CivilStructural.com.my 25 Aug 2013
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Dilemma of engineers in new IT era.(Intermediate)
With the technology invented by scientist in IT world, it has tremendously improved human life style in many sectors. Such as safer in automation of aviation field which reported less airplane crashed in year 2012 compared to earlier years. Invention of tablet or mobile device, user can carry “computer” outside office. Invention of internet, let human can obtain fast information.

With many of inventions, which are really benefits to engineers especially for civil and structural engineers? We know that in the earlier days without computer, engineers still able to design many of mega structures by manually. Nowadays, with advances of information technology; many of super computers have been introduced to engineers. Engineers can perform a lot of computation where unlikely to be performed in those days. The invention of finite elements method(FEM); where FEM is impossible for engineers to work out manually. The FEM further provide more accurate computation. With these inventions, there also come out more and more applications(software) which can help engineers to compute analysis, design and also detailing. These applications have been given invaluable help to engineers. A lot of engineering projects can be completed in shorter period with better material control. Engineering design can more economical in term of quantities. Better prediction in engineering studies.

I have been IT industries for more than 7 years. I can really feel the changes of IT which influence engineers’ life style. In the earlier days when I started my business, I really encountered the problem on introduce IT applications to engineers. They are really rejecting on adopting IT applications. They always told me that they can do it manually. But it is difference for today. An engineering firm without adopting IT will be treated that this firm is outdated to market. Client feels uncomfortable by engaging this firm. So nowadays, they are willing to adopt IT. Anyway, by adopting those IT will have pro and con on engineers. If not really handle it properly it will bring a lot of problem to engineers without realize by engineers. Those cons actually more affect to young engineers which born mostly after year 1990; i.e. after computer had been introduced to world. Currently in the market still have a number of senior engineers who born before computer. They are really trained up by manually calculation and very technically sound. Most of them currently are either the boss of company and going to retire soon. If they still in director position of company, they may be more to business field instead of technical field, which mean that their expertise will sooner “retire” or already “retire”. Only left behind are those younger engineers which doing their daily works by a lot of using computer appliances. Just for an example; during site meeting, when client requested to has an amendment on size of a RC slab, those engineers may tell the client need to go back office to work out new design. It will take at least a day to reply. This will slow down site progress. As compare to those senior engineers, they may just work out in the meeting with help of a calculator; decision is made immediately. Also in the event of power blackout in office, those young engineers may just sit in office. They can’t do any works. They just told the boss they cannot do without computer.

Actually with the help of computer, engineers may have more design option in analysis and design an engineering works. They can do more choices in design and get better output. Somehow, I noted that most of young engineers have miss use those information technologies in term of learning process. They just want to finish the job. They do not want to spend more time on studying the result of analysis or design. They just want to delivery output to client without knowing what happening to the engineering works? They also lose out the “sense” of design. For instance, they may not know where the heavy reinforced beams and columns are. During site inspection, they cannot sense the important part of structure which needs special attention. If they had gone through manual design, they can really remember those important areas. They will not forget those areas. Furthermore, they may become more and more lazy on engineering works. I have getting more and more request from those engineers to have more and more customization on output; such as drawing preparation. Their request until a text or character needs the help of computer to edit. They even not willing to use CAD application such as AutoCAD to edit such changes. By the way, there also a trend of sun set skill on draft person. The experience draft person also “leaving” out market, engineers are facing difficultly on finding such draft person, because most of the tasks are replaced by computer. In the earlier days, engineers need to analysis, design and details the output. The details will be given to draft person for drafting. Somehow, now most of tasks are handled by computer by engineers. As a result, engineers need another skill is drafting. Indirectly, the need of draft person is reducing.

In my prediction, these problems carry out further in coming years. It will become more and more serious. I am staring to quote those engineers as “operator” instead of engineer. They know “how” to operate but do not know “why”. Therefore, they are not qualify as engineers. I don’t know our Board of Engineers or engineer association to address such problems. Have they really realized such problems arise in young engineers? What to do on academy or profession bodies. These problems cannot be resolved just by one body. It really need help from academic, profession bodies even government bodies.
Written by scchee
Disclaimer: the above article is based on writer personal opinion on civil and structural field. It will not represent any ultimate solution of any mention subjects. Writer will not responsible for any causes arise.

Reading level: Intermediater.
(Updated 25/8/13)
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