How 'free' are you?

Editor: Justin Cunningham
With the General Election now in the dim and distant past, it is time to look forward and get on with things. But, it's got me thinking, how 'free' are we, really?

No, I'm not about to wax lyrical about 'the man' or how we are 'slaves to the system'. Oh no my friends, I ask how free are we to make decisions, engineering calls, day to day.

We may be governed as a democracy, but how many feel that same freedom when it comes to our working lives. Indeed, how many would want it? One of the benefits of becoming more senior in a company seems to be that it is easier to push through good ideas, or quash bad ones. Do you really want every decision to be put to a vote? Maybe you do...

For those not close to the top tiers, getting someone to make a decision – particularly a brave one – is often not an easy task, regardless of potential benefit. It is a frustration. The various companies that we represent have arguably tighter constraints than many of us would like.

And this brings me back to my initial question – how easy or hard is it when you want to do something new or different?

Specifying new materials – at least this is what experience tells me – is never as straightforward as we'd like. So should it be made easier?

Senior figures are there for good reason and companies need longer term strategies. Changing materials every five minutes might be good engineering (emphasis on 'might') but it is seriously bad business in the eyes of many. Setting up supply chains, testing and qualifying materials, possibly buying new machines, not buying in bulk... it's all rather costly and inefficient.

However, I would argue, that like businesses that have benefited from going lean, there is a similar benefit to be had if the same philosophy is applied to engineering, design and materials specification. There is genuine need for companies and engineering teams to be more agile in the way they design, use materials, and manufacture products.

Perhaps this means greater freedom for engineers, or perhaps it means better leadership.

What do you think?

@TheEngineerHack

Author
Justin Cunningham

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