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Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation
8

Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

(OP)
Hello All,

I wanted to start a discussion on the future of the engineering profession in light of continued improvements in AI and automation. There is a lot of talk about many jobs being "outsourced" to AI or that can be completed with much less expense than before. A few that come to mind are truck drivers, customer service, and even radiology. It is a topic I have been interested in lately and wanted to get everyone opinion on how they see the engineering profession evolving in light of this. A few initial questions would be:

- What kind of engineering processes can and can not be completed with AI or could be automated in the future?
- Which branches of engineering are most/least vulnerable to automation? (Structural/Mechanical/ etc.)
- What does automation mean for licensing and duty to the public?
- Will there be less of a demand licensed engineers used mostly for confirmation of computer created designs?
- Do you see the value of an engineer increasing or decreasing in light of automation? Less

I am interested to hear everyone's thoughts on this. Thanks for reading!

Best,

Matt Soda, P.Eng

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

I think for one, any engineering/design which requires a seal (PE) will still require a real person. Current laws and regulations require that. What is getting automated is the drafting, drawings and the calculations. That has been going on for decades. That being said, in my field (Instrumentation and Control), there has been a steady decline in the quality and quantity of engineer on the PE level. More and more is being left to the contractor and systems integrator. This is combination with specifications which are very vague usually does not go smoothly.

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

(OP)
I agree the automation will definitely cannibalize the drafting, drawings etc. I wonder if we will reach a point where there are very few people at the PE level who are there to check and stamp and they will come at a premium or will we end up lowering the value to the lowest bidder to rubber stamp the computers calculations (assuming that computer get to the point where the process is near perfect).

One item of most engineering which is a positive is currently there still needs to be manufacturing or physical manifestations of most engineering work so that will for sure require human interaction for the foreseeable future.

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

M_Soda,

I am at a site where we send out partially dimensioned fabrication drawings. Our fabricator receives a PDF of the drawing, and a STP of the CAD model. Anything not explicitly dimensioned is fabricated to the capabilities of the manufacturer's process. Anything explicitly dimensioned is inspected and reported on the First Article Inspection (FAI) report. All of this involves the precise sort of decision making that I don't think AI can do. What tolerances are critical on this part I have just designed?

There are resources in place now to automatically produce fabrication drawings from 3D models, which work fine if you don't mind your drawings being crap, and which probably work just as well as handing the thing to a CAD monkey. As designer, I strongly prefer to do my own fabrication drawings.

If you are performing simple, repetitive tasks under close supervision, you are in danger of being automated. If you have to know stuff, communicate, think and solve problems, you are safe for a while, yet.

--
JHG

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

(OP)
drawoh,

For sure a road block to AI will be critical thinking and decision making which will bode well for the engineering profession keeping automation at bay.

I spent some time earlier in my career working project management and connection design for a steel detailing firm and as you described there is software that will nearly draw the shop drawings for you. They do need some TLC most of the time to not be a total embarrassment but given the speed to which we have moved from the days of manual drafting to pre-drawn 90% complete fab drawings it is pretty amazing.

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

M_Soda,

I realize we work in different fields, but are (good) drawings 90% pre-drawn? The dimensioning schemes and the tolerancing require just as much thought as they ever did.

--
JHG

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

No matter how smart, computers will only be able to design what's possible. It will still take human engineers to make the impossible possible.

I used to count sand. Now I don't count at all.

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Good drawings on multidisciplinary project are mostly pre drawn - most of the work needs to be done modeling. Sure seems like we are some ways away form going model only though.

As far as I see it, doing brownfield industrial structural work, there's no way AI will replace me before I'm ready to retire.

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

I think tolerancing is a good example where an AI could take on the job. Not in every case, but in the simple case of 'will this bit fit into that bit 99.99% of the time?' we are already there.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Does anyone remember the days when every product vendor had to employ many product engineers to receive and process all the technical questions that came in on the phone?
Starting in the 1990's, these vendors have divided into 2 camps: those that still force you to phone them to learn anything about the product, and those that put the info requested 90% of the time on their website.
I bet a lot of product support engineers have lost their jobs due to the latter.

