Joe Jenney, a consultant in Fort Wayne, Ind., believes the explosion of digital processing has changed the design engineering profession the most.
For Michael Grillo, who's been recruiting and placing engineers for over 25 years in Waterloo, Iowa, perhaps the biggest shift has come in the mindset of today's technical personnel. "From seasoned professionals, the biggest complaint I receive is the lack of innovation or investment by many organizations."
Grillo also sees engineers as having to do more work for no increase in pay. "In general, the salaries of engineering have remained flat," he says. "That's to be somewhat expected in a tight economy, but [it's] certainly not warranted."
Here are some valuable insights from more of our LinkedIn group participants:
Antonius van Breugel , an industrial automation professional in Bucharest, Romania: "[Design engineering] has become a slave to cost, catalogues, standards, and quality systems. Critical thought/analysis is rarely used as long as some rote recipe is followed. This is not to say that cost is not a concern, but how many times has one submitted a price, knowing from experience with the client that it's realistic, only to be told by some bean counter that you need to cut it in half?"
Craig Tallar, a cost engineer in the heavy machinery industry in the Milwaukee area: "From my viewpoint, there is greater emphasis on speed to market, than on performing the engineering analysis and concurrent engineering thoroughly. We will short-cut analysis for initial lower cost and ignore the cost for replacement and customer dissatisfaction. We trust computer-generated theoretical results more than experience and reality. We still have the talent and experience in this nation. However, we have given it away for cheap labor and a decline in our economy."
Rafael Lopez, an electrical design engineer in El Paso, Texas: "For me, it has been the new obsolescence cycle times for new electronic ICs in general. A new microcontroller had at least a 10-year life time. Now, it may have less than five. Years ago, you expected a printer to live at least five years; now, it's only one year. As far as design engineering is concerned, this means we have to do a design from zero to market in half the time or less, but with the same difficulty or more."
Bob Loy, an engineer in Tampa, Fla.: "To me, it's the overall rate of change. You look at a job referral today and it contains an alphabet soup of standards, protocols, and chips, that didn't exist a few years -- or months -- ago. I have a friend who spent decades as an IT professional, who then took a non-technical management position for a couple of years. He says he's now toast as far as interviewing for information technology jobs. In fact, he is now back in school studying industrial electronics, of all things. The treadmill just keeps spinning faster and faster."
Join the discussion
Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and join the discussions taking place across Design News's LinkedIn groups:
Going down the line regarding project management and no longer being able to "throw it over the wall" so to speak. Now more then ever engineers are asked to work with materials, purchasing, tooling, electrical. It's no longer a job where the mechanical engineer can just work on the mechanical side of the design. Quite often when it doesn't work, no matter who messed up, the fault line ends in the design cubical.
As for working for the accountants, I agree that everyone is a lot more cost conscience than ever before but I think the design still needs to be owned. And not leased to some other department for a cost savings. Engineers need to step up and not let low cost consepts ruin the reliability and functionality of the design that is expected by the consumer.
I would think another big change in the engineering profession, expecially in electronics, is the challenge of envronmental compliance. Deisgn is the front line on meeting compliance regulations. This includes everything from RoHS and REACH to lifecycle issues and design for green disposal. The regulations are in constant flux, and many products have to be designed to comply with differing laws across the globe.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.