Dear Colleagues

Two things on this fine day:

1. Major Disasters in Power Quality (and how to prevent them)

Why not join us for another in our series of live, online webinars on 2nd April 2009? These are complimentary and are available to you to thank you for all your support over the past 20 yrs.

2. Fill your Engineering Gaps

As an engineering professional, have you ever worked outside your comfort zone? It is a challenging experience, but ultimately rewarding - learning to master a new skill set which fills in a few gaps in one’s engineering knowledge. Many engineers and technicians would suggest that it is crazy to expose oneself like this. Ultimately, however, I believe the benefits outweigh the ‘dangers’. I presented a course recently covering a few topics outside of my areas of experience - I was somewhat daunted, but with some intensive work and considerable coaching from my peers beforehand, I managed to do a reasonable job (according
to the reviews anyway). My anxiety peaked when I was exposed to delegates with real experience rather than simply book knowledge. As a result of the preparation and then interaction with the class I have improved my knowledge in a fairly new area (but I was naturally very nervous). One of the things we do regularly at work is focus on the areas we are comfortable in (especially on a Monday morning after a serendipitous weekend) - why take a cold show when you can mooch through the day, working with stuff you are comfortable with?

We don’t need to go on training courses to skill ourselves in new areas - this is perhaps an obvious starting point - but the best way is to talk to our peers (they will be delighted to share their knowledge). But then we must actually work in these unknown areas to gain real experience. Take industrial automation for example. If you are working on calibrating and installing instruments all day, learn to set up a Profibus or Foundation fieldbus network, or examine the PLC or DCS coding for that tricky analog problem. Size the variable speed drives your peers are planning to install on the plant or have a look at the process design and get involved with the flow of the materials. If you are an electrical engineer working on power distribution layouts, move across to calibrate instrumentation and perhaps look at the IT issues with the SCADA installation of your plant. Being a widely multiskilled engineer is hugely advantageous today (let alone enjoyable). We may find our skills are in demand now; but tomorrow may be a completely different story. Investment in some short term reskilling may bring enormous benefits in the future.

One of the surprising issues in surveys on this topic indicates that specialists are even more highly prized than before - this would appear to make what I have said above a nonsense. What is omitted, however, is that requirements for specialities disappear after a few years and then reskilling becomes imperative. So the safest course is to constantly reskill in new and allied areas. The advantage of a wider skill set is the ability to view and approach a project more holistically, thus avoiding the embarrassment when unforeseen and inevitable problems arise. An example of this was when new locomotives were commissioned recently (in a notable city in the western world) and were found lacking as the power distribution network failed to cope with the power demands of these newly purchased railway engines.

Now, if you are really energetic, walk into your accountant’s office and offer to do the management and cost accounting for your area… will be horrified to find out how easy it is.

A comment by Wilbur Wright about the importance of engineering know-how is intriguing (and surely prescient of the admirable Capt. Sully who safely landed the Boeing, with failed engines, in the Hudson River - some 100 years later):

“It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.”

3. Major disasters in Power Quality and how to prevent them

Our next webinar is on Thursday 2nd April: Major Disasters in Power Quality (and How to Prevent Them).  Join us for this session – one, in our series of live, online webinars?  

They are complimentary, short and informative (no sales spiel – promise)

This Power Quality webinar will be presented by popular IDC senior instructor, Terry Cousins.
You can choose one out of the three session times on Thursday April 2nd .  All you need is a computer with reliable internet access (preferably broadband speed).

This 45 minute webinar will commence by contrasting the “ideal” with “practical” power systems, then move on to consider typical problems, their consequences and preventative measures and costs.

You can join us from anywhere in the world.  And you can choose to either observe and listen passively or roll up your “webinar sleeves” and participate in the discussion!  We will send you joining instructions once you’ve registered.

You can choose your session times and register at

Registrations close 24 hours before the first session.

Yours in engineering learning