News

Dear Colleagues

Often, one of the most challenging things is to persuade your engineering colleagues to take a particular course of action such as telling them a different way is better, more effective, or just the right thing to do. When change is involved, as we all know, there is always enormous inertia in acting. Reactions range from outright hostility or resistance to indifference (as someone pointed out to me a few years ago – “re-engineering the already re-engineered corporation” –...

Dear Colleagues,

Is your new engineering graduate engineer, technician or technologist ready for the job? Do they find it easy to learn the key elements of their job? Did they get a great education focussed on practical outcomes? The answer to these questions is depressingly, no.

So we have to seize the moment and mentor ‘em.

What are young engineering professionals weak in?
The areas where newbies in the workplace are often weak is in communication skills, working in multidisciplinary teams...

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On the 23rd November, EIT held their first annual Graduate Gala in two locations - Perth, Australia and also in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Perth Gala was held in the Panorama room of Metro Hotel overlooking the Swan River and the city of Perth. Graduates arrived from all over the region of WA to attend the celebrations and hear from speakers such as Barry Tonkin (WA Division President of Engineers Australia), Justin Shute (former EIT student and lecturer), and Dr Steve Mackay (Dean of...

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On November 18th, 2012, IDC Technologies and the Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) were proud to take part in a heart-warming community project: the Eighteenth SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS PARTY. This is an annual event planned for children who have special needs and are suffering from life threatening illnesses in order to provide them with one of the happiest days of their lives.

Over 3000 people came together at the Herb Graham Recreation Centre in Mirrabooka, Western...

Dear Colleagues,

As we all know – the Internet has made a huge impact on how we view the world. However, what is now happening is that the Internet is increasingly playing a part in the physical world and affecting how you view it especially with the rapid growth of mobile technologies. Think of your mobile phone or tablet. Not only can you access people scattered a few oceans away but you can also have localized information at your finger tips.

An ocean of data
If, like most of us, you live...

Dear Colleagues,

I think we are all subjected to written reports which are gibberish, unreadable and full of gobbledygook. Perhaps you even are guilty of writing like this? I know that I am.

An example of poor writing in a report on a problem with delivery

Technological problems and input product deficiencies combined to impact on the specified deliverable quality and estimated deadlines of the product. Extensive and unspecified (at this stage – pending further investigation) modifications...

Dear Colleagues,

Approximately a hundred thousand people are killed every month in traffic accidents around the world. If this was happening with aircraft; it is likely they would be all grounded. The number of cars is slated to increase from 1 billion (2010) to over 2 billion in 2020. Almost 90% of accidents are caused by human mistakes. Certainly, when I drive around town (I like to think I am a defensive & cautious driver!), I get alarmed with the quality of driving and the number of...

Dear Colleagues,

As engineers and technicians we tend to focus on the technical issues in the job and salaries are left behind.

Best Paying Engineering Degrees
Maria in our US office located an interesting document on engineering salaries in the USA in 2011 – produced by the respectable US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Admittedly, if you live in another country or Outer West Waziristan, this would probably be of minimal interest but there are some interesting comments which do apply to you...

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The IDC Street Team took to the streets of Perth last week to promote our upcoming electrical courses; Safe Operation and Maintenance of Circuit Breakers and Switchgear; and Practical Earthing, Bonding, Lightning and Surge Protection.

We visited the offices of Western Power with giveaways of the IDC Electrical Engineering Pocket Guides Volume 3. The Pocket Guide provides an in-depth practical coverage of Power Quality, Power Systems Protection, and Substation Automation, and can be downloaded...

Dear Colleagues,

I am sure you are keenly aware of the conflict that often develops between the marketing/sales/business development and engineering functions of your firm.

Selling features which don’t exist
We often hear of marketing selling features of a product or service we haven’t developed yet (and often we had no intention of ever developing). On the other hand, marketing tends to regard engineering professionals as those who insist on high quality technical outcomes with no thought to...


 

eBook offer extended!


