There is no future in the status quo . . . Just ask Sears, Blockbuster, Novatel, Blackberry, Nokia, and the list goes on and on!
There is no future in doing things the way we have always done them! Status quo always ends in irrelevance and obsolescence!
As business leaders we need to continuously challenge ourselves and our organizations to innovate and improve. We need to shake up our industries and stop doing things because we have always done them that way. Rather, we need to start doing the right things smarter, more cost effective, more rapid, and error free!
For example, in the project engineering world, projects have continuously escalated in cost over the years. We have all heard of projects that started at $X billion and ended up costing 2 or 3 times $X billion! Now there are many reasons for this (refer to my mega-project article) but one of the major reasons is that we are simply not challenging the status quo. Instead, we doing things the way we have always done them . . . it seems more comfortable that way because change is uncomfortable!
Although an engineering project today has basically the same objectives as an engineering project 20 years ago, how we get from start to finish needs to be fundamentally changed! Engineering companies need to step back and re-evaluate their businesses to remove legacy mindsets, legacy tools, and outdated processes while implementing new and relevant ones.
Take the automation engineering world as an example. It is undergoing dramatic change because of technologies like:
- Cloud technology
- Pervasive sensing technology
- Wireless technology
- Electronic marshalling
- Open Process Automation
- Mobile Platforms
- Cyber security
- Auto configuration
- Late binding
- Auto commissioning
- Computing power and speed
- Software as a Service
- Proliferation of data
- Data analytics and business intelligence
- Artificial intelligence
As a result, the automation engineering businesses must adjust their mindsets, processes, and tools to leverage these changes.
Failure to stay on top of these industry changes will result in irrelevance and obsolescence!
So what can engineering business leaders do today to stay relevant in the marketplace?
Six Areas to Innovate in Project Engineering
There are probably an infinite number of things that can be done to stay relevant in today’s engineering marketplace. To kick off the conversation, I have outlined six broad categories below.
- Reduce project schedules – Reducing design and construction time not only reduces costs but gets the project producing its product and making money faster. This is a massive win-win!
- Optimize engineering processes – Optimizing engineering processes reduces schedule, reduces cost, and reduces rework due to errors.
- Automate repetitive tasks – Repetitive tasks typically don’t need to be done by humans. There was a move to send these tasks to the “back-office” or to a “low-cost center” but we should either eliminate these tasks completely or automate them. This reduces the cost of the work itself but also eliminates rework due to human errors.
- Use AI and programming to reduce errors and rework – AI and programming can be an effective tool to eliminate or automate portions of work that were traditionally labor intensive.
- Automatically identify and track changes in design documents – On projects where more than one engineering discipline is involved or where more than one company is involved, always results in multiple revisions of design drawings or deliverables. Build a tool to automatically review these revisions and highlight changes rather than wasting time doing this manually.
- Think outside the current technology and engineering practice paradigms – Don’t get stuck in your existing paradigm. What are others doing in other industries. Challenge the existing thought patterns and practices and come up with new and innovative solutions that save, time and money while maintaining or improving quality, reliability and safety.
Essentially, challenge the status quo in every area! No work process, mindset, scope of work, or tool should be considered off limits!
As an example of this innovation mindset, I recently came across a company called Pro Automation Tools. They are innovating the automation engineering space. They provide a suite of tools to the automation engineering world that help engineering companies and facility owners reduce automation costs between 40% to 50%.
Full disclosure – At the time of this writing, I am not an owner or investor in Pro Automation Tools but I have been working with them at BettsM Controls to see how and where we can leverage their software tools.
The list below highlights several features of their tools that dramatically impact the six project engineering areas I identified above:
- P&ID Scanning – The tool scans AutoCAD P&ID files and creates an instrument index. This instrument index is then used for revision control, graphics, and configuration. This is a great tool for automation companies and end users who don’t have an existing instrument index but have the P&IDs available to them in AutoCAD format.
- P&ID and Instrument Index Revision Control – When an automation company engages in a project, it is common for them to get multiple revisions of design documents. Reviewing these revisions can waste a lot of manpower but this tool scans all incoming P&ID revisions and identifies changes in seconds.
- Create a SD Key – The tool also allows the rapid creation of a shutdown key or cause and effects matrix which can then automatically convert into ControlLogix ladder logic.
- Wiring – Furthermore, the tool allows the user to take the instrument index information and rapidly design a Rockwell PLC architecture, complete with wiring diagrams from the Rockwell I/O cards to the end devices.
- VTSCADA Database and Graphics – Use the information in features (1) to (3) above to automatically create a VTSCADA database and graphics.
- Reverse Engineer a PLC5 or SLC PLC Program – Their tool allows the user to take a download from a PLC5 or SLC and automatically generate the complete C&E diagram in minutes. This is typically done manually and takes man weeks of work. It is prone to human error and results in prolonged schedules.
- Checking of C&E Matrix – Their tool will compare the design set of C&E diagrams against the actual PLC program to identify errors and discrepancies.
You can find out more about this tool at www.BettsM.com
Take some time this week to determine how and where your business needs to challenge the status quo. Then build a list of three to six areas where your business needs to innovate to meet this challenge. Finally, define three to six actions that you will take over the next year to dramatically move your business towards these targets.
Also, review these articles for more information:
- Would You Rather Choose the Path of Preservation of Innovation
- Growth and Change Are the Only Options
- How to Be Relentlessly Committed to Self-Disruption
- The Cost of No Change
- 5 Simple Steps to Kill a Stupid Rule and Boost Your Business
- Why You Need to Kill Your Company
“Change is not merely necessary to life. It is life.” Alvin Toffler
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