CTO Dr. Andrew Thomas on Energist’s Transition to Synchronous Technology

This series of posts focuses on the perspectives on executives, managers and staff personnel in the engineering organization. This post specifically features Dr. Andrew Thomas, the CTO for Energist NA Inc., on their transition to the use of Synchronous Technology within Solid Edge. It includes video excerpts from an interview I conducted with Dr. Thomas at the Siemens PLM Analyst Event in Boston, MA.

Last week, we heard from Dr. Andrew Thomas from Energist on selecting Solid Edge as their CAD and CAE for mechanical design. And as interesting as that interview is, it’s not the end of the story. A couple years after they started using Solid Edge, Siemens PLM introduced Synchronous Technology (wikipedia entry). While there’s always some excite around new technologies and the value they can deliver with their use, there’s also some trepidation around the learning curve and procedural changes to day to day work. During my interview with Dr. Thomas, I asked him how and why they made the transition.

The takeaway from this and other interviews is that to adopt Synchronous Technology, you really need to jump in with both feet. It’s not really a dip your toe in the pool type of technology. I think this is legitimately different from other new technology introductions because it requires some users to retrain themselves around what is and what isn’t necessary from a best practices perspective. With this technology, you don’t necessarily have to dimension every single aspect of the feature. You can make changes that might well be impossible to make with a parametric feature based CAD software. Great capabilities. However it requires an adjustment.

I have an interview with another company coming up that will also talk about their selection of Solid Edge and transition to Synchronous Technology. Stay tuned.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading and watching

What is ‘The Goal’ for Engineering? How Alex Rogo Came to Conclusions…

Sometimes, it’s the simplest questions that are exactly the hardest ones to answer. In a post last week, I wrote about a book I read some time ago called The Goal (wikipedia entry). In it, the main character struggles to identify both the goal, increased profitability, and constraints of that goal, production bottlenecks and sales limitations, in a manufacturing plant he oversees in an effort to save it from being shut down. Based on that premise, I asked what the analogue is to engineering. What exactly is the goal for engineering? What are the constraints keeping engineering from that goal?

Now the first instinct with things like this is to start throwing out answers. However in this case, it makes sense to revisit the exercise that the main character, Alex Rogo, went through to find his answers. This specific approach is called the Evaporating Cloud method (wikipedia entry). Now, we’re not talk about about Cloud Computing (wikipedia entry). This methodology is a way to identify the goals and constraints within a system. The following is an excerpt from wikipedia that is found in the book.

Evaporating Cloud example from ‘The Goal’
Goldratt has illustrated the use of the evaporating cloud technique in a discussion of the economic production quantity model, as applied to a production line. The prerequisites are to run large batches (node D) and yet to run small batches (node Not-D). These are clearly in conflict. The requirement that D is trying to meet is to reduce setup cost (node B), whereas the Not-D prerequisite is intended to reduce carrying cost per unit (node C). Both requirements are aimed at the objective (node A): to reduce cost per unit.The assumed causal reasoning between the conflicting D nodes is something like “there is no way we can run large batches and small batches at the same time.” This conflict can be challenged by distinguishing between production batch size (between setups) and transfer batch size (between workstations), and so allowing different sized batches for different purposes.

A very useful exercise from the book that the main character used was to maximize or minimize a specific measure or constraint and see if that would obtain the overall goal. For example, what happens if you maximize the throughput of the plant? Does that mean it would be avoid being shut down? Of course not. That produced product had to be sold. After iterating he came to the final set of constraints or variables that really mattered.

Now that we have this context, what should our answers be?

What is the goal of engineering?

What are the constraints to achieving that goal?

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

CTO Dr. Andrew Thomas on Energist’s Selection of Solid Edge

This series of posts focuses on the perspectives on executives, managers and staff personnel in the engineering organization. This post specifically features Dr. Andrew Thomas, the CTO for Energist NA Inc., on their selection of Solid Edge as their MCAD and MCAE software solution. It includes video excerpts from an interview I conducted with Dr. Thomas at the Siemens PLM Analyst Event in Boston, MA.

Everyone likes to have a second opinion, right? I see it at many places like LinkedIn where people ask about the use of different software systems and applications. “Have you used system x?” one might ask. “Have you used application c” another might ask. Now of course, I have my own perspectives on engineering software systems and applications that I publish here at this blog. But an overall goal of mine is also to provide a platform to those in the engineering community to be heard. That’s why I conduct video interviews.

Today’s engineering voice comes from Dr. Andrew Thomas, the CTO from Energist NA Inc. For a little more on the company, here’s an excerpt from the background section at their corporate website.