STF

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

SparWeb,

When I worked on a drafting board, I had a large cubicle with a big bookshelf. When we switched to CAD and moved to new, smaller cubicles, I had to throw out a huge pile of literature. I call the vendor when the literature or website is confusing.

--
JHG

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Automation may have some other impacts as well, as seen in this story:

‘No human could do anything’: The man who was sacked by a machine ‘out for blood’

IBRAHIM Diallo was sacked by a machine “out for blood” — and his bosses could only stand by helplessly as he was marched out.


https://www.news.com.au/finance/work/at-work/no-hu...

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Almost everything is electronic nowadays, so piles of catalogs and articles simply reside in my TARDIS-like external hard drive. While there may indeed be downsides to automation and the current state of technology, the benefits are pretty enormous as well. I started with 60 boxes of papers, magazines, etc., 20 years ago in a move, and the last move involved only 4 boxes, mostly junk, anyway. But, all the magazines and papers were scrunched into a 2 TB drive.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

While this is not directly related to the workplace per se, it does provide an example as highlighted by IRstuff above.

I've been taking photos since the early 60's, when I was in high school, and I attempted to keep all of the negatives/slides. To date, I'm just short of having 44,000 images in my collection. Now it is true that since 2000, when I got my first digital camera, a Canon PowerShot S10 (2 MP), most of those images only exist as data on some hard-drive or archived DVD-ROM's, but I was still shooting film as recently as 2006. Of those nearly 44,000 images, over 17,000 of them were originally film-based, either negatives or transparencies. In 2001 I acquired a high-resolution (4000 dpi) film scanner, a CanoScan FS4000US device ($995 in 2001 dollars), which BTW still works with my MacBook Pro laptop (Canon stopped supporting it years ago, but there are a couple of 3rd party companies who have developed and still support drivers for this device).

Anyway, after I finally scanned the last of my slides and negatives, I was still keeping the 'hard-copies', but eventually they filled some 20+ thick three-ring binders that took-up the entire shelf in a storage closet. So about 10 years ago, after realizing that I had not needed to access a single physical slide or negative since those 4000 dpi images, along with my eight-color Epson photo-printer, was more than adequate when I needed an actual print, I decided to dump those binders and free-up some critically needed storage space. And in those 10 years I've never regretted doing that.

So the moral is that I agree with IRstuff, that there are some very appreciated benefits when new technologies are properly applied.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Sounds more like someone not liking Mr. Diallo and hacking the machinery to oust him. I seriously doubt that the machinery is either self-aware or even sufficiently malevolent to do that.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

7
The question before "will AI take over the engineering function" you really have to ask "what is 'engineering' and what portion of your work activities are involved in those functions?"

Engineering is not and has never been "drafting and toleranceing". We all either know how to do that or we once knew how to do that, but it is not "engineering" and the robots are welcome to it. Engineering is not "budgeting and estimating" although we all spend a huge portion of our time on those tasks. It isn't differential equations. It isn't your discipline's version of Marks or Perry.

"Engineering" is the knowledgeable application of the concept of "good enough". I managed projects to build computer software in the 1980's, and I delivered over 30 "completed" applications for every one that my peers delivered. Why? None of them were able to internalize the concept of "good enough" and strove for perfect, generally that goal caused the projects to take so long that people had developed other ways to address the problem by the time the project was starting beta testing. Same with most of the jobs I've had in my career. I always became indispensable (for the very short term) because my projects moved forward when my peers were bogged down in some detail.

The concept that I call "good enough" has many facets and goes by many names. "Creativity" is one. "Thinking outside of the box" is another and usually happens when an individual looks at a problem and says "wait a minute, the regulatory or company bias against [insert concept here, I would put "pneumatic strength testing" or "vacuum operation of Natural Gas wells"] is not based on physical reality and we need to change it". Programming an AI to traverse the boxes edges is pretty easy (I've done it, many of us have), but to get the AI to cross those edges is seen as "dangerous" and "chaotic". The part of our jobs that is actually engineering seems to me to be quite safe from robots. In my estimation, the robots are welcome to the part of our jobs that eat up a day unproductively (I'd be happy to never again do a task that can be done in its entirety in Excel or MathCad or AutoCad).

