Volume 3 No.3, Fall 1999
James E. Globig
University of Dayton
There has been a shift in demand from the traditional (but too stereotypical) ";put me in a corner and let me design"; technical specialist to a cross-functionally trained team player especially in the product producing sector. The re-invented American industry has emerged lean and mean and needs engineers that can and are willing to continuously learn and to execute a wide range of technical tasks when called upon. Our Engineering Technology programs, with their applied nature, are uniquely suited to fulfilling this demand.
the last ten or so years there has been a change in the type of technical person
that most industries need. In many
cases the companies themselves havent recognized that there has been a shift
in their requirements for their technical contributors.
In these cases they continue to hire the same types of engineers they
have traditionally hired and then wonder why a new engineer didnt ";work
1980s and early 90s were a time of design and manufacturing
";catch up"; for many companies. High
product costs and low quality were forcing the American consumer to look to
other countries to satisfy their demand for high quality products at a
reasonable price. In embarking on
the new product catch up era, manufacturers continued to hire engineers with a
high level of expertise in a specific area most needed by the company.
Even though this trend undoubtedly contributed to our ability to return
to the forefront in design and manufacturing technology it has also brought with
it a dilemma.
the increasing demand for products made in America, came the increasing need to
react quickly to the changes in the market.
Many manufacturers found that, as their focus needed to change from
design of new products to their manufacture and sale, their mix of technical
contributors did not fit their new (and changing) requirements.
This led to a period where industries would hire a sizable work force for
a specific product or strategy and then, when that task was accomplished (or
when the market requirement shifted), they were forced or chose to terminate
significant numbers of employees. In
the early 80s these employees were almost always blue-collar, but then another
change took place where companies began to take previously unheard of steps to
reduce cost. They began to terminate technical contributors at an
increasing frequency and in increasing numbers.
Finally, in the early 90s these reductions in force, as they began to be
called, even penetrated to the senior technical and upper management ranks.
There was a time when this hiring and firing of task forces was almost
chronic, and in the authors opinion frequently irresponsible.
The ultimate result of this short sighted, desperate, but probably
necessary phase in American industry was:
nearly complete erosion of loyalty between employee and employer.
toward ";outsourcing"; as a way for companies to acquire labor, new products,
and sub assemblies without taking the financial and legal risks of hiring
additional, specialized, frequently technical, employees
migration from pure research to applied research and in many cases no research
as R&D budgets are cut in deference toward new product revenue and profits.
of knowledge and history of the technological and/or market roots of a
manufacturer. At times this loss
penetrates so deeply that the foundational character of the company itself is
lost. The author uses the term
";they fired the company"; for this phenomenon.
Of course sometimes the character and foundation of a company are so out
dated or otherwise flawed that a complete re-organization was necessary to
survive but often times the re-organization itself led to the companys
erosion of ethics in business, which has penetrated to engineering and
manufacturing, with increasing pressure to decrease cost and increase revenue.
this fallout, in just the last few years, American industry has made a
remarkable comeback perhaps most characterized by our automotive industry.
But along the way we are learning (or re-learning) some important
employer loyalty (not to be confused with dependence) still has a place in
industry because it results in increased
by the recent success and health of American industry, companies are becoming
more socially and environmentally responsible.
of cross-functional teams as a way of obtaining synergistic results from a limited and priceless human resource.
for employees that have the ability and
the desire to contribute in a variety of roles.
companies make an effort to find or re-build themselves, they are taking a more
pragmatic approach to hiring employees with
";the right stuff"; as opposed to a specific degree, number of years of
experience, or expertise in a specific area.
the diversity of their work force in support of their increased social
responsibility, as a way of adding depth to their job functions, but primarily
to increase their performance in a
is illustrated in these shifts, one characteristic of American industry remains
and in fact has been reinforced through this difficult transition.
