May/June 2010

Your letters

Analyze the process

I applaud Bill Lydon's column in the Jan/Feb issue of InTech. His suggestions were thoughtful and timely. During my working years, I've used several of these techniques successfully. But to your list I would add "Analyze." I once resolved a problem that had plagued a gas plant for some eight+ years (from the time it had been built), simply by a critical review of its P&ID.

Now realistically, we must recognize there are some problems that simply cannot be overcome-considering the personnel involved and the engineer's position. I once suggested in a meeting a simple modification that would have greatly tightened the control of a certain process. A vice-president (who had an intellectual stake in the process) replied: "Well, So-and-so Company tried that once, and they're no longer in business." I just "shut my mouth" and did not point out that his argument was irrelevant to our process. Unfortunately, it is still done the same way to this day.

Roger Ridgway

Lauren Engineers and Constructors - Retired

Abilene, Texas

Disclaimer: The incident quoted above in no way reflects on Lauren E&C. It happened a number of years before Ridgway went to work for Lauren.

Involving engineers in marketing

I enjoyed the March/April InTech  "Channel Chat" article on re-engineering yourself. As someone who started his career as an engineer (software), and then moved through various functions, including sales and marketing, I find Jim Pinto's comments relevant. I appreciate his call for engineers to understand the business plan, get involved beyond their own projects, and-most importantly-get to know customers.

Engineers have a unique point of view and a systematic way of thinking that is very valuable to a technology-driven firm.  As someone on the "dark side" (marketing), I would like more engineers involved (or employed) in marketing-marketing is much more than PR and promotion.  Understanding the customer/market/competition, creating product requirements, and helping guide development are more important marketing activities than promotion (no amount of advertising can sell a product that completely misses the market).

These activities can be within many engineers' comfort zones.

I'm currently engaged in a project to find more effective ways to manage and market products for my firm. Part of the solution is closer alignment between engineers and marketers, and engineers with a broader perspective can help achieve this.

Tom Knauer

A more holistic view

I wholeheartedly agree with Jim Pinto's "Channel Chat" point (March/April InTech) that engineers should have a more holistic view of the business. I also believe that in addition to the personal initiative, the process should be institutionalized.

Many technology companies are structured as hybrid functional/matrixed. But product managers typically are lightweight, and engineering members receive their feedback and benefits from their functional manager, with very little involvement from the product management. Functional managers, by their very title and responsibilities, tend to be subject matter experts. It is not a far stretch from here to realize why engineers tend to gravitate towards being SMEs and focus very narrowly.

In my view, the organizational structure has to fundamentally be designed with the customer in the middle. Then the product managers should have the power to make decisions about how to serve the customer the best and focus the product team toward the value proposition to the customer. The product manager should be heavyweight in the company and in control over the team's performance appraisal. Physical layout changes that bring the product team together in one location will contribute to broadening the perspective, removing false stereotyping. It is very disheartening for me when I find out that some of my fellow engineers don't have any idea of the customer's value system. It is no surprise then that Marketing is right at the top.

Nilesh Pradhan

Sr. Automation Engineer,

Sensata Technologies Inc.

McMillan byline

In the March/April 2010 InTech  article entitled "Key design components of final control elements," we inadvertently left off Gregory McMillan's byline but did reference him and his new book in the source box at the end of the article. For a seminar and demo (deminar) on how final control element dynamics affect loop performance, check out the 22 April 2010 entry on McMillan's website