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.


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 Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
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
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
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
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

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.