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Knowledge and influence. In many companies, engineers have too little of both when it comes to affecting the bottom line. And let’s face it: the bottom line is the line against which everyone is being measured. The Information Technology (IT) department — especially good people within IT — can be your ally as you seek to increase your own job satisfaction.

11/01/2006


Knowledge and influence. In many companies, engineers have too little of both when it comes to affecting the bottom line. And let’s face it: the bottom line is the line against which everyone is being measured. The Information Technology (IT) department — especially good people within IT — can be your ally as you seek to increase your own job satisfaction. IT drives where the business wants to go, and you can hitch a ride. You just need to know how to speak their language.

In “IT-Savvy Engineers Retool Careers” (p. 61), Control Engineering columnist Dennis Brandl and others discuss how thinking like a businessman and stretching to learn IT skills “gives you better tools to solve problems…Becoming more involved ensures, for one thing, that manufacturing’s needs are directly addressed,” he says.

The place where IT and operations intersect is manufacturing execution systems. In the best-run companies, the MES layer of the organization is where business key performance indicators (KPIs) get fed by real-time operational data. Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA) International focuses on that intersection, bringing together end users and vendors to solve manufacturing business issues with technology. The group’s just-released survey and related “guidebook” could be the first step in creating a common language. (The survey report can be found in the Control Engineering Resource Center; the highly useful “MESA Metrics that Matter Guidebook & Framework” is available as a benefit of MESA membership.)

The results of the “Metrics that Matter” survey reveal that more than 70% of respondents measure on-time delivery, OSHA-reportable incidents, and manufacturing cycle time in their operations. But only 3% report effective links between operational KPIs and business metrics such as net operating profit or EBITDA.

What this means, said Julie Fraser, principal of Industry Directions, Inc., which conducted the survey for MESA, is that “most companies’ management does not have views that accurately represent progress and plant contribution.” Put another way, “the people in finance don’t understand how important these [real-time] factors are to their numbers, [but] it’s our job in operations and IT to show them.”

The way to show them — whether talking finance or interpreting IT — is to speak their language. So, this winter, you might want to seek out a couple phrase books or translators on your own. And see our article for additional how-to advice.

renee.robbins@reedbusiness.com


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