We will not change unless we are convinced that change will increase
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ENGINEER 2000
though technical expertise is still
highly valued in industry, it is not as highly valued as the flexibility,
ability and desire to continue to learn throughout ones career.
The field of engineering has become so broad and products so diverse in
their technological content that many companies realize that most applicants
possess technical talent that can be utilized within their company either
immediately or in the foreseeable future. In
almost all cases, a new engineer has to spend some time learning about a
companys core technology regardless of their expertise in that specific area.
More often than not, companies value the intellectual, sexual, and
cultural diversity that new engineers bring more than if a new employee brought
more of what the company already has. In
the authors 20 years of experience in engineering and engineering management
and in networking with others who hire engineers I have observed and heard
several repetitive themes that have come to the forefront in recent years:
needs engineers who can communicate both orally and in writing. There
was a time when if an engineer knew how to design with microprocessors or knew
how to program in ";C"; (the specialization in demand at the time) she could
find employment in any locality at top compensation.
Because companies are on a constant leaner-cheaper-better curve, the
traditional specializations have been devalued.
The engineer of 2000 will go to a trade show, speak with customers and
business partners on Sunday, write a specification on Monday, present the
specification to the product team on Tuesday, execute the design on Wednesday,
prototype the design on the bench on Thursday, and then work with manufacturing
cell members assembling a pilot production run on Friday.
A key characteristic is to not
only communicate well with other technical contributors in ones field but to
communicate effectively with marketing, sales, management and especially blue
collar employees. Finally,
appropriate dress and demeanor remain a critical component to effective
communication not just when representing the company outside but within the
company as well.
needs engineers who know how to work on a
team and get synergistic results. Yes, I am yet another
proponent of teams but with an important difference the team must be able to
achieve synergistic results.
Authors and industries have been talking about teams for years and most
companies claim they utilize them. When
observed, you will find, as the author has, that there are two types of teams.
Team Waste meets once per week for an excessive amount of time under the
guise of ";teamwork"; to give the other team members an update on what one is
doing because each member is actually working independently.
Marketing, engineering, and manufacturing then fight about what isnt
getting done, assign that task to someone who isnt even in the meeting, and
then walk out and continue to wander off in their own direction.
Team Synergistic has
little need to have meetings because they are working along side each other
every day. They practice Concurrent
Engineering almost naturally because they are all working on the same team and
are pulling in the same direction from day one of the program.
Even though the members of the ideal team S come from diverse technical,
professional, cultural, and age groups, it is important that they all share a
set of common values and/or objectives. In addition to the members in Team W,
this team undoubtedly includes at least one member from sales, one member from
the work cell that will manufacture the product, and the person responsible for
releasing and archiving the final documentation, and a member from the key
supplier(s). Each team member has learned to trust and respect the other
and recognizes the importance of both their role and of the project itself to
the company. In addition to
performing their own role, each team member feels like she can ask questions,
challenge, and assist the other, regardless of areas of expertise, because they
both recognize the synergistic effects
when complementary talents pursue a problem.
For most engineers, the Team S characteristics illustrated in Figure 1 are much more difficult to learn than one would think. And they are learned characteristics. The ability and the desire to work successfully on a team comes naturally to some personality types but not to most engineers. (Yes, Im stereotyping again but nonetheless it is true!) If we didnt think we could do a better job than someone else designing a new circuit or laying out a new work-cell then we wouldnt be engineers. This causes us to be independent; too independent to contribute maximally to many teams. The reality is that many engineers dont object to and often prefer to work alone and often dont get past the Role Clarification or Commitment stages of team performance.
needs engineers who hit the ground running. The days where companies
put new and particularly entry level employees through several weeks of
orientation are gone. The norm is
that a new employee receives on-the-job training.
Companies want a new employee to start contributing to their success from
day one. If its a new program,
they want an entry level employee to be able to analyze the problem, budget his
time, estimate the cost, develop and document a plan, and then assemble and
debug a prototype without burning his fingers or cutting them off.
