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Maintaining the Lifelong Effectiveness of Engineers in Manufacturing ROBERT M. ANDERSON, JR. For a long time, U.S. manufacturing enterprises had no major problems. Americans led the world in manufacturing experience for almost a century, and American manufactured goods dominated world markets. Today, however, manufacturers from other countries have adopted and improved new technologies (many of which originated in America) to become the high-quality, low-cost suppliers to world markets. American manufacturing organizations must therefore undergo a revolutionary change to incorporate a host of new technologies to regain or maintain their international competitiveness. This paper begins by discussing the background and factors that relate to the problem of maintaining the lifelong effectiveness of engineers in manufacturing. It then presents a process for identifying what engineers need to do to keep up to date. This presentation is followed by a description of the drivers and the barriers to individual or organizational action as well as the mechanisms available to help an engineer maintain his or her effectiveness. Finally, the paper concludes with a call for leadership from those in industry, academia, and government. WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? Today's growing rate at which new technologies are being introduced into manufacturing has created a large demand for engineers competent Robert M. Anderson, Jr., is manager, Technical Education Operation, Corporate Engineering and Manufacturing, General Electric Company, Bridgeport, Connecticut. 62
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LIFELONG EFFECTIVENESS OF ENGINEERS 63 in the new technologies. The universities, however, cannot produce new graduates in sufficient numbers or with adequate knowledge and skill to meet industry's need. American industry now faces the problem of breaking with tradition to maintain the lifelong effectiveness of engineers in manufacturing. The Traditional Approach Traditionally, maintaining the lifelong effectiveness of engineers has not been an important problem for anyone. A typical engineering career pattern entailed entering the profession at age 25, achieving peak technical competence at age 35, moving into a managerial or administrative position by age 40, and then somehow hanging on until retirement. New technology was developed in research laboratories, was taught in the universities, and was introduced into engineering practice by the newly graduated and newly hired. The whole system was reasonably stable; societal, industrial, professional, and individual needs were all being adequately met. Although individual engineers following the typical career path may have bemoaned the compression of the salary distribution as a function of age or experience, they still got their salary increases year by year and they were still paid somewhat more than those with less experience. They grew comfortable and were reasonably confident of maintaining some position in their employing organization until retirement. Yes, they talked some about the need to keep up to date, but the pressures of the current work assignments together with the demands of family, community, and hobbies combined to keep most engineers from maintaining any serious program of continued study. Managers of engineers saw no need to commit significant resources to maintain the latter's technical competence. The rate of introduction of new technology was such that new engineers with the necessary expertise could be hired, and sufficient managerial and administrative work existed (or could be created) to occupy the older engineers who lacked expertise in the new technology. Besides, managerial promo- tions resulted from solving real problems and from producing new products, new buildings, higher sales, lower costs, or higher quarterly earnings, not from maintaining competence of the emergency staff. If the technical competence of engineers in the group ever became inadequate to meet business objectives, the manager could always lay off those most out of date and hire a new batch of engineers with the required technical knowledge and skills. Those in academic institutions also saw no need to be concerned about continuing education. They were fully occupied with the task
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64 ANDERSON of preparing young persons for entry into the profession. Participation in continuing education activities was usually at the bottom of the list of things that "good" professors were expected to do. This list typically had research at the top along with publishing and obtaining grants, followed by teaching undergraduates and counseling, and ended with participation in continuing engineering education. Government too tended to ignore the problem of maintaining the technical competence of the engineering work force. Except for the flurry of activity to place aerospace engineers as the space program wound down, government did little for the mid-career professional. Government scholarships, fellowships, loans, and loan guarantees were all aimed primarily at young persons preparing for entry into the profession. In summary, maintaining the lifelong effectiveness of engineers in general, and