I expose students to these concepts in my book and in my classes, most of the people exposed to them don't get it. The few (a mix of graduate engineers and the best and brightest of field hands) that do get it always go on to be superstars in their areas of influence--and they all would have been superstars without my classes, it just would have taken longer. Once we get rid of the paradigm that just because someone has a degree in engineering they are doing engineering work, this discussion of AI Engineers falls into the "no bloody way" category quickly.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

When AI can wade through the bullshit and bureaucracy, it can have my job.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

zdas04, fantastic insight. This principle I've been calling the 85% rule, but have been hesitant to share the concept for fear of coming across as lazy. The fact of the matter is that sewing up the last 15% is the majority of the time and effort burden. It's that same last 15% where the peanut gallery suddenly become experts and that final bit will, undoubtedly, be altered beyond recognition or control of the progenitor. It is therefore exchanging effort for effectiveness. There are plenty of ambitious ladder-climbers more than willing to take on the last 15% of a design and take all credit. I see the role of the engineer as breaking the seal on what's possible, roughing it out, proving the physics and then throwing it into the middle of the circular firing squad while moving on to the next project. I'll frame it up and let them pick the colors.

I used to count sand. Now I don't count at all.

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

"Frame it up and let them pick the colors". Really a nice turn of phrase. Too many schools strive to turn out graduates who are only able to pick the colors. In the exercises and tests in my course I am careful to include a bunch of information that is generally available to someone working on that kind of problem, but irrelevant to the answer; while I am just as careful to out information that is necessary to the solution, but not on the SCADA (heat transfer coefficients, local atmospheric pressure, etc.). It amazes me how many people with engineering degrees get angry at me for this, more than a few have walked out of the class because the exercises were "unfair". Color pickers.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

JohnRBaker,

I have no plans to toss my collection of negatives and slides, which I started shooting in 1987. I also have my dad's collection of film, much of it in 120 format, and some it 3×4" Speedgraphic. I have a scanner that does 120 film, and is fairly capable with the 3×4".

I logged much of my own film stuff as I was shooting it, but I do not have a searchable database. Computer cataloging will be an awful lot of work. My digital photos are stored in folders named by date, organization, activity and subject. When I archive my photos to DVD, I list the contents to a text file in a photo directory. I can use grep to search through my digital photos, and identify the CD or DVD it is stored on.

Technology has made cataloging a lot less work.

--
JHG

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Quote (zdas04)


Engineering is not and has never been "drafting and toleranceing".

Quite a few years ago, I was shown a drawing of a frame piece welded out of aluminium 6061-T6 angle. This was dimensioned in inches to three decimal places, indicating a tolerance of ±.005". I pointed out that the tolerances were stupid and impossible. It turned out that the mating piece was another set of welded aluminium 6061-T6 angles. One piece went inside the other and bolts were attached through the outside faces. Assuming this thing was not assembled with a rubber mallet, the bolts were closing a rigid gap comprised partially of annealed aluminium 6061.

What was superficially a lack of comprehension of welding DFM by a CAD monkey, actually was a structural and safety problem. The material strain caused by assembly, caused stresses way in excess of anything the material could handle. Successful engineering required a knowledge of the manufacturing process, metallurgy and the assembly process, as well as the final functionality. Dimensioning and tolerancing of this frame was beyond the capability of a CAD monkey or a robot. Sometimes, the details matter.

--
JHG

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

drawoh,

I have a fully searchable FileMaker Pro database where I record a unique indexing number, title for the image, the image format (Slide, B&W/Color Negative, APS, Digital), the camera used, date taken (month & year), and a list of searchable keywords including subject, interesting content, names of any recognizable persons, location where the image was taken, etc. I also record if I've ever sold the image and how much it earned (I sell photos via a stock image service). I also indicate a DVD reference number, which are categorized by image format. In addition to having ALL of the images on-line (on an external 2TB hard-drive) I keep two sets of the DVD's, which number something over 140/set, one set in my gun safe here at home and a second set kept by one of my sons as a off-site back-up.