 

5 winners have been drawn for their FREE copy of the eBook "Practical Project Management for Engineers and Technicians".

Due to an overwhelming response, we are offering another 3 COPIES to another 3 entrants!

To enter, simply go to the News menu at the top of the screen and select the eBook Giveaway - Enter Now! tab and enter your details.

Second round of entries close on Wednesday the 17th of October - enter now!

Dear Colleagues,

Over a million robots toil endlessly in (particularly car) factories around the world. However, they are expensive, difficult to maintain and time consuming to program and only have a limited repertoire of activities.

Low Cost Robots equivalent to the PC
What many are calling for is a low cost equivalent to the ubiquitous PC. Obviously, one is after something considerably more reliable than the PC. A recent innovation by Dr Brooks (originally hailing from MIT) is a large...


Turn your technical and engineering expertise, excellent communication skills and experience into a rewarding part-time instructing opportunity. We're expanding our instructor force to meet the growing demand for our training programs all over the world via our E-learning opportunities.
 
A few reasons to become an EIT Instructor:

1. Realise big rewards for a part-time assignment
As an EIT instructor, you instruct part time - based on your own schedule. You are free to spend the majority of...

Dear Colleagues

As former Apple evangelist, Guy Kawasaki, noted recently (in contradiction to the usual hype) – Silicon Valley’s core reason for success is not about venture capital, easy finance, legal structures or marketing but simply the engineering and computer science departments of Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. A critical mass of engineers and engineering students has created an unprecedented level of ingenuity and innovation. This has resulted in an...

Dear Colleagues,

Over a million robots toil endlessly in (particularly car) factories around the world. However, they are expensive, difficult to maintain and time consuming to program and only have a limited repertoire of activities.

Low Cost Robots equivalent to the PC
What many are calling for is a low cost equivalent to the ubiquitous PC. Obviously, one is after something considerably more reliable than the PC. A recent innovation by Dr Brooks (originally hailing from MIT) is a large...


We have recently launched our eBooks in a new PDF format making it easier for you to take practical know-how with you where ever you go!


Our eBooks are now compatible with the following devices:

  • Windows
  • Macintosh
  • Linux
  • iOS - iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, iOS 4.0 or later
     

NB: To gain access to our eBooks you will need to install Adobe Acrobat or Reader software and the FileOPen plugin (www.fileopen.com)

In conjunction with our sister company, the EIT, we are giving away 5 copies of...

Dear Colleagues,

I wondered when I would write about this topic. Something which always amuses is the incredible longevity of some computers. In the context of IBM mainframes,as the old Roman sage, Ovid, living a few thousand years ago remarked:All things change; nothing perishes.

Ode to a  Mainframe
Many of you will no doubt remember the (Sperry Univac and IBM) mainframe (and indeed, minicomputers) - computers we worked with either on university campus or at work doing some form of exotic...

Dear Colleagues

Companies today are rapidly reducing tangible assets – buildings, machines and inevitably, people such as high cost engineering staff. And we know that there is a massive amount of outsourcing going on meaning jobs go elsewhere. This is all happening today and will eventually impact on you.

Companies Fail
The days of expecting a job for 30 years, say, from a company are rapidly diminishing. I clearly remember starting out in the diamond mining business as a junior engineer with...

Dear Colleagues,

A topic I often avoid discussing is quality. Mainly because it conjures up ideas of masses of paper work and enormous costs with no discernible increase in the quality of a product or service.

However, someone for whom I have the greatest admiration is a fine electrical engineer, Edwards Deming, who as many of you will recall is often referred to as the father of modern quality control (and was single-handedly responsible for a massively positive impact on the quality of...

Dear Colleague,

A few years ago, I was somewhat surprised when we (and indeed others) launched an extensive range of renewable energy courses focussing on solar and wind power and found that the Interest wasn’t particularly high. In reading the newspapers and government rhetoric, one thought that everyone was ‘doing renewable energy’. The truth is obviously that most of us aren’t directly involved in building some exotic wind and solar energy installation. We continue to work in our...

