Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The University of Pretoria is situated in South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria [University of Pretoria, 2009]. The University celebrated its 100th birthday in 2008 with a student base of nearly forty thousand fulltime and part time students. The Department of Industrial Engineering is part of the Faculty of Engineering, Built and Information Technology (EBIT) [Department of Industrial Engineering, 2009]. The department offers degrees in Industrial Engineering at a graduate level (Bachelor’s) and at Masters and PhD level. Each year the department graduates an average of sixty to eighty engineers from an industrial engineering corps of six hundred graduate and postgraduate students. The staff consists of seven fulltime and fifteen part-time lecturers. At the time of writing, it was the largest Industrial Engineering department in South Africa.

The department began in 1960 as a spin-off from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. It has graduated around one thousand eight hundred engineers in the past fifty years. The Industrial Engineering curriculum is accredited by the Engineering Council of South Africa [Engineering Council of South Africa, 2009]. Through the Washington Accord, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Hong Kong, New Zealand, UK, USA, Singapore, and Japan acknowledge the equivalence of the department’s Industrial Engineering programme. The department is not limited to academic degrees alone: it also contributes to continued education through the university’s organisations, Continued Education at UP [CE at UP, 2009] contract consulting through Business Enterprises at UP [BE at UP, 2009], and research through various university mechanisms such as Centres of Excellence, Chairs, and Institutes.

Many definitions of the term “Industrial Engineer” exist, but in lay terms the industry has accepted that a good definition is “an engineer whose responsibility is to balance man, machine, and money” [Van Rensburg, 2009]. The author extends this definition by adding a very important focus: business processes. Thus, an Industrial Engineer balances man, machine, and money through business processes, in order to ensure an optimal and sustainable business system.

From an Industrial Engineering perspective, we understand Business Process Management (BPM) as a management theory that views business processes as assets to be managed and adapted in response to constant change [Smith et al., 2007]. So BPM can be defined as the strategy for managing and improving the performance of a business through the continuous optimisation of business processes in a closed-loop cycle of modeling, execution, and measurement [Cantera et al., 2007]. The author groups the core competencies for supporting effective BPM into the areas of Business Engineering, Business Architecture, and Optimisation [Van Rensburg, 2009].

Business engineering is the framework for engineering a business system through a change management lifecycle [Van Rensburg, 2009]. This lifecycle covers the phases of analysis, design, planning, implementation, operation, management, and maintenance activities – from both a system and a people perspective [Van Rensburg, 2009]. Business Architecture is the framework for developing the blueprint design of the business system [Spewak, 1991]. The third competency, Optimisation, is defined according to the Operations Research discipline as the scientific approach to determine the best way to design and operate a system [Winston, 1994].

From the author’s viewpoint, BPM is what an Industrial Engineer does. The paragraphs below elaborate on the undergraduate Industrial Engineering Curriculum, and on how it supports the core competencies for enabling BPM.

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