· Industry needs multi-disciplined engineers who are willing and able to tackle various and untraditional tasks. With industrys move away from the more theoretical functions, they are looking for engineers that can perform a variety of applied functions as is illustrated in figure 2. If an engineer designs a new assembly and then throws it over the wall to a technician to prototype, there wont be anyone there to catch it. The Engineer 2000 may be expected to create a sound design and personally take that design to prototype and even through manufacturing if necessary. In fact many companies will require that their engineers ";live"; (in varying degrees) with a new product. Which means the engineer who designed a new product or assembly then changes to the traditional engineering technician role to prototype it, then changes to a manufacturing engineering role to assemble it and set up the work cell. The engineer then changes to an industrial engineering role until production runs smoothly, and finally changes to an applications engineering role to boost the initial sales and help resolve any remaining customer concerns.
Another important quality manufacturers look for in engineers is the ability to accomplish tasks outside of ones primary educational background. Electronics engineers that can perform basic mechanical design or that can lay out a manufacturing cell with AutoCADä or Pro-E are in high demand. Similarly, mechanical, or manufacturing engineers that can do basic electronic design and document that design on schematic capture software or even Pspiceä are equally valuable. With easy to use data acquisition systems like LabView,ä it no longer requires an electronic engineer to set up and operate a fairly complex data acquisition and control system.
One can sometimes recognize the Engineer 2000 because they frequently have a smile on their face (which is what happens when one is constantly learning new things and contributing to their companys success in new ways) and their business cards simply say ";Engineer.";
needs engineers who understand how to release a high quality product, to
specification, on time, on budget but without
compromising their ethics. Weve
all heard the phrase ";Its time to shoot the engineer and release.";
And at times the author has had to do just that (figuratively of course).
However, along the way the author has learned that more often than not,
an engineer who is reluctant to release a new product to manufacturing has some
good reasons. Industry needs engineers who understand the importance of
announcing a completed new product or at least a Beta model at the annual trade
show. This requirement puts a
specific and fixed date in a new product development plan before the
specification is even completed. This
date frequently limits, as it should, the features and functions of the initial
release of a new product if the product team is to hit this date with any
certainty. In fact, its important
for engineers to understand that no matter how diligent one is in getting the
last remaining features, functions, and performance into a product or bugs out
of a product, inevitably the customer will find faults that need to be fixed or
enhancements that need to be included in additional releases. Most often, the revenue a company loses and the
dissatisfaction of customers who are not able to purchase the new product
outweigh any minor flaws remaining in the product upon release.
But, when there is situation where a product is about to be or is being
produced that is not ";as advertised"; thats when an engineer should bring
the situation to managements attention.
This is another area where the Type
S team is particularly effective. Product
release becomes a team decision where each team member has a vested interest in
releasing a product that enhances their companys image as well as their
needs engineers who know how to design both quality and regulatory compliance into new products. It is
no longer acceptable to release just a high function, high performance, high
quality new product. If this
product isnt manufactured under ISO 9000 registration and doesnt meet
F.C.C, NAFTA, and European Community and a host of other standards its market
potential will be limited from the beginning.
These standards are difficult to meet and can have a significant negative
impact on the cost of the product if not properly designed in from product
OF ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION
as industry reacted to changes in their markets, the schools of Engineering
Technology must react to changes in our market. Our customers are the manufacturers and our products are our
graduates. The author believes that
we need to view ourselves as meeting industries requirements for new
engineers by supplying a high quality, technical human resource. At the University of Dayton, we meet twice a year with an
";Industrial Advisory Committee"; made up of leaders from a variety of
industries. We listen carefully to
what they have to say about their technical human resource requirements.
In order to satisfy our customers by providing a multi-faceted engineer,
I believe we need to:
and strengthen the ";hands on"; portions of our programs.