Steve being presented with gift of appreciation from one of the students for his presentation

Engineering Education and Careers on Show


The Engineering Institute of Technology’s Dean of Engineering Dr. Steve Mackay visited Edgewater’s Mater Dei College to speak to year 10 and 11 maths, science and engineering students about the value of engineering education and the numerous advantages of choosing a career in engineering.

Approximately 45 students attended the presentation, covering a number of topics such as studying engineering at university, the advantages of an engineering...

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Now you can take our technical manuals everywhere with you!


Our eBooks are now in PDF format and compatible with:
 

  • Windows
  • Macintosh
  • Linux
  • iOS - iPad, iPhone, i-Pod Touch, iOS 4.0 or later


All eBooks are available at 40% less of the cost of our hard copy manuals – at that price what are you waiting for?


Order through the IDC Technologies website using the offer IDCEBK.


NB: To view our eBooks you will need to install Adobe Acrobat or Reader software and the FileOPen plugin (...

Dear Colleagues

Often you have to write a short summary (referred to as an Executive Summary) for your managers or executives. These fellows (and gals) can be an impatient lot wanting the core ideas imparted with the minimal of technical jargon in action oriented prose. So that they can quickly act on the points you make with minimal cross fire from any one else. Thus you need to be hyper-efficient in your writing.

A few other issues you need to consider

  • What do you want to achieve with...

Dear Colleagues

We all experience setbacks and bad things particularly in our engineering work and our personal lives. I do often. Here are some great strategies to work through these times quickly and effectively. The key is to work through these to increase your likelihood of success in the future.

If you haven’t had a bad moment; you may not be trying hard enough in your job and are stuck in some comfort zone.

Bad things Vary
Often referred to as failures, perhaps you had a bad project...

Dear Colleagues

An interesting little (simple) brain teaser for you – no matter whether what discipline or type of engineering professional you are.

The Challenge
A tank at atmospheric pressure contains 1 kg of air. The tank is then pressurized with an additional 3 kgs of air. What is the resultant gauge pressure (in bars) in the tank after this 3kgs of air has been added? Absolute pressure = gauge pressure + atmospheric pressure

A. 1 bar
B. 3 bar
C. 4 bar

You could use the Universal Gas Law...

Dear Colleagues

As we all know, most electronic-based equipment and instruments generally contain some form of circuit board and bits of wire to tie the individual parts together. However, the assembly and manufacturing process in tying these individual wires and circuit boards together and then squeezing them into a tiny space can take considerable effort and consume a huge amount of space.

As we have discussed in earlier blogs, it is now possible to undertake 3-d printing of items ranging...

Dear Colleagues

If you have ever been involved with building a start-up firm you will probably realize that a lot of the stuff from business school is next to useless. Start-ups are not simply smaller versions of a standard business but something completely different. Universities have had a mixed record in transferring technology to the market.

It is my sincere belief that driving the creation of start-up firms – particularly in engineering are a critical part of our lives to create new...

Dear Colleagues,

A few weeks ago, I stupidly broke my right wrist (on a beach!) and a few years ago my ankle. Fortunately, after a few plates and screws all is well with no actual loss of a limb.

The purpose of this note is decidedly not to look for sympathy but to talk about the exploding opportunities for engineering professionals working in the field of prosthetics where loss of a limb is the focus.

What is a prosthesis?
A prosthesis, prosthetic, or prosthetic limb is a device that...

Dear Colleagues,

The art of negotiation can be a thorny topic. I always remember the comment from a guru who (sadly) remarked: “You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate”.

We don’t negotiate enough
I believe most of us engineering professionals don’t negotiate enough. We accept the status quo when purchasing or selling something. In our quantitative minds, we accept that the price must be right as it is generally set by others “who know better”. Or we believe it is...

Dear Colleagues,

Every successful engineering career involves troubleshooting and fixing at some time. Perhaps mainly remedying your colleague’s mistakes? The trick, I believe, is to keep your mind completely open when tackling the problem - to avoid pre-conceived ideas, as these can throw you off track.

