These 3 changes can make a big difference in your engineer calculations
Making some relatively simple changes could do a lot for your engineering calculations. Image:

These 3 changes can make a big difference in your engineering calculations

27 Nov 2017

IT expert Mike Gayette outlines three habits that can lead to a massive payoff in terms of keeping your projects on schedule and under budget.

Engineers and engineering managers are swamped with work. That includes you, probably. Asking you to spend hours or days changing your processes isn’t feasible.

Too many projects are already over budget and behind schedule. In fact, you’re likely thinking about meetings and specs while you read this. But don’t leave yet! There’s a payoff in the next 500 words, I promise.

Forget the hours and days of shaking up documentation practices, or retyping formulas, or out-of-state training. All you need for big change is tiny steps; small, incremental habits that add up faster than you think. Let’s get to it.

Document everything

Good documentation is the heart of any engineering project. Without records, you’re left scratching your head later because the calculations behind your design aren’t obvious.

At best, you use deductive reasoning and figure out most of the puzzle. At worst, you guess, with disastrous results. Either way, it isn’t ideal.

More than 50pc of projects are late and over budget when communication is poor, according to the Project Management Institute.

An engineer stepping into your project later won’t have days and months of calculations and models rolling around in their brain. They start fresh.

Your communication is critical to their understanding of the design intent. Otherwise, the entire project is at risk of dragging on or running up costs.

Documenting the major calculations isn’t enough. Write down every decision you make and why you make it.

Think of it as creating a flowchart of the entire process. Adding those small bits of documentation – your decisions and why you make them – gives future team members (and future you) an easier time understanding the full project.

Use templates

Starting a new project means working on new problems, so why waste time tediously building out the same calculations?

Now multiply that by every engineer in your shop. It costs you a lot of hours and money, and wastes your engineer’s talents.

If your company uses certain calculations and code repeatedly, embed them into a template. When it’s time to start something new, open the template and know that you have all the common code and calculations exactly where you need them.

Spending a little time creating templates now gives you exponential savings later.

Train in small doses

You don’t want to spend days poring through binders and completing curriculum? Understandable.

You have deadlines and impatient clients whose chief concern isn’t your fading skillset. But you still need to keep up, so what to do?

Fortunately, Germany’s TU Dresden says bite-sized e-learning works in your favour. Ingesting small amounts of information, as opposed to larger blocks, leads to 20pc better retention rates. Those same learners answered their review questions 28pc faster, too.

A few minutes of micro-learning each day or week adds up to a lot of knowledge after a year. And, while your way of using your engineering maths software feels good enough, you might find ways to do the same work in less time.

By Mike Gayette

Mike Gayette is an IT professional and freelance writer based in North Dakota.

A version of this article originally appeared on the PTC blog.

Want to check out Mathcad for yourself a few minutes every day and see how much your skills grow? Download your copy of Mathcad Express here.

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