in manufacturing in particular, has not been a high priority problem and no one has given it serious attention. The Revolution of Today A revolution in manufacturing is under way today. In a world much different than that 10 or 20 years ago, new technologies and new philosophical approaches including parts per million quality stand- ards, zero inventory, flexibility, automation, information systems, and communication systems-are being introduced at a significantly higher rate than in the past as American industry strives to be economically competitive in the world marketplace. The traditional career path of the nondegreed manufacturing engineer who began as a production worker or craftsman and was promoted as a result of inherent skills does not and cannot provide the knowledge and skills required today. Moreover, current manufacturing engineers who have taken this path lack the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary to conceive and to implement modern manufacturing tech- nologies. Even degreed manufacturing engineers are ill-equipped to create and to install the new revolutionary technologies, which are not incremental extensions of older manufacturing technologies. Formal education in the physics of metal processing, for example, does not prepare a person to generate the computer software to control the metal proc- essing equipment. Thus, on the one hand, industry is being forced to introduce new and more complex technologies into manufacturing, while, on the
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LIFELONG EFFECTIVENESS OF ENGINEERS 65 other hand, most of the existing manufacturing engineering work force lacks competence in the new technologies. Can universities meet the needs in manufacturing engineering? The rate of introducing new- technology into all segments of society is so great that the demand for engineers of all types is at an all-time high. Enrollments in engineering schools are also at new highs, and more new graduate engineers are entering the profession than ever before. Nevertheless, the demand from other sectors is so great that the number of engineers entering manufacturing is less than required. Moreover, most engineering schools lack expertise in manufacturing. Their faculties are not competent in the modern manufacturing tech- nologies, and they do not have courses or degree programs in the new technologies. Most universities are unable therefore to produce new graduates with knowledge of or skills in modern manufacturing tech- nologies. Based on this situation, ways must be found to achieve and to maintain the lifelong effectiveness of engineers in manufacturing. The old ways of hiring enough new graduates or promoting people from the shop floor cannot meet the need. Creative ideas, hard work, and commitment not lip service-are required. LIFELONG EFFECTIVENESS OF ENGINEERS What Does "Effectiveness" Mean? Is an engineer effective if he or she can write the software to download a numerical control program from a minicomputer to a programmable control on a machine? Is effectiveness knowing how to plan a flexible manufacturing cell, get managerial approval to proceed, and bring that cell into operation? What if an engineer has consummate technical skills, but is unable to communicate with persons up and down the management chain, to maintain a schedule, or to control costs on projects? The concept of "effectiveness" involves knowing and being able to do many different things. Furthermore, the things that determine whether someone is effective will change as they advance in their career and as the technical requirements of their work change. Employee and employer share the responsibility for achieving and maintaining effectiveness in engineering. This is not a one-time task; it is a continuing process that merges professional development and technical education to keep up to date with new theories, processes, products, and industries.
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66 ANDERSON How to Determine Effectiveness Since the concept of maintaining effectiveness is complex, a straight- forward process is proposed here for identifying and assessing the effectiveness of engineers in a manufacturing organization. The steps in this process are: 1. Draw an organizational diagram that shows every position in the organization held by a manufacturing engineer. 2. For each such position, list all the functions that the engineer must perform. For each function, describe its significance to the whole organization. 3. For each function, list the present requirements, that is, the body of knowledge and set of skills that the incumbent must have to perform that function. 4. For each engineer in the organization, list that person's present state, that is, the body of knowledge and the set of skills that he or she possesses. 