The suggested steps for general engineering troubleshooting are as follows:

1. Identify the exact issue
When someone reports a problem to you; you can bet your bottom dollar this may not be...

Dear Colleagues,

Something most of us intuitively grasp; but which is worthwhile mentioning is the inverse relationship between costs of products and services and experience.

In essence, the more experience a firm has in producing a particular product or service, the lower its costs are. Fairly obvious one would think, but something we often don’t consider when planning a large project or job (especially one which has a degree of repetition in it). The Boston Consulting Group noticed that a...

Dear Colleagues

I was lucky to participate in a recent graduation of eleven electrical engineering students from a major power utility engaged in one of our three year diploma programs (easily equivalent to the first two or three years of an engineering degree and in some respects superior as there was an strong hands-on job-related component).

My speech went as follows….

You (and indeed your partners) have worked exceptionally hard on this qualification over at least three years and we...

Dear Colleagues

One of the concerns I always have when interviewing a stream of people for a job is the impact each of them have on the final decision you make. Or in deciding on the best project when confronted by a list of potential candidates.

Two psychologists, Uri Simonsohn and Francesca Gino, have noted that we are rather poor in using background information in coming to an individual decision. A good example is that of a judge concerned about appearing soft on crime; she would be more...

Dear Colleagues

I know you will recoil at yet another ‘good time’ story but surely James Dyson – the inveterate inventor (remember those bagless vacuum cleaners) - is an inspirational engineer. After I travelled through the UK recently and saw the gloom and damage bought on by the economic downturn; I have to admire this fellow for what he has accomplished in what is generally considered a tough time.

And from a financial point of view, he must surely be one of the most successful engineers...

Dear Colleagues

Even in today’s tough economic times, engineering professionals who are top of their game, are sought after and not easily made redundant. However, companies do morph and change with astonishing rapidity and you may not always feel comfortable with changes in your current firm, and look to alternative opportunities and employment. Sometimes; personal things happen that cause you to decide to move on (something unpleasant at work / death of a close friend /unexpected windfall or...

Dear Colleagues

The Code of Hammurabi stated 5000 years ago, that ‘If a builder builds a house and the house collapses and causes the death of the owner, that builder shall be put to death’.

Certainly, the Romans were also quite ruthless with execution of engineers who failed in the adequate construction of viaducts and bridges. Penalties are perhaps less harsh today; but consequences of negligence can be far more deadly due to the greater number of people using engineered facilities. Simply...

Dear Colleagues

As engineering professionals, most of you will be somewhat surprised to realize that you have a considerable amount tied up in your intellectual property (IP). “What intellectual property?” you may think, with some exasperation. But you will be surprised at how often the simple ideas that you have developed over many years become intensely valuable property. IP represents the property of your mind or intellect.

Surely, Apple – with its plethora of computers, iPads, iPhones and...

Dear colleagues
 
When I was considering studying electrical engineering (many years ago!); my dear father once reminded me with some prescience (although being a teenager it irritated me): ‘Remember my boy, with all your theory and design skills on paper; these are all nothing until you or one of the techies or craftsmen picks up the first screwdriver or soldering iron to start implementing your design’.
 
In engineering education, we emphasise theory, software and computer design skills to...

Dear Colleagues

We all know that no one is indispensable – companies and people come and go. Even the owner or “boss” of a business is often a fragile commodity.  So go a step further and drive yourself and your organisation into becoming more indispensable with a few strategies suggested below.

A few suggestions on being more indispensable in your job:

1.  Make sure you are The Expert in your firm on an engineering or technology topic. Pick a “hot useful” topic, learn it inside out and use...

Dear Colleagues

First of all, I would say that this note is not only about getting a better job but also in attracting more work to your firm. Many jobs today are based around a particular project starting up and eventually completing.

Statistically, it is said that up to 80% of new jobs are never advertised. So what you see on the job’s website and in the newspapers is only a poor shadow of the real activity going on below the surface. Similarly, new projects and work, is often not...

