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Topic Title: Working in small electronic companies
Topic Summary: Engineer taking on multiple roles
Created On: 09 September 2011 03:12 AM
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 09 September 2011 03:12 AM
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eswnl

Posts: 144
Joined: 29 November 2008

Hi,

In small electronics companies with few members of staff or even a one person band, is it likely that the engineers would take on multiple roles. For example the engineer may have to cover the design, customer requirement capture (therefore being customer facing), being a service engineer to the customer, sales etc.

If you were a person who wanted to focus purely on design, this situation wouldn't be ideal would it?
 09 September 2011 11:33 AM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

Originally posted by: eswnl
If you were a person who wanted to focus purely on design, this situation wouldn't be ideal would it?

This is exactly the position my design team are in. In 10 years of managing the team I have had only one resignation, and that was for family reasons (the engineer really didn't want to leave the team).

The feedback I get from my guys is that being close to the customers and to manufacturing informs and enthuses their design work. They know that they're designing the right thing, not just working from some spec that may have been through countless Chinese whispers.

In fact, my experience has been that friends an colleagues who have worked in small design offices find large design offices really hard to work in.

But of course, it may be that some engineers prefer to work in one and some in the other, and that the engineers I like working with happen to be the "big fish small pond" type!

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 12 September 2011 07:46 AM
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jencam

Posts: 608
Joined: 06 May 2007

Originally posted by: g3xoi

But think of the experience you would gain.

AND I suspect that your designs would be better because you could see the whole picture.


This is one of the reasons why my son decided that self employment would be a better strategy for him than working as an employee.
 13 September 2011 04:02 AM
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eswnl

Posts: 144
Joined: 29 November 2008

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.
We were a manufacturing company and we had a production line.

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.

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. But I might be wrong.

Perhaps I'm just talking woffle.

Edited: 13 September 2011 at 04:10 AM by eswnl
 13 September 2011 12:29 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

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 MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 18 September 2011 08:51 PM
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johnnmann

Posts: 53
Joined: 18 October 2006

I certainly have multiple roles. I do the design, production management, the actual hands-on production and the on-site installation. I'm also Quality Manager and do most of the buyer's job. I agree that it is an advantage to see the design from all sides. The downside of a small company is lack of training oportunities, pension and other benefits etc.
 08 January 2012 12:16 AM
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danielrainbow

Posts: 8
Joined: 13 November 2003

For example, we did not need to capture customer requirements because somebody else did that e.g. sales people.

if I had a quid for every time a salesman had told someone oh they just want X when what they really wanted was Y I'd probably have enough money to retire to a non-extradition country, because with that spare change I'd hire assassins to get rid of those sales men...

on the other hand, if I had a quid for every time I've sat in a meeting with a customer whose got no real idea what they want... -I can understand how sales guys sometimes get it wrong.

for it to work successfully where designers and engineers have no contact with the customer at all, you have to have extraordinarily good sales guys
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