As I stated, the database is fully searchable using any and all fields in the record, which also includes a 200 x 200 pixel thumbnail image. And the searches are very fast; I can perform a multi-target search of all 43,964 images in less than a second. And the report I get is a list of the actual records showing all the content of all the record fields as well as that thumbnail image.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

drawoh,
The details often matter.but you described the perfect scenario for an AI--the engineer defines basic tolerances for each grouping of part and then defines the grouping properly (reasonable engineering activities) and then lets the AI apply the rules, they will be way more consistent than a human ever would be as long as the engineer has defined the groupings properly. If someone (usually a draftsman) picks arbitrary tolerances then putting then having an engineer looking at the groups and their tolerances is engineering. An engineer putting the tolerances on the drawing is generally a waste of talent.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Drawoh,
I swear I was looking at that same drawing last week. What are the chances?
Well actually, in this case, a sheet-metal box bent up on all 4 sides, and meant to fit inside a lid, also sheet-metal bent down on 4 sides. Fit-up problems solved by putting a +0.005"/-0.000" tolerance on the lid and +0.000"/-0.005" on the box. No AI will ever touch that level of... efficiency. The shop knows better by now, and so they test-fit 20 lids on 20 boxes until they get as many fitting pairs as possible. They are getting the the point where they're afraid to inspect parts because the tolerance as ridiculous.

Edit- my point (besides bitching, sorry) is that this kind of routine error getting past human engineering checks & approvals is just the kind of thing an AI can figure out if configured to design for tolerances that the shop can actually achieve. So I agree that a point may come that this skill moves out of human hands, if humans aren't willing to learn it.

STF

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

zdas04,

I knew two things here, not just one.

  1. Welding tolerances are something like ±1/16".
  2. An eight inch piece of aluminium 6061-T6 cannot stretch 1/16", even if it somehow manages to be T6 temper.
It generally does not take me a long time to prepare fabrication drawings. When I apply tolerances, I take a final close look at the design, and I ask questions. The frame required re-design, not better tolerances.

--
JHG

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

I think the discussion of what constitutes 'engineering' is very interesting here. For me 'engineering' has always been the 'practical application of scientific knowledge'. I think with increased usage of AI and automation, it will naturally mean that what constitutes 'engineering' will evolve. So the 'practical application of scientific knowledge' is destined to evolve with the new scientific knowledge and new technology applications. I expect engineers will spend more time doing the interesting work which contemporary technology cannot quite handle reliably.

To achieve the productivity gains expected from the use of new technology, we - as a field of study - need to train the next generation of engineers to be able to utilise this new technology and also to empower them to take the risks which are necessary to succeed. Of course, given the tight margins in most engineering disciplines, such human resource development will be slow. The engineering companies that will succeed in the next 20+ years are the ones that will invest today; those companies scrimping after every penny today will be forgotten.

I'm generally quite positive about the use of new technology as I expect it will reduce the monotonous aspects of engineering (think how much time you spend copy+pasting, etc.) and I don't expect to be replaced by a robot.

To summarise: the Luddites were proven wrong, just as neo-Luddites will be.

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

I often find myself disagreeing with zdas04 but he is absolutely correct about “good enough”. That’s the transition point between a designer and an engineer. Many years in consulting honed that concept, but I still find it quite useful after a decade plus in the electric utility business.

I analyze events (among other things) and find that others either stop way too soon (mostly) or wind up with paralysis by analysis. There’s a middle ground of finding the interesting/useful results quickly without ratholing.

It also seems to be something immune to being replaced by some AI system. If we could have predicted that particular outcome we would have avoided it. Far too many variables for some AI to sort out.

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Sitting in a freshman orientation at an all male engineering college in 1960, they told to us not only look at the guy to the left, right, in front, behind etc., but also....

the difference between a mathematician (scientist) and an engineer:
A mathematician and an engineer are instructed that behind the door is a room with a beautiful girl. At each one minute interval they will be permitted to halve the distance to a beautiful girl.
The mathematician laments, “I shall never reach her!”
The engineer exclaims, “I shall soon be close enough!”

BTW, my alma mater is no longer all male.

