Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) is derived from two disciplines known as Industrial Engineering and Systems Engineering. According to the Institute of Industrial Engineers:
Industrial engineering is concerned with the design, improvement, and installation of integrated systems of people, materials, information, equipment, and energy. It draws upon specialized knowledge and skill in the mathematical, physical, and social sciences together with the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design, to specify, predict, and evaluate the results to be obtained from such systems.
Systems Engineering is much more difficult to define, as it means different things to different people and entities. At the University of Florida, Systems Engineering generally refers to Operations Research. According to the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences:
Operations Research is the discipline of applying advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions. By using techniques such as mathematical modeling to analyze complex situations, Operations Research gives people the power to make more effective decisions and build more productive systems.
As you can see, the fields of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research are related. The field of Industrial Engineering dates back to the early part of the century with a desire to improve manufacturing operations. The field of Operations Research dates back to the Second World War and a desire to run efficient military operations. The fact is, both fields are concerned with the efficiency of systems and both fields use similar tools.
At the University of Florida, we define Industrial and Systems Engineering as a discipline concerned with the design and application of analytical methods to the analysis, design, and optimization of systems. The tools used include statistics, simulation, engineering methods, mathematical modeling, and optimization. True to our roots, we take these tools one step further and implement our solutions with the use of algorithms, databases and user interfaces. After all, solutions are only useful when implemented.
What sets Industrial and Systems Engineering apart from other engineering disciplines is its broader scope and systems perspective. As stated earlier, ISE deals with people as well as equipment, material, information, and money. An ISE understands the total picture and seeks improvements in productivity. It is this broader perspective that allows an ISE to work in a number of fields or study a number of different types of systems. The type of system to be studied, whether manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, financial, telecommunications, energy, or even biological, is irrelevant. The tools used, with a systems perspective, are the same.