Engineering is primarily a Communications role

TL/DR: Engineering is a communications role, not a smart-calculator role. Communicating completely, accurately and traceably how a vision is to be produced at-scale is the primary role of Engineering, at any level. If a project does not give attention to Engineering artifact collection/generation, it will fail.

Apropos of nothing, I suppose…..

It has become apparent to me that today’s graduates believe that “Engineering” is the process of solving the math problems, of making the right “design decisions.” How big should this bolt be, how thick does this plate need to be.

It is not. That stuff, the solving of cute little math problems to reach some number, is not what Engineering is.

Engineering is the preparation of information to such a detailed, exacting and traceably-correct way that a person unknown to me, receiving my Engineering documents, can produce what I need, whether it’s ten, or ten million. Engineering is, at it’s core, a COMMUNICATIONS role, in which your job is to communicate all that brilliance you claim is in there, to the machines, to the world, to purchasing, to the market, to everyone, so they too will experience the vision and benefits put there by the designer.

Engineering, in that sense, is an almost pure form of mechanistic translation of ideas into reality.

So, when you sit back and think “I can design ANYTHING”, know that only gets you about 2% of the way there. Next you have to figure out how to make them at volume, and THEN the hard part comes. You get to specify, to someone who is not an Engineer, exactly how you need every single part produced, so that they can produce 100% perfect parts, and zero they send to you gets sent back to them. And, you get to communicate what you want without ever meeting or even speaking to that person.

THAT is what Engineers do. Yeah, sure, we solve cute little math problems, and we struggle with lame critical-timing issues in multiple time domains, and we do perverse things in HTML to make a Web site behave. But on the whole, our core responsibility, is to communicate clearly, completely and accurately. So that even when we’re gone, that thing can be made a bajillion times over.

Failing to produce the actual work-product of Engineering for a project, regardless of the wonderful prototypes, is a sure sign of a product that will never see the light of day.