Skip,

glassesJust traded in my OLD subtlety...
for a NUance!tongue

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

The future of engineering is the future of technology. IMHO it will continue much like it always has, higher levels of technology will continually be pushed to lower levels and those companies and individuals at lower levels who cant keep up will struggle to survive or be pushed out of the profession. Many have already moved to mostly auto-generated/updated prints as mentioned, FEA and CFD analysis are being pushed from engineering into other depts, and AI is being used as the sanity check of the engineer rather than vice-versa. As time goes on I'm sure we'll see new niches develop and old niches become commonplace, I also wouldn't be surprised in the least to see some of our historically separate segments combine around common software and methods such as mechanical and structural design.

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

I've been following with interest companies like Arup who are adopting AI/automation technology to enhance engineering. Advancements in topology optimization and 3D structural printing have allowed engineers to produce some really cool alien-looking structures that would otherwise be impossible to design and construct (unless your name is Antoni Gaudí). I'm not afraid of being replaced by intelligent automation, but I can definitely see it becoming a valuable tool in the engineer's arsenal helping us push forward into new frontiers.

Examples: Link Link Link Link




RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Here's a video showing an example of design shape optimization, which is already available in at least one commercial CAD software package:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XFNT6GSxz8

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

If you think shape optimisation is AI then I've got a bridge to sell you. Nice to see 35 year old techniques actually getting traction in the structural engineering world (first automagically shape optimised FEA part I'm aware of was ca 1980).

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Perhaps, but these tools are now being integrated into the applications being used every day by most engineers. And while this may not be true AI, it does represent the next step forward in the merging of modeling and analytical tools, leveraged so as to give engineers and designers a more practical and easier to use development platform.

That being said, I would like to make one comment with respect to why this took 35 years.

But first note that model optimization has been creeping into the design world for some time. Granted, it would be misleading to refer to what has been available for at least 10 or 15 years as 'shape optimization'. Instead, we have had something we often referred to as 'geometric optimization' which was based on a combination of analytic and mathematical methods using the parametric nature of an initial solid model, however the topology of the final model was almost always unchanged, just that the size of the basic features were altered to meet some criteria, usually a combination of strength and weight targets. However, what has changed recently is the advent of 3D Printing, where it's now possible to manufacture components which just a few short years ago would have been virtually impossible to create. This is the real catalyst in this formula, which while it had nothing to do with actually making these 'shape optimization' tools work, it has made them practical in terms of being able to create models which can now be physically realized at a reasonable cost.

And lets not forget that having access to powerful compute engines at what, compared to 35 year ago, are basically 'supercomputers' at commodity prices, has also made many of these new design and modeling tools even possible for virtually any engineer working for a small to medium sized company.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

If <100 lines of code is AI then everything is AI. I wrote my own about 17 years ago as the commercial ones at the time that I had access to didn't deal with beam elements. Optistruct must have been available long before then, fully integrated into Hyperworks, which is a program used by real engineers that runs on PCs.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Here's a bit of fun. Somebody puts a bit of code together that works out where the boundaries of a property are based on a verbal description and a satellite map. The Mississippi board of engineers decides that this rather banal piece of code is doing an engineer's job.

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/07/if-an-...

Well I guess we've now defined the sphere of competence for Mississippi Engineers...

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

GregLocock,

I like how the software is described as "drawing polygons on satellite photos". I would guess that at some point, surveyors are expert witnesses in a court of law. The profession requires peer review and regulation. Practising surveying has to be perceived by the courts as "yes you are", or "no you are not", in spite of the fact that there is a grey area. This software definitely is on it.

I observe that the lawyers taking this case on are libertarians. We have recently had this discussion. thread765-424265: Fined by the city for claiming to be an engineer - Suing on grounds of free speech. Hard core libertarians will argue that professional engineers and surveyors societies are guilds, that they are conspiring against the public to maximize their incomes, and that the free market will provide protection to the public far better than government regulation.

--
JHG

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Oh, jeez, I've been in violation of that law every time I put down KMZ or KML entity into Google Earth! Yikes!

But, then again, has Zillow or Redfin been sued by any state? They do the same thing on every single property viewed every day. That's got to worth millions in a suit.

