Scanning Your Perspective


Have you ever wondered how some plant engineers have time to surf the web when you barely have time for lunch? This situation brings to mind even more questions: How much time do plant engineers spend using the internet? Where do they go to look for information? For what types of information do they search? Do they make internet purchases and, if so, how do they feel about them? What changes in e-business internet usage do they expect?

These questions can be combined into one basic question: "How can you make the best use of the time you spend on the internet?" All good questions. These questions, as well as others, are addressed in an exclusive Plant Engineering magazine survey. This article summarizes the survey results.

Time you spend on the internet

Plant Engineering magazine asked: "How much time do you spend using web-based tools in a typical work day?" The chart in Fig. 1 indicates that the majority of respondents spend from 15 min to 2 hr daily using internet tools. Most of the respondents-34%-typically spend from 16-30 min daily using web-based tools.

Another 30% spend even more time-31-60 min of a typical workday-representing the second-largest category of internet time usage. About 15% use the internet from 1-2 hr, while 4% use the internet from 2-4 hr daily.

The survey indicates a significant internet usage among plant engineers. However, how do they use the internet as a tool? Plant Engineering asked how they use the internet to search for engineering and technical information.

More than half-52%-search for technical information on products, representing by far the largest category of respondents. The second largest category-14%-was those who search for literature, articles, and published information. There was another significant jump to the next two response categories: 7% seek regulatory data; another 7% look for software information.

The remaining respondents are distributed among product pricing and availability, 5%; educational and training information, 4%; safety and crisis management information, 4%; material safety data sheets (MSDS), 3%; and databases of tabulated information, 1%.

Which search engines you use

Plant engineers spend a significant amount of time searching for technical information, then applying it in many ways. But where do you look for this information?

Plant Engineering asked which of the well-known industrial search engines you use. The chart in Fig. 2 indicates that the majority of respondents-78%-use Grainger, followed by 73% using Thomas Register. Plant Engineering ranked within the top three with Plant Engineering's Product Supplier Guide being used by 33%.

Manufacturing Marketplace Yellow Pages drew 18%, MRO Sources drew 13%, and IndustryNet drew 10% of the respondents. Only 3% said they use search engines not listed in this survey.

How and why you purchase over the internet

Despite the nay-sayers, companies are making internet purchases. Only 25% of survey respondents indicate their company has no current internet purchasing policy. Figure 3 indicates that 33% of respondents must request orders through the purchasing department in order to make web-based purchases. About 17% have policies not allowing purchases over the internet.

Those who are allowed to make web-based purchases to a specific dollar limit account for 13% of respondents. About 6% are allowed to purchase from preapproved internet sources only, while 5% must obtain approval of internet use before making purchases.

Plant Engineering asked: "Have you purchased anything for your plant over the web in the past 6 mo?" and "If yes, what is the total value of those purchases?" Although most of the respondents have not, nearly a third have. As illustrated in Fig. 4, 41% have made purchases totaling in the $1001-$10,000 range. Those spending from $501-$1000 were 23%, while those spending from $101-$500 were 22%. Only 9% spent more than $10,000, and only 5% spent less than $100. The mean purchase was $3780, while the median was $994.

When Plant Engineering asked why you bought over the internet instead of through other channels, 53% said convenience motivated their decisions. As shown in Fig. 5, speed, price, and the inability to find product through other channels accounted for 17%, 13%, and 13% of respondents, respectively. Only 1% indicated the decision to use the internet was because of a buying agreement. However, 2% said that all these factors influenced their decision.

What the future holds

Where will e-commerce go? How much will purchasing over the web impact your daily job? How much information will you seek on the internet? To gauge the expectation of change in e-business usage, Plant Engineering asked: "How do you expect your plant's use of e-commerce to change in the next year? Figure 6 indicates that 48% believe their e-business activity will increase somewhat. Nearly a third-31%-expect it to increase significantly. Only 21% of respondents expect e-commerce to remain the same. Significantly, no one expects its plant's use of e-commerce to decrease.

These data indicate that the internet is here to stay and that it can be, and is, used as a tool to help plant engineers do their jobs more efficiently. Plant Engineering magazine will report as these trends develop.

Internet issues and concerns

Many feel the internet is becoming a valuable tool used frequently during the workday. However, the web is not a panacea. Plant Engineering asked "What are your current concerns/ needs when searching for engineering/technical/information on the web?" Table I categorizes the responses.

Table I. Problems with searching for information on the web

Information inadequate55%

Information found is not complete


Information found is not current


Information found is not accurate


Can't find what I need


Inadequate search tools/capabilities


Search tools


Search tools too slow


Search tools too complex


Data transfer too slow


Inadequate data filtering tools


Searches providing too much data


Concerned about security


Unable to access what I need


Cost of information too high




No issues


Actions after searches

Plant engineers have valid concerns regarding how well they are able to use the internet as a tool to find valuable information. However, they are using the internet as a tool to make their workday more efficient. This efficiency is realized when they apply what they find on the web. Plant Engineering asked: "If you search for engineering/technical information on the web, what do you do with it once you obtain it?" Table II categorizes the responses.

Table II. Uses of information obtained from the internet

Use immediately in my work68%

Save for future reference


Incorporate into a project


Use to purchase products/services


Read and distribute to staff/subordinates


Use to find additional information


Incorporate into presentation/proposal


Integrate into a report


Determine regulatory compliance


Use as a training tool


Incorporate into in-house database


The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
Welding ergonomics, 2017 Salary Survey, and surge protection
2017 Top Plant winner, Best practices, Plant Engineering at 70, Top 10 stories of 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Setting internal automation standards
Knowing how and when to use parallel generators
PID controllers, Solar-powered SCADA, Using 80 GHz radar sensors

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.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me