Of all the competitors vying for the attention of engineers, few are working harder than companies developing search engines. And why wouldn't they work hard! Virtually every piece of research available says that engineers spend a lot of their work day searching for information—increasingly over the Internet. Google, of course, is the first stop for many, but often it's not a satisfying stop, at least at first. It's a general search engine, so it can take time to find what you want. That may change, of course, as Google refines its algorithms. Meanwhile, sites such as www.globalspec.com, www.thomasnet.com, and www.kellysearch.com (owned by Reed Business Information, Design News' parent company) are taking visitors directly to engineering information.
But busy-as-beaver engineers can be a picky lot. For some, even an engineering search engine may not be specific enough. They want one tailored to their own individual interests, industries, and product needs. And so, search engines are getting set to oblige. GlobalSpec is first out of the chute.
In January, the company announced that it is partnering with IHS (Information Handling Services), an aggregator of technical standards and other information, to develop a customized version of the GlobalSpec search engine called GlobalSpec Enterprise. Boeing is getting the first installment. Engineers at the aerospace manufacturer will be able to use their own GlobalSpec to search for the specific parts they need.
To access the search engine, Boeing engineers will get a link to IHS from their own intranet site. Once there, they can click on GlobalSpec and enter the specialized site where they can search for parts and suppliers most appropriate to the aerospace industry. They can organize the site so their favorite suppliers show up at the top of the list of suppliers when they type in the part they're searching for. And, in an extra twist sure to interest some engineers, when they click on a vendor's name to get information, the system won't send their name to the vendor—unless the engineer requests that the system send it. Oh yes, and one other thing: There are no ads on the specialized site.
Is there a benefit to Boeing engineers? Yes, says Mike Burkett, a consultant with AMR Research: "They don't get stuff they don't need." That certainly has the potential for speeding their searches.
Scott Virkler, vice president for business development at GlobalSpec, says the Boeing effort is the first of many to come. "We will be rolling out similar versions to other IHS customers in time."
Meanwhile, Thomasnet continues its practice of helping vendors create private online catalogs for customers, but it has no plans at present to customize the search engine itself for companies. Thomas did that for GE several years ago and learned from the experience but decided not to expand any further in that direction.
Kellysearch is launching new versions of its product for Germany and France, and is looking at versions for the Asian market. But, executives there say they have no plans right now for customization of the site for specific companies. The Kellysearch taxonomy, however, will be an important part of www.reedlink.com, a new product from Reed Business Information that includes a parametric search capability.
With all this activity, engineering searches can only get easier.
Reach Teague at firstname.lastname@example.org.