Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine conducted a recent survey and confirmed some things that I already suspected, but this survey also brought up some other interesting bits of news.
When asked about the “#1 challenge engineers face”, as you might expect, the overwhelming answer was “Inadequate budget for good design”. This is a typical challenge for most of what we do in life – our budgets often restrict us from taking what we know to be the best path in any endeavor. Whether picking a restaurant, buying a car, planning a vacation, or designing a household project, a budget is always there, and it is rarely big enough!
Now, here are some of the responses that caught my attention:
- “Speed of project delivery” was selected by respondents as another challenge to engineering design. The surprising statistic was that this response increased from 6% of respondents in 2010 to 12% of respondents in 2011. In my work, I see how engineers face daunting deadlines with their projects. Apparently, this is getting worse, in spite of the recent economic conditions.
- The second-biggest challenge to responding engineers was “codes and standards changing frequently”. This was not a surprise, but it was interesting to note that hospitals, military facilities and colleges/universities are the most difficult to design, with “codes and standards” being the top reason.
- What tool do engineers use most to gather information about products and technologies? The response to this question really shocked me. The overwhelming answer (85% of respondents) to this question was “RSS Feeds”. No other response exceeded 3%. What did “vendor reps” get? 1%!
This last item made me think for a while. We are in a very technical industry, with highly sophisticated facilities supporting critical infrastructure such as hospitals, military installations, data centers, etc. Why are vendor reps, presumably experts in their fields, not called out by design engineers as their most used tool in their design work? As a project makes its way through the various design phases, is the interaction between a designer and a product specialist not perceived to benefit the overall outcome? Are time constraints leading to less and less human interaction throughout the process?
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