5. Match each individual's present state against the present require- ments of the position that he or she holds. Any present requirements which the engineer does not possess form the present gaps. An incumbent who has no present gaps is completely effective in his or her present position. If some gaps exist, the individual's performance is less than completely effective. If the list of gaps is long and includes many significant items, the incumbent is ineffective. Because the objective is lifelong effectiveness, one must also look into the future. This projection is crucial for manufacturing since the requisite skills for a manufacturing engineer are changing fundamentally and rapidly. It requires envisioning what the company will be like at some point in the future-for example, in three or five years and what the engineering tasks in that situation will be. The process of determining effectiveness is then repeated as follows: 1. Draw an organizational diagram that shows every position in the future organization to be held by a manufacturing engineer. 2. For each such position, list the functions that the engineer in that position will have to perform. Again, for each function describe its significance to the organization. 3. For each function, list the future requirements, that is, the body of knowledge and set of skills required to perform that function. 4. Compare the requirements of the future position against the present state of the existing engineering work force. Try to identify
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LIFELONG EFFECTIVENESS OF ENGINEERS 67 an individual within the work force who can now or with a reasonable amount of training and experience fill that position. 5. For each engineer who has been assigned to a future position, list that person's future gaps, that is, future requirements not met by the present state. (It might be useful to try a few different assignments to minimize the aggregated future gaps.) Formulating the Development Objective At this point, there are two lists for every engineer in the enterprise: one list of present gaps and one list of future gaps. For this process to maintain its own effectiveness, written lists must be compiled so that they can be discussed, debated, and refined. Careful judgment, both managerial and individual, must be exercised at this point to determine which gaps are significant, which will be addressed, and when. This process establishes for the individual engineer a develop- ment objective: specific knowledge or skill to be acquired and by what date. Based on the above process, "lifelong effectiveness" for engineers can be defined as the process by which an engineer establishes a development objective and works to minimize significant professional gaps in both present and foreseeable future functions. DRIVERS AND BARRIERS TO MAINTAINING EFFECTIVENESS Once the development objective for an engineer is established, the engineer and his or her manager are about halfway toward achieving the goal of lifelong effectiveness. Considerable effort is still required, however, on the part of both the individual engineer and the organi- zation. At this point, an objective has been defined, but to achieve it people have to do some things. Why do people do, or not do, things? In "skunk" works projects, for example, a group wants to do something so matcher perhaps has such a strong sense of duty to do something that in spite of a multitude of barriers, they accomplish the task. Alternatively, individuals or organizations sometimes fail to take action. Even though they have the ability and permission to take action, and even though it is clearly in their best interests, for reasons which may be difficult to articulate, they lack the will, desire, or commitment to achieve the goal. Why do people behave this way? From an individual perspective, why does a person do a particular thing? He may do something because he wants to, because he should,
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68 CAN (ability) - - FIGURE 1 Dr~vers for action. MAY (permission - - ANDERSON - SHOU LD (duty) WANT (desire) - \ / - merely because he is able to, or finally, because he is permitted to. He wants to, he should, he can, he may: these four drivers for action can be represented as quadrants of a circle as shown in Figure 1. Drivers for action should be examined from an organizational perspective as well. Motivating a manufacturing organization to main- tain the effectiveness of engineers in the work force may require as much thought and preparation as specifying the individual development objective. The organization needs to understand the value and signif- icance of this effort to its overall health, prosperity, survival, and market success. No amount of effort by lower-level staff can produce the benefits possible if upper management discourages this activity. Why is it that a person will not do something? He doesn't want to, he should not, he cannot, he may not: these four barriers to action can also be represented as quadrants of a circle as shown in Figure 2. Again, barriers to action must be examined from an organizational perspective. A firm may say it wants up-to-date manufacturing engi- neers, but it may send a different signal to the engineers. Meeting production schedules may be given higher priority than training, or worse yet, people who pursue training opportunities may be penalized by the organization. The representations of a circle of drivers and a circle of barriers can be extremely useful. Overlaying the two circles is a convenient device, albeit crude and inexact, for increasing awareness of four factors to consider when one wants someone else to do a particular thing: 1. How much does he want to do it and why might he not want to do it?