Dear Colleagues

A key part of every engineering professional’s job is troubleshooting some problem. In fact, arguably many engineers’ sole function (and the reason some are often paid very well) is troubleshooting and fixing intractable problems. Somewhat irritatingly is that it is often identifying and fixing other people’s errors.

The optimum approach is to keep your mind completely open when tackling the problem - to avoid pre-conceived ideas, as these can throw you off track. Naturally...

Dear Colleagues

I delight in those engineering professionals who have set up incredibly successful businesses (but am saddened by those – the majority – who have failed).  In these tough times, I do believe that for our economies to grow we need far more entrepreneurs providing services and products that improve productivity (including safety). The spin-off will be the employment of more people and more opportunities for engineering professionals to practise their skills. Engineers, being...

Dear Colleagues

We are flooded on a daily basis with too much data and because we are in such a hurry we often don’t verify the truth of an assertion. And then we take action based on these anecdotal assertions.

Some suggestions in your engineering work:
 
1. Assess anecdotal information carefully for facts, otherwise file it away as untested.

2. Trace and audit any data which you suspect is second hand - it may have been copied from another source and contain inaccuracies.

3. Use the ‘common...

Dear Colleagues

I must thank Andrew Brown for bringing this neat story (which many of you may have heard in the past). It reinforces the need to keep all your designs as simple and effective as possible (applying the famous “Keep it Simple Stupid” – KISS principle) and to apply common sense. Although an engineering design friend of mine often wryly remarks: Common sense isn’t so common around here.

The story goes as follows….

A toothpaste factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty...

Dear Colleagues

Thanks for all your feedback – I respond to every note within a few days.

The First Industrial Revolution
As wet-nosed kids at school, we all clearly remember hearing about the first industrial revolution in Britain during the 1800’s. Tasks done in a cottage industry basis such as weaving were brought together in large cotton mills in a ghastly factory setting. Similarly, with smelting iron ore – all converted into industrial factories with rigid rules of operation and filthy...

Do you have a fascinating workplace story? Tell us you’re most fascinating and ‘out of the ordinary’ story about your workplace and the top 6 stories will win their choice of 2 of our hard copy technical manuals from the list below: • Analytical Instrumentation in On-Line Applications • Arc Flash for Electrical Safety • Fundamentals of Chemical Engineering • Industrial Wireless for Engineers & Technicians • Project Management • Hazardous Areas If you need ideas, see here...

Perhaps the subject line is a rather frivolous ‘throw away’ line to many of you. However, the focus on engineering these days is keeping within the budget (don’t we know when we overrun on costs or recommend equipment which is too high quality?); maintaining safety margins; unbelievably detailed documentation on everything related to the design and extensive and unrelenting risk management. Engineering has steadily become very conservative with many unwilling to take risks in conceptual design...

I believe we get exposed to challenges to our ethics on a daily basis. Most of the time; we ignore these challenges but occasionally the price is high and we succumb ever so slightly (and silently).

In the nutshell – ethics is about - as the National Society of Professional Engineers indicates: Engineers, in the fulfilment of their professional duties shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public. This applies to all engineering professionals – no matter whether you...

I am sometimes inclined to agree with Thoreau who noted that ‘most people live lives of quiet desperation’ - people who are unhappy personally and in their careers. As far as the engineering or technology field is concerned - for some of us, it is working in technology-intensive environments (design/installation/configuration), but for others, it involves working in maintenance and operations, a less intensive environment.

Great Personal Wealth
And occasionally - for some there is great...

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ can really gnaw at you. How can you make sure that you’re being paid what you’re really worth? Theoretically, your remuneration is based on the contribution you make to the business you work in. Other factors that impact on pay include: education, formal and informal training, type of engineering, technical experience, size of the company, responsibility level and the part of the country or world that you work in, and finally simply –...

EIT's Technical Director, Steve Mackay, enjoys keeping his blog up-to-date with useful tips and current industry matters for his fellow colleagues. He has a loyal and expanding following base reaching over 300,000 people around the world.

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