We are all industrial engineers but this is honestly a pretty difficult question to answer without sounding vague or just rattling off examples. Say you are at a job interview (not industrial engineering related) and the interviewer asks what industrial engineering is. What is the best response to this question?
I’ve always said something along the lines of “improve processes and make things more efficient”. Then you can go into specific examples (determining the route of mail truck driver to use minimal gas, etc.). Usually, that’s enough for them to get the gist, and then they can ask more questions if they need to.
I would say something similar to what Jessica mentioned. I usually also add that Industrial Engineers work in a variety of fields and are not restricted to process/efficiency improvements in traditional manufacturing fields, as some might think (For example, healthcare, business strategy etc.).
I believe an industrial engineer is anyone who knows how to improve a process or a system using proven problem-solving methodologies such as DMAIC and PDCA. Industrial Engineers must also be able to identify the problem in the first place.
Other engineers make things, while industrial engineers make things better.
That is the tag line that I use to describe IEs. During an interview I think it sounds very well thought out and professional! Then I would typically go on to explain how IEs look at the bigger picture and can drive improvement projects within any industry. I like to mention that most companies hire IEs to lead initiatives with the goal of increasing profitability, productivity, and efficiency. Overall, IEs do so many different things so sometimes it is easiest to just describe what your plans are within the IE world and use your career goals as an example!