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LIFELONG EFFECTIVENESS OF ENGINEERS - SH OU LD NOT - DO NOT WANT - CAN NOT - - _ FIGURE 2 Bamers to action. 69 MAY NOT - - 2. What is his sense of duty? Can we structure an obligation or is some other sense of duty acting as a barrier? 3. What is his ability and opportunity? Does he have the right position, access to the right information, or opportunity for the right training? 4. Does he have permission? Is some prohibition barring the action? By weighing the net impact of these drivers and barriers, one can estimate probability of action. If one wants the action to be taken and if the probability for this appears low, then one must try to increase the appropriate drivers, decrease the inhibiting barriers, or both. MECHANISMS FOR LIFELONG EFFECTIVENESS After working to specify a development objective for an individual engineer and assessing the drivers and barriers to action, the individual engineer and his or her manager are still faced with choosing a specific set of actions to achieve the development objective. The actions or mechanisms by which people develop work-relevant knowledge and skills include job experience and education and training. Development is most effective when job tasks are structured to include growth opportunities and when appropriate education or training is used to enable or to support on-thejob growth tasks. On-thejob task assignments are the most effective mechanisms for individual development. Tasks should be relevant to the business of the organization and significant from both a business and an individual development point of view. Learning from peers, subordinates, and
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70 ANDERSON superiors can take place naturally and easily in the context of job performance. Formal education and training are available in a wide variety of programs from a wide variety of suppliers. Short courses and seminars offered in-plant or at central locations by employers, professional societies, universities, and entrepreneurs are available on almost any topic. Degree programs and credit courses are available at local schools and are frequently brought onto the work site with live instruction or television. Perhaps the most exciting new development in the delivery of education and training to employed engineers is the founding of the National Technological University (NTU). Formed in 1984, NTU will begin in the fall of 1985 to deliver master' e-level engineering courses from a consortium of universities to engineers at their work sites by means of a television satellite distribution network (NTU originally delivered courses by videotape). General Electric, IBM, and Hewlett- Packard are but three of the companies that have pledged their support to help NTU get started and to provide the NTU courses to their employees. The key to successful development is for the manager and engineer to agree on using those mechanisms most appropriate to the engineer's experience, ongoing work, and personal life. Both the engineer and the manager must treat this effort as a continuing responsibility and activity, not a one-time or a short-term effort. Development must become an integral part of doing business. The time and money needed must be made available consistently and reliably over several years. CALL FOR LEADERSHIP Engineering managers at every level of an organization must cham- pion the cause of maintaining the lifelong effectiveness of their engineers. Jim Cudmore, vice-president of engineering for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), said in a speech at Northeastern University (September 10, 1984) that among DEC divisions he can see correlations of both business successes with strong programs of technical professional development and business failures with weak or nonexistent programs of technical professional development. The companies with excellent technical professional development pro- grams, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, enjoy extraordinary business success in highly competitive and rapidly changing technologies. The bottom-line payoff exists. If a business enterprise determines its investment action using traditional financial measurements such as
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LIFELONG EFFECTIVENESS OF ENGINEERS 71 cost reductions and return on investment, then the case for investing in strong programs of technical human resource development has to be made in those measurement terms. Creativity is essential. One can calculate, for example, the financial impact on the business if a whole segment of the market is lost due to the failure of manufacturing personnel to stay current technologically. One can demonstrate that training and educating the present experienced engineers are less expensive actions than replacing the existing work force with new engineers. (Costing Human Resources by W. F. Cascio [Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1982] may be helpful in making these kinds of calculations.) Active leadership is also needed within the academic community to support and defend those professors devoting significant time and energy to continuing engineering education. Because change in higher education institutions appears to have a certain glacial quality, as many of the existing academic programs must be utilized as possible. Technology must be applied to making course material as widely and as promptly available as possible, particularly in manufacturing where so few can teach and so many need to learn. A good example of this is the National Technological University's approach of televising on- campus graduate engineering classes for engineers at their work locations by means of satellite transmission. Finally, leadership is needed from those in government. Public policies that inhibit the education and training of practicing engineers must be changed. These policies lay the groundwork for the mass obsolescence of American engineers and the loss of U.S. leadership worldwide in manufactured goods. Instead, more positive government incentives are needed to promote the continuing professional devel- opment of engineers in industry. Officials at all levels of government national, state, and local must provide the leadership to support education for professionals as an investment vital to ensuring the future of a free and economically successful American society. Retraining the existing engineering work force to handle the new technologies and operating systems is the best way to make the most change in the shortest time. This is a big task and must involve manufacturers, educators, and the government. America's share of world manufacturing will be reduced if actions are not taken to provide American engineers the opportunity and the means to remain effective technical professionals for their lifetime.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: