Long hours, little time, multiple projects to juggle, and a constant push
to keep up with an ever-changing body of technical knowledge. That's the
professional life of a design engineer, according to Design News' most recently sponsored study of the field.
Here are a few of the specifics from the study, conducted by the independent Simmons Market Research Bureau:
You are busier than ever. Collectively, you work on an average of 18 design projects a year. Two previous Simmons studies commissioned by Design News, in 1989 and 1993, reported that engineers were working on 10.5 and 15.2 projects, respectively.
You're working faster too. Three-quarters of all your projects last less than 12 months. Nearly half last less than six months. In the last Simmons study, 40% of engineering projects lasted less than six months.
Your biggest design challenges remain keeping up with technology, shortening the design cycle, and computerizing the design function.
Your top two design objectives are ease of manufacture and higher quality, as was true in the last Simmons study. But, lowering the cost of product manufacturing has replaced increased reliability as your third most important objective. Controlling costs has become more important in your job.
As previous studies have shown, your responsibilities are wide. Besides design, they include R&D, management, testing, and quality control.
And your influence is growing. The Simmons study shows that design engineers are involved in specifying or approving five of the nine major product categories associated with design work vs. 3.3 in the 1989 study.
Although you use the Internet, your most important source of information for your job is engineering magazines.
We'll report on more results from the Simmons study in the next few months. Meanwhile, let us know your own experiences. Do the Simmons results match your own experience as a design engineer?
This year, Design News is getting a head start on the Fourth of July celebration. In honor of our country and its legacy of engineering innovation -- in all of its forms -- we are taking you on an alphabetical tour through all 50 states to showcase interesting engineering breakthroughs and historically significant events.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.