(maybe even require) our students to take advantage of internship and co-op
significantly more and higher quality laboratory contact than Engineering
computer modeling for preliminary design verification; not as a replacement for
our efforts to develop well-rounded members of the engineering team.
Concurrent Engineering principles
multiple courses requiring the successful planning and implementation of a team
should be a real industry sponsored project when possible
should be cross-functional and ideally would include business majors
should include a complete, well written specification and (if the team includes
business majors) business plan
should require a presentation upon completion of each major phase
leadership skills by training and assigning a team leader
students to take multiple courses outside their major which develop a
centralized theme of their choice.
training on how to acquire and hold a job
fourth year students on job search and interviewing skills
students on how to be good employees:
Willingness to move to different jobs as their companys human
resource needs change. We should
find ways to challenge students flexibility and design these into our
the expectation and cultivate the willingness to continue learning new skills. Encourage students to pursue a minor or another bachelors or
a masters degree in a different field. Most
companies would prefer to hire an engineer with on-the-job experience over an
engineer with no experience but with an advanced degree in their major area of
study. However, an engineer with a
BSET degree and a minor or double major in Manufacturing, Mechanical, or
Industrial Engineering Technology is a dynamite combination. Finally, an MBA or a Master of Science in Management Science
degree will still open many doors - especially later in ones career.
in close contact with industry to monitor their technical human resource needs.
their ";one stop shopping"; center for technical job openings
their needs three to five years out in order to make curriculum changes in a
present demand for computer engineers has caused many engineering programs to
have a digital orientation. For
this reason, industry is beginning to have difficulty hiring entry to mid level
engineers who have adequate analog design and sensor interface capabilities.
a shortage of engineers who can design a mechanical assembly in 3D, simulate it,
and program a CNC machine to fabricate it.
· Be pro-active in satisfying industrys need for diversity by developing a climate that attracts and is supportive of low-income groups in engineering fields. I have found that many of our most talented Engineering Technology students have come from low to mid income backgrounds. The author strongly believes that their need to ";do-it-yourself"; in their formative years was an important factor in developing much of their intrinsic desire and penchant for applied engineering.
There are numerous opportunities to provide the product producing sector with their chronically unsatisfied technical human resource requirements. They are hungry for ";the right stuff."; More importantly, I believe that our Engineering Technology programs are uniquely suited to fulfill those needs by providing graduates that are comfortable and capable of performing a wide range of applied technical tasks from prototyping to product design to project leadership to sales. There has been a shift in industry away from research toward new product design, implementation and continuous improvement. The Engineering Technology major has traditionally attracted the ";do-it-yourselfer"; (as opposed to the do-it-aloner) which just happens to be the kind of contributor that the growing small business sector and large manufacturer alike are searching for.
OF WORKS CONSULTED
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Michael A. Hitt. The Birth, Life, and Death of a
Cross-Functional New Product Design Team. Cambridge, MA: Marketing Science
Mitchell Fleischer. Concurrent Engineering
Effectiveness; Integrating Product Development Across Organizations.
Cincinnati: Hanser Gardner, c1997.
Concurrent Engineering: Whats Working Where / edited
by Christopher J. Backhouse and Naomi J. Brookes. London: Design Council; Aldershot, England; Brookfield,
Vt: Gower, c1996.
Adapted from ASME Committee on
Education. ";Mechanical Engineering Technology."; c1983.
John H. Zenger. Leading Teams: Mastering the
New Role. Homewood, Ill:
Business One Irwin, c1994.
Rosa Lynn B Pinkus. Engineering Ethics :
Balancing Cost, Schedule, and Risk Lessons Learned from the Space Shuttle.
Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, c1997
Guide to the University of Dayton General Education
Sixth Edition, Dayton, OH: University of Dayton, August 1998.
Diversity in Work Teams: Research Paradigms for a
Changing Workplace / edited by Susan E. Jackson & Marian N. Ruderman.
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, c1995.
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