Energist Group designs, manufactures and markets lasers and light-based systems for hair removal and aesthetic skin treatments, serving both the medical and beauty sectors. With over 8000 systems currently in the market world-wide, Energist Group operates in over 70 countries through a highly trained network of distributors, and direct sales operations. The company is widely seen as one of the leading players in the industry.

In this first video interview, I talked with Dr. Thomas about how they selected Solid Edge as their MCAD and MCAE application for design and engineering.

In the next post, I’ll let Dr. Thomas share what it was like to transition over to using Synchronous Technology. It wasn’t as easy as you might think. Stay tuned.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading and watching.

The Challenge of GenY’s Expectations for Engineering

This series of posts covers a number of issues related to the differences in generations specifically in engineering organizations. Today’s post looks at the attitudes of the Gen Y cohort, those that are 27 years old and younger, in the workplace. In the context of an engineering organization, the traditional wait for ‘meaningful work’ for younger employees will have a more adverse effect.

Do you remember what is was like when you were first hired as an engineer? Do you remember the type of work you did? Did you enjoy it? Was it fulfilling? I imagine some of you are laughing at that last question. But in all seriousness. Think about it. Now hold on to that thought while we start to talk about Gen Y engineers. These are the people just graduating from engineering school and getting their first job. They’re just starting off their professional career. Think they’re in the same mental state you were in? Actually, that’s very unlikely. Before I dive into that, let me give you some back from a Tammy Erickson blog post at the Harvard Business Review on Generation Y’s First Impressions of Us and work overall.

They are happy to handle “big” jobs and tackle them with confidence. Without a doubt, the most engaged Y’s were those who felt that they’d been given very challenging assignments: “They gave me full responsibility for a project. Very cool.” “My project is visible enough so people know what I am doing.” “I’m doing something that has value.” They were not the slightest bit deterred by what older workers might perceive as their lack of experience or even limited qualifications for the task at hand. Most Y’s felt sure that they could tap into appropriate sources to learn how to do what needed to be done: “I like the fact that the boss gives me a project and I can just handle it.” “I’ll figure it out.”

They are impatient and want what they’re doing now to be as enjoyable and meaningful as possible. Although this extends to life in general for most Y’s, it certainly applies to the work environment. The least engaged Y’s in our groups were those who felt they had been given “prove it” work — tasks that had to be done to earn the right to move on to something more significant. As I argued in an earlier post (“What Are They Thinking?“), I believe this sense of impatience is not a reflection of youth (as many older bosses would love to believe), but will continue to be a defining hallmark of Generation Y throughout their lives. Teenage years marked by events such as 9/11 and Columbine have left most Y’s with the clear sense that making the most of things today is a pretty sensible rule to live by.

They don’t necessarily want your job. We were pretty surprised by the number of Y’s who said their boss’ job just didn’t look “worth it.” The trade-off of time and stress versus whatever incremental money or prestige that next job on the corporate ladder carries doesn’t appear like a smart deal to many in entry-level corporate jobs: “A manager’s schedule is hard. It’s a lot to ask, to give up your weekends, screw up your schedule and life, and not get paid enough more to make it worthwhile.”

And, they are positively amazed by corporations’ obsession with time — both the absolute amount we spend on work and our emphasis on specific times: “I need more days off . . . as a young person, you have to wait five years for three weeks vacation . . . by then you’re 28, you have kids, and you can’t do anything.” Most of the focus groups concluded that their work environments were pretty inefficient — they and their friends outside the office get “things” done (problems resolved, information shared) much faster and with less effort than they and their work colleagues. And, as habitual “time shifters,” (See “Do You Want a Date . . . Or a Quart of Milk?“), they prefer to do the work on their own schedules: “What is it with you people and 8:30 a.m.?”

Now that’s a little different from the attitudes of Boomer and Gen X engineers in the workforce, right? Most engineers when first hired into a manufacturer have to wait for 4-7 years before being assigned important work. On top of the shortfall of graduates from Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM, wikipedia entry), Gen Y engineers with this sort of mismatched expectation about doing important work early in their career will drive them to adjacent fields. As a result, the shortfall in STEM fields will only be exacerbated. And despite the fact that the Gen Y generation is almost as big as the Boomer generation, it will be increasingly harder to find employable engineers.

What do you do about it? With the issues around a jobless recovery where projects are understaffed, accelerate Gen Y into meaningful work with appropriate failsafes like frequent reviews and mentoring programs. It’s better to turn them into effective engineers that leave them on the bench. Especially right now.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.