I think the Mississippi board has made a serious mistake. By claiming that a computer program can do surveying, they've essentially affirmed that their entire purview is bogus, since it means that anyone could survey and they don't require any special training, testing, or other qualifications to do so. This essentially nullifies their raison d'etre, because they've essentially posited that it's not possible to regulate nor enforce the law.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Yup, that was my take. I brought it up because it is AI to some extent (parsing verbal descriptions and trying to reconcile objective (GPS) locations with traditional measurements from uncertain baselines) while on the other side of the fence are the buggy whip manufacturers trying to defend their monopoly in the age of autos. Having been through the process of trying to get my local land office to define exactly which bit of the ground my house is on is owned by me, I have some cynicism when it comes to dragging surveying into the 21st century. FWIW I was on a team that established the calibration points for the first British GPS receiver, so I'm not exactly clueless when it come to surveying.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

I think there's still possibly some merit to classical land surveying, i.e., going into the field with DGPS/RTK, theodolites/transits, chains, and poles, to do actual measurements. That requires at least some level of training and skill and about $30k worth of decent equipment. Most satellite imagery isn't positionally accurate enough to challenge easements or boundaries, particularly on large parcels, as there's some level of distortion and error in the georectification process. Google Earth's accuracy falls rapidly the farther you get from the 1st world. There were a bunch islands in Polynesia or Micronesia that formed their own ground control point surveying database, because Google Earth is as much as 10 meters off on in those locations.

Mississippi's law is overly broad, as they attempted to capture any possible way of interpreting "practice of surveying."

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

WARNING: This is posted purely for it humor value winky smile

This discussion concerning whether you need to physically survey something so as to know exactly where it is, this reminds me of the book 'Lake Wobegon', by Garrison Keller, and his explanation for why people can never seem to find the village of Lake Wobegon on any maps of Minnesota. The item below gives a somewhat abbreviated story of Lake Wobegon, but with respect to the issue of not being able to find the village on a map, that's covered in the 4th paragraph. BTW, a much more lengthy explanation is include in the book which goes into excruciatingly hilarious detail as to exactly what led to the 'error' that resulted in Lake Wobegon being so hard to find today.

http://www.garrisonkeillor.com/national-geographic...

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Hah, not chains, but laser rangefinders...

On the ground, you can get centimeter-level or lower, uncertainty, not something that's achievable, yet, with satellite data, considering the best commercial imagery available only has about 30-cm resolution.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Locally you might get that good, but globally the error was about the size of a football, using standard techniques. One of your main problems is baselines. In the UK that is solved by using trig points, which span the mainland in some detail. They are accurate, among themselves, to about 3mm.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Sort of related, but despite the location tools used by contractors, we still have people dig into underground power lines. And the lines haven't moved very much, but the maps seem to sometimes show that the lines have moved.

So what is the deal with the survey?

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Well, that presumes that the lines were laid when high quality/precision location data existed, and that the contractors didn't fudge. In any large city, most pipes and whatnot predate even GPS itself.

And, yes, things could possibly have moved. The constant extraction of water from the water table has drastically changed the underground landscape in many cities. Sinkholes are symptomatic of huge amounts of dirt being moved elsewhere.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

I could understand the need for manually surveying when issues arise and accuracy within a foot or so is necessary, but I've never understood the logic of using metes and bounds vs the global grid.

As for the location of buried infrastructure, I've lived in several towns and smaller cities that kept no records of their infrastructure's location. Is the sewer in front or behind my house?.....Let me send someone out to try and locate a manhole or probe the ground. Never attribute to malice....

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Until the about 1500 years ago, cities grew by simply building on top of existing infrastructure, so the idea of needing to find sewer lines for replacement or to avoid them to place something else didn't make sense. It's only in the satellite age that we have needed a global grid, but almost all of our infrastructure is based on datums established well before GPS and the WGS84 geoid existed. Just about any country that's needed surveying has tended to create their own datums to make life easier for themselves, but that makes it difficult to figure out where everything is, relative to global coordinates. I still see references to NAD27.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

I recall a story from another engineer who was operating an ROV in a sewer line, and came across a ground rod through the sewer pipe. My only comment was that we had a good ground connection.

However, the GPS thing dos not work in underground spaces. The fact that surface features has changed does not make identifying locations easier.