Career survival tips
Economic advice for technology companies and career and design tips for those interested in automation and controls were among advice heard at the 2013 Robotics Industry Forum last month, and in Control Engineering’s salary survey.
Engineering innovation is the origin of all wealth, said Dr. Michio Kaku, American theoretical physicist, best-selling author, TV host, and keynote speaker. Hindsight is marvelous, he noted; many economic downturns came after unsustainable economic speculation that followed waves of engineering innovation. In each wave of innovation throughout history, there are those who have resisted, Kaku observed, and they often faced bankruptcy and/or unemployment as a result. “Will you define yourself, or will you allow your competitors to do so?”
To ensure your company can compete in a market where customers have an infinite knowledge of products, fight back in four ways: target marketing, data mining, positioning, and branding, Kaku said. If you don’t do these things, your competitor will define you and drive you out of business. Because of that, advertising becomes even more important, Kaku said. See more about the next generation of innovative technology jobs in News.
Based on the next four to five years of anticipated U.S. economic growth, Alan Beaulieu, economist with ITR Economics, also provided a list of recommendations. Technology companies should model positive leadership within the organization; invest in customer market research and training programs; review and augment competitive advantages; spend money on new products, marketing, and advertisements; improve efficiencies with investments in technologies and software; check systems for readiness to accommodate increased activity; add sales staff and hire top people; lock in costs when practical; judiciously examine credit; and work on “what’s next.” Find out what your customers care about and spend money to satisfy those needs. This will cost you some money to do it right, and now is the time to borrow, with low interest rates. Year 2019 will be like 2009, so be ready, Beaulieu suggested.
Pedro Diaz, director of research, Beckman Coulter Life Sciences, Beckman Coulter Inc., discussing “Automation in Life Sciences and Diagnostics Applications,” said automation platforms (including those integrating robotics and motion control) need to consider certain attributes to be most useful. These are size, weight, scalability, upgrade paths, noise, cost, duty cycles, throughput, connectivity with information systems, reliability, and services.
Automation systems also need to be respectful of environmental impacts, waste management, user safety, and ergonomics, and have an easily navigated graphical user interface. Particular challenges for life sciences, Diaz said, include synchronization and timing of all modules in workflows, fluidics and pneumatics, software debugging and error recovery, information systems connectivity, end-of-life components, anticipating use-case errors, premature component failures, instrument operating environment, cost management, and reducing size and footprint.
The Control Engineering 2013 salary survey (p. 44 in March issue) included proactive career advice from survey participants. Think again if anyone suggests an engineer’s education ends at graduation. Remain indispensible, many survey respondents said, with daily learning, just as you’re doing now.
– Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, email@example.com.
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