Sunday, April 26, 2009

So what DOES an engineer do?

My colleague April recently served on a panel presentation by practicing engineers for high school students and their parents at the engineering college of a nearby university.  Along with the usual questions about engineering education, qualifications and test difficulty, several wanted to know "What does an engineer do anyway?"
A Civil Engineer on the panel explained her job was "to make sure buildings don't fall down" which meant she spent all of her time at the computer, crunching equations.
An Industrial Engineer explained he too spent all of his day at the computer, making sure all jobs were well-planned for efficient use of labor.
Attention then turned to April, also an Industrial Engineer.  Ever the diplomat, she acknowledged there was technical work which required time on the PC.  "But," she added, "the great part of my job is the amount of time I get to spend on the shop floor with our associates, improving processes." 
The other IE bristled and shot back a comment to the effect "real engineers don't go on the floor." 
His company is also in deep financial trouble. 
Coincidence?  Perhaps.  But illustrative of a productive culture.
Keep on learning. .


curiouscat said...

That a real engineer doesn't go to the floor is a horrible idea. Here is a post by an engineer with a different idea (and better one) and here is a CEO that understands the value of going to the floor

Project Reformer said...

I'm guessing Engineer Ohno would disagree. He implored people to go to gemba. Last I checked, the place of real work is the factory floor.

GLB said...

Here's an answer to the question "What DOES an engineer do?"

Engineers design things that people use.

That should cover it.

Also, from the time I started @ Cook, the designers (mostly engineers, until we let Mr. Ridgway into the club) made regular visits to the jobsites.

Ken Wolverton (Purdue engineer, WWII vet, survivor of The Battle of The Bulge) would say, "Half of solving any problem is just showing up."

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