The sky is not falling

Current economic conditions are making some engineers believe that the end is near, and the sky is falling. From where I'm sitting, the sky is definitely not falling.

04/14/2011


Recently, a few disgruntled engineers tried to convince me that the end is near. No, they’re not looking at the Mayan calendar. They’re looking at how their jobs are changing, and how the industry may be pushing them out of a job.

A couple of weeks ago, an electrical engineer having a really bad day confided in me that he was worried about his job—and the industry as a whole—changing. He feared that his job would soon become obsolete because suppliers would offer ready-made solutions that required little or no understanding of engineering principles. He believed that suppliers had already started this process, and it was just a matter of years before he wasn’t needed.

Here’s another example: A different engineer voiced his concern about lighting fixture manufacturers who aren’t accustomed to working with end users over the life of an LED fixture. In the case of LEDs, the fixture manufacturer is often the first point of contact with the end user or building owner. In other cases, it’s the electrical contractor. They don’t always continue that relationship though. He said that clients ask specifying engineers to replace lights with LED fixtures, which can be expensive to the client both short- and long-term.

So where does that leave engineers? The sky is not falling. Quite the contrary, actually. It leaves engineers in a sweet spot, allowing them to have a long-term relationship with the manufacturer, building owner, and client. The manufacturer may do a perfect job selling an off-the-shelf product, offering even more tools and options for the engineer to do a better job (case-in-point: BIM). And the building owner may be comfortable with selecting and maintaining a system, but it’s almost always the engineer who is called in to make it better.

Consulting engineers have the unique training and knowledge, thorough understanding of the codes, and ability to see the whole picture. We should be going to our clients—past and present—and ensuring their buildings are at the cutting edge of technology based on our strong relationships with manufacturers. Energy reduction is a buzzword these days, and building owners often are willing to spend a buck to save two. Just look at the advertisers in this publication; these companies are at the forefront of top-notch products.

My conversation with the concerned engineer ended on a positive note. I reminded him that commissioning systems and buildings would always be required. We chatted about the fact that one product might be easily selected and installed by an owner, but an entire system really needed an engineer’s touch.

So the end really isn’t near, and the sky isn’t falling. From where I’m sitting, this is just the beginning.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Leaders Under 40 program features outstanding young people who are making a difference in manufacturing. View the 2013 Leaders here.
The new control room: It's got all the bells and whistles - and alarms, too; Remote maintenance; Specifying VFDs
2014 forecast issue: To serve and to manufacture - Veterans will bring skill and discipline to the plant floor if we can find a way to get them there.
2013 Top Plant: Lincoln Electric Company, Cleveland, Ohio
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Bring focus to PLC programming: 5 things to avoid in putting your system together; Managing the DCS upgrade; PLM upgrade: a step-by-step approach
Balancing the bagging triangle; PID tuning improves process efficiency; Standardizing control room HMIs
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

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.