It’s not just about the engineering

Editorial: After a solid year of declines in manufacturing and related employment here in North America, it’s becoming apparent that we have turned a corner in the industry. As of early March, the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) reports that its index of purchasing managers has remained at a level considered to reflect industry growth for seven straight months.

04/01/2010


After a solid year of declines in manufacturing and related employment here in North America, it’s becoming apparent that we have turned a corner in the industry. As of early March, the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) reports that its index of purchasing managers has remained at a level considered to reflect industry growth for seven straight months. And, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job losses in the manufacturing sector leveled off in February. Correspondingly, ISM reported that manufacturing employment grew by 2.8 points in February over January’s numbers.

 

Driving this improvement in manufacturing (if you can call the current leveling off of job losses an improvement) are continuing contraction of inventories, an increasing backlog of orders, and continued growth of exports—all of which were reported in ISM’s March manufacturing industry report.

 

With so many fewer workers employed in manufacturing due to the dramatic reductions that took place over the past few years, one fact was clearly inevitable—a change in how things get done in manufacturing.

 

So just what is changing on a day-to-day basis for engineers in the manufacturing sector? We were able to get a good look into this issue during collection of data for our mechanical engineering career study, which is the cover story in this issue (beginning on page 40). The best way to impart the changing nature of engineering is to directly share some of the verbatim comments entered by survey respondents when asked how their jobs have changed since they began their career. Here’s a sampling of responses:

 

  • “It’s been a progression from engineering to business.”

  • “I’ve had different responsibilities, including: project manager, department manager, and sales and engineering manager.”

  • “I have been writing more technical reports than I ever thought possible. I wish I would have paid more attention to the English portion of my engineering degree.”

  • “I spend a lot more time working financial and program management issues and less time on engineering.”

  • “I drive strategies used for product design and validation and am more involved with sales and marketing decisions.”

 

Granted, these are just a few of the verbatim comments collected in the survey, but the trend they show is clear: a job in manufacturing engineering today involves much more than engineering. Business and communication skills are playing increasingly larger roles for engineers as engineering evolves to become a more strategic point of competitive differentiation for many companies.

 

After years of offshoring and job reductions, we all knew that manufacturing would look quite different for engineers than it did 20 years ago. We’re now beginning to get a clearer picture of the way forward for engineers.

 

 

 



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
2015 Top Plant: Phoenix Contact, Middletown, Pa.; 2015 Best Practices: Automation, Electrical Safety, Electrical Systems, Pneumatics, Material Handling, Mechanical Systems
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Migrating industrial networks; Tracking HMI advances; Making the right automation changes
Understanding transfer switch operation; Coordinating protective devices; Analyzing NEC 2014 changes; Cooling data centers
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.