It's an interesting point that I haven't seen discussed much, certainly not waffle! Working backwards...
Originally posted by: eswnl
Is electronics different? There's probably no large volume manufacturing, more like one-off projects. There's probably only a few people and there are no company departments.
Depends on the company. Some are big, some are small, some work on large volumes, some on one-offs. It's no different to any other branch of engineering (no reason why it should be!)
I think what I'm trying to say is that this is ideal for somebody who likes structure in a company and where he can just focus on the designing. We still did our own research but it was going to exhibitions mainly.
Ok, but you have to be careful that you're not just running away from the real world. There are two big risks, firstly it's hard to be creative and innovative when you don't understand the whole background to what you're designing, and secondly designers who work in that way often find that when they get to their 40s and 50s (and beyond) that everyone else has left them behind and they don't understand why.
Where I used to work, the company had departments: sales, service, purchasing, production and engineering (us). In this structure, the engineers can focus on doing engineering instead of having to emulate non-engineering roles. For example, we did not need to capture customer requirements because somebody else did that e.g. sales people. Or the customer didn't come directly to us when they had a problem, it went through service with help from us.
Which all makes your designs more remote from the customers needs. There is a key issue in innovation which is that it typically requires two parties: a customer who has a problem but doesn't know how to solve it, and an engineering department who can solve problems but don't know those problems exist. Bring them together and you can have a really innovative solution. Put a sales department between them and it won't happen. Either the sales department will just try to sell the company's solutions without listening to the customer's problems, or (more likely) they will propose a limited solution because they won't understand what the engineers can achieve.
I'm well aware that I'm slightly the exception in being an engineer who actively enjoys talking to customers (well, most customers
) not to mention suppliers and manufacturing. What I've tended to do (as you might guess) is not to let my engineers insulate themselves but if neccesary drag them kicking and screaming in to working outside their comfort zone, and, as I mentioned before, the feedback I have received from this is that it has actually made their work easier and more enjoyable. There will always be additional frustrations that come in, but actually when I see really stressed engineers the root cause of the stress is often that they are either not seeing or not able to influence the bigger picture.
It would be good to see some more comments to get other engineers views on this.
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMIhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy
"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert