studying Industrial Engineering in Germany
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Industrial Engineering

That is what it’s about

Industrial engineers are as familiar with the economic processes in a company as they are with the technical details of the products. "They are competent partners for both areas," says Uwe Dittmann, professor of Industrial Engineering at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences and Chairman of the Faculty of Industrial Engineering. Industrial engineers analyse operational processes under aspects such as economy, technology and efficiency. That is, they check, for example, which production plant a company should buy. They calculate whether it is better to produce or procure a sub-product. In the future, they will be particularly in demand because of the challenges of digitisation, because companies need them to help shape developments such as Industry 4.0 or the conversion to new production methods such as 3D printing.

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This is how the course runs

In the first three to four semesters, the technical and economic fundamentals are laid, including technical mechanics, manufacturing technology, programming and the basics of economics and business administration. The technical content accounts for at least 40 percent of the course, and the economics share is similarly high. Added to this is the so-called integration area, which combines technology and business administration (BWL) and is typical of the program: for example, project and process management, production management, supply chain management, work science, factory planning or systems engineering. In higher semesters, project tasks are increasingly integrated into the study program.

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Typical questions raised within the subject

  • How do I develop better products with other divisions?
  • How can I competently sell complex, technical products?
  • How can a company reduce order processing time?
  • How can you enhance a product through digital services and thereby strengthen customer loyalty?
  • How do you design an international supply chain with multiple companies?
  • How do you shorten the lead time of an order?
  • When is the investment in a new machine worthwhile?
  • How do you assess the market opportunities for a new technical product?
  • How do business models change with digitally networked machines?
  • Which supplier should a company buy their materials from?

The subject suits you,...

...if "you are not a lone wolf, you enjoy logical thinking and you can interact well with people," says Dittmann. Intercultural skills are also important. Companies often have offices in several countries, and work processes are also organized internationally. Industrial engineers often work in international teams. The large number of different subjects in the course can at first be a challenge. On a typical day in the first semester, the timetable could include events in business administration, materials science, programming and business law. "So you have to be able to understand and apply very different ways of thinking," says Dittmann. Around a quarter of students in industrial engineering are women. The University of Stralsund offers a degree course that is exclusively for women.

Is there a numerus clausus?

Around 40 percent of degree programs have a numerus clausus. Often it is around the higher level grades, at some universities there are selection procedures with tests and interviews. Compulsory internships before graduation are sometimes required, but often these can be done in the first few semesters.

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