Engineers usually try to keep things simple. After multiple design reviews and FMEA's, the once simple idea has double redundancy vision systems, detailed servo monitoring, and WI FI access. The customer is always right, and the customer wants bells and whistles.
I'm not so sure it should be the other way around. We have our different domains. Marketers define the problems, Engineers are the creative problem solvers, and the Bean counters are responsible to make sure the company comes out ahead (so they tell us how far we can go). If we went at this collaboratively as a team project it might actually work.
The problem is that the short sightedness of modern business has defined Marketing as the voice of God (whatever it takes to get another dollar by the end of the month) and engineering as overhead (we can't have something that pays off next year, it has to pay off tomorrow). In their quest to make more money now, they eternally demand more with fewer resources.
The thing they don't get is that happy engineers, with clear goals and reasonable limits, create better products. Stressed people are creative in only one way, getting out from under the stress. A little elbow room and a few fun side projects will pay off a thousand times over the course of a career.
Well, this comment and the previous one raise the other "problem" of the real world. Namely, that bean counters and marketing people tell engineers what to do, when we all (all of us engineers, that is) "know" it should be the other way around!
From your response, I see you've worked in the same departments as me! Happy co-miserating! Oh, and we can add 6 phases of a project: (1) Enthusiasm; (2) Reality; (3) Panic; (4) Punishment; (5) Praise and Honor for the Non-Participants; (6) Layoff & Unemployment. (hee, hee, heeeeee,,,,,,,) Wait. Why am I laughing-?
Forget teaching KISS to engineers. I don't know any engineers who don't know it already. The issue isn't what the engineers want, it is what they are asked for. Sure, every engineer has their favorite feature that they would like to add to their products, but they are usually well thought out and if the engineer was allowed to do it their way it would be nicely done. It may require a Bachelor's Degree to operate it (which is a problem, too), but it would be nicely done.
The real problem is that every product these days has to compete with every other product; not in quality, but in profits. In order to compete in the profit arena, materials and labor have to be as low as possible and salability has to be as high as possible. High salability means that your competitors can't offer anything that you don't AND you can offer something they don't.
This leads to a panic effort to reproduce every feature that the competitors have (so they can't use them against you) and add a few of your own. Of course, you have to have them fast (so the engineers can't do their dilligence). It is this insane rat race without due thought that is the problem.
We might as well admit that business has painted itself into a corner. By trying to maximize short term profits, it has sacrificed the ability to make truly competetive products. By expanding their markets, they have reduced employment, and therefore the number of people who can buy their products.
When we learn that the real purpose of business is to make a LIVING (not make a FORTUNE) things will change. Only then will the engineers be able to do what they want to do (and only then will we be reigned in from making features that only another engineer can use).
The irony about car technology we have is that plan jane cheap cars are ultra reliable while the expensive cars have way more problems. Buying any car over $40k is asking for trouble. Engine and transmission technology have come a long way. Engines can easily last more than 200k with practically no maintenance. That is simply amazing.
Get a fancy BMW, Benz, Cadillac or god forbid Land Rover and you are paying $1k for each dealer visit, and they are endless. Get a simple Toyota Yaris (I have), Camary or Honda, and you are set for hundreds of thousands of trouble free driving. Don't even waste money changing oil at 3k. Do it at 7k especially with synthetic. Even the coolant and sparkplug last 100k. Just be sure not to get any more option than you absolutely need.
I couldn't agree more strongly with Kevin. I think the problem has been created entirely by those marketing weasels who have convinced some design engineers to be their partners in crime. We've been drowning in useless features for years ... and this is especially true of software. Just because something CAN be done (add a feature, for example) doesn't mean it SHOULD be done. As an example, I long for some software from Microsoft that even comes close to being intuitive to normal folks (who don't subscribe to their "pretzel logic"). Give me menus for programs that I can customize! There are "features" in Outlook, for example, that I will never, ever use and would bury deep in the menu tree. Then there are other commands I use constantly but are exasperating to find, and often completely non-intuitive, in their menu structure. Engineers know that simplicity results in reliability ... but marketing folks are simply clueless, I wax nostalgic about DOS programs (some of which I still use) that ran in 500 kB of RAM, ran fast even in a 10 MHz machine, and never, ever froze or crashed. Doesn't anybody actually write machine code anymore? I'd put up with device drivers and IRQ management if I could dump all this modern bloatware!!
Then I can rant about manufacturers who mount "warm and fuzzy" public-relations ads touting how "green conscious" the company is ... as it churns out unrepairable products intentionally designed to have a short lifetime ... heaping all that energy and raw material into a landfill. Does this make any sense? Of course not, unless you're in management and have no moral compass (ah, but I repeat myself). It's a sad state of affairs when a new engineer finds himself in this kind of dishonest corporate culture and is expected to crank out ever more irrelevant "feature" laden but non-repairable products ... and still respect himself (or herself) as a citizen of the world. Remember when the Kitchen-Aid brand actually meant something (like simple elegant design, quality materials, and the expectation that the product would last nearly forever). The MBA "hot shots" have put an end of that!
In the end, I'm concerned about a world-wide economic model that absolutely requires an ever-increasing population ("growth") to become mindless consumers of their soon-to-be garbage. What's wrong in this picture?
The KISS principle is time honored and deserves to be taught and stressed to engineers. I'm 64 years old and have been a communications technician (sonar tech in the Navy) for 47 years. I have seen many instances where simple is better for all the reasons some of the other posts suggest. I don't want electronics deciding when my headlights should come on; I want the headlight switch to make a direct connection between my battery and the headlight circuit. Otherwise, electronics may turn my headlights off, just when I need them the most. I want to control my own windshield wipers when I determine the need for them. I don't want electronics determining if and when my engine should stop running, etc. Get the picture? So much of modern electronics is over-engineered, failure prone and unsupported, meaning it's throw away stuff. We are not being well served by all this rush to over-engineering.
Interesting about counterfeit components. That echoes what several vendors told me earlier this year when I was covering machine vision for T&MW: that counterfeit components were becoming a huge problem and that research was being done on what types of vision detection were better or worse for detecting them.
Engineers at Fuel Cell Energy have found a way to take advantage of a side reaction, unique to their carbonate fuel cell that has nothing to do with energy production, as a potential, cost-effective solution to capturing carbon from fossil fuel power plants.
To get to a trillion sensors in the IoT that we all look forward to, there are many challenges to commercialization that still remain, including interoperability, the lack of standards, and the issue of security, to name a few.
This is part one of an article discussing the University of Washington’s nationally ranked FSAE electric car (eCar) and combustible car (cCar). Stay tuned for part two, tomorrow, which will discuss the four unique PCBs used in both the eCar and cCars.
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