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.


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...
World-class maintenance: The three keys to success - Deploy people, process and technology; 2016 Lubrication Guide; Why hydraulic systems get hot
Your leaks start here: Take a disciplined approach with your hydraulic system; U.S. presence at Hannover Messe a rousing success
Hannover Messe 2016: Taking hold of the future - Partner Country status spotlights U.S. manufacturing; Honoring manufacturing excellence: The 2015 Product of the Year Winners
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Improving flowmeter calibration; Selecting flowmeters for natural gas; Case study: Streamlining assembly systems using PC-based control; CLPM: Improving process efficiency, throughput
Putting COPS into context; Designing medium-voltage electrical systems; Planning and designing resilient, efficient data centers; The nine steps of designing generator fuel systems
Warehouse winter comfort: The HTHV solution; Cooling with natural gas; Plastics industry booming

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me