Beginner-colored glasses

Recently, I've had the opportunity to speak with a number of people in the industry about where things look to be headed considering that, at press time, we had just entered the sixteenth consecutive month of growth in the manufacturing sector and some rumblings were beginning to be heard widely about dissatisfaction with the outsourcing process.

11/01/2004


Recently, I've had the opportunity to speak with a number of people in the industry about where things look to be headed considering that, at press time, we had just entered the sixteenth consecutive month of growth in the manufacturing sector and some rumblings were beginning to be heard widely about dissatisfaction with the outsourcing process. In each conversation, one thing was made crystal clear: computing technology has dramatically changed and continues to change the engineering profession. This change, however, is for the betterment of the engineering profession if, as practitioners, engineers are willing to adapt as necessary.

Though I've stated this before, it bears repeating: these computing advances are placing new demands on engineers—not only to keep pace with technology, but to become more savvy to the business aspects of their industries. As Andrew McDonald of Unilever said in our 50thanniversary supplement in the September 2004 issue: "The main challenge for the engineering community is managing obsolescence and creating the business case to migrate from obsolete systems to current or developing technology."

We at Control Engineering see McDonald's point increasingly driven home via the co-mingling of IT and engineering in many manufacturing operations. No longer do these two groups exist largely separate from each other—in many instances, they are both part of the same department, tasked with solving integration issues surrounding enterprise information delivery and manufacturing process optimization.

Although some argue that the blending of IT and engineering represents the end of the line for engineering as we know it—leaving it open only to be outsourced or minimized as much as possible, I believe this blending of IT and engineering represents a bright new future for manufacturing engineers—one that holds more promise and potential for engineering practitioners than the position has ever before held.

Exactly how that future will materialize for engineers is difficult to predict. One thing that is for certain is the world and its technologies will grow more complex. Therefore society as a whole increasingly will rely upon those people who thrive on working with and developing new technologies. Most of these people are engineers of one stripe or another.

A quote I heard recently offers the best advice an engineer can heed in light of these changes impacting the industry. To paraphrase: In the eyes of the expert there are few options; in the eyes of the novice there are many.

Your engineering expertise is a valuable leverage point. With the enthusiasm of a beginner, consider the numerous paths by which you can exploit that expertise.

David Greenfield, Editorial Director

dgreenfield@reedbusiness.com





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