Outsourcing and blog blowback
Our readers aren’t too happy with outsourcing. Many are sure engineering will be next to go. And Web-site readers respond to a variety of blog topics, including cheating, diesel engines and the EPA, and the future of engineering education.
Outsourcing; the beginning of the end
Outsourcing is a bad idea, almost as stupid as the notion that a servicebased economy is viable (“Thinking about outsourcing product development?” April 5). If a company does not know how to develop its own products, what differentiates it from any other company? Know-how — the ability to do what needs to be done — is probably the most valuable asset an organization has. We devalue this asset at our own peril.
I have worked on many outsourced product-development jobs. In the most successful ones, the parent corporation has a moderate level of involvement, not micromanagement. And I don’t think outsourcing necessarily has to involve companies overseas. Large companies can benefit from outsourcing to domestic firms focused solely on product development, for reasons stated in the article.
“To gain a competitive edge, OEMs are increasingly outsourcing noncore activities such as manufacturing, IT, accounting, sales, and human resources,” according to the article. So when design and R&D are also outsourced, will marketing and the cleaning crews be the only activities that remain? Why not outsource the entire organization?
Manufacturing has already been outsourced. If you outsource engineering, what is going to be left for engineers in the U. S.? Australian and German economies are doing well because they don’t export jobs.
Outsourcing is akin to selling the seed corn. The managers of companies that do this are incredibly shortsighted.
The wrong folks in charge
Sure, we have the technology to reprocess nuclear fuel, but our politicians signed and ratified a treaty that makes it illegal (“In Nuclear Energy, the U. S. Will Watch the World Go By,” March 17). This is just one of the problems our incompetent politicians have created to hobble U. S. energy production and the country’s economy. As long as we allow the current political machines control us, we will become a third-world country.
Experimental drone or clone?
This is not new at all (“Blown Wings for Short Landings,” Jan. 13). Check out the Ball Bartoe Jetwing at the Denver Air Museum. It flew in 1977 using a P&W JT-15D-1 turbofan. It used hot gases ducted through the wings and titanium covered critical areas on the wings.
Most modern ideas are just rehashed older ones. But today, engineers can couple those “old ideas” with advances in materials and controls which were not available in yesteryear. Sadly, nothing much extremely innovative or revolutionary has appeared on the aerospace design scene since slide rules were retired. Even when I worked on the B2 bomber, it was modern materials and modern flight-control computers adapted into Jack Northrop’s YB-49 design from the 1940s which brought it into existence.
Takeoff and landing are the most critical phases of flight, when aircraft have the least airspeed and least altitude to convert to airspeed. How will this aircraft handle the loss of an engine on takeoff or landing, which reduces the lift coefficient of one wing from 10 to 1?
A better engineering education
Online classes combined with classroom interaction is absolutely the right way to rethink education (“What Future Engineering Classes Will Look Like,” March 4, From The Editor’s Desk Blog). We also need to restore the role of mentors and have teachers engaged personally in student learning through coaching. I love everything about this approach to education.
Perhaps students majoring in technical subjects should be given realworld problems to solve. It might improve the effectiveness of the courses. When I was in technical school for drafting, it was much more interesting and educational to do real drafting for real products and projects rather than doing the exercises in the books. Why not expand that?
Cheaters never prosper?
I believe cheating and its downsides (“If You Cheat in Engineering Classes . . “ Feb. 14, From The Editor’s Desk Blog) also applies to the medical profession and any profession that deals with the public health and welfare, except politicians. They are exempt, as they make the laws to protect themselves.
It may be wise to first define cheating. Personally, using the answers to understand the correct way to do a problem and to aid in comprehension is quite acceptable, efficient, and helpful in most cases. And are all instructors above reproach, always thoughtful about time and constraints they put on students, and always use the most-effective and efficient methods? My point is there are good instructors and there are bad ones. They might know the material, but they can’t teach. I agree with you when you say learning the information should be the paramount concern of professors and students. Unfortunately, not all professors can get past attitudes of pride and arrogance. They lack the humility and heart of a teacher.
More than enough blame
Our inability to get clean burning diesels is actually testament to the fallacy of state’s rights in this country (“EPA = Speed Bump for Diesels,” Feb. 7, Skeptical Engineer Blog). We let some states dictate to the rest of the nation what we can and cannot do based on problems often unique to those states. For example, smog might be (or once was) an issue in California, New York, and Massachusetts, but its irrelevant in the rest of the country. But if they can’t have diesels, none of us can.
Besides that, American consumers are idiots. Too many of them associate diesels with the poor quality American diesel engines of the 1970s. They were horrendous.
The other issue not mentioned is that CO2 legislation in Europe is currently driving diesel sales, at the expense of emissions that actually harm humans (particulate matter, NO2, SO2). And we can also thank the National Highway Safety Administration for enacting regulations that ensure more of us can’t afford small cars, So I’m not sure all the blame has to go to the EPA. While we’re at it, we can thank Bill Clinton as well; SUVs and $4∕gal gas are two of his legacies, a result of entering and leaving office with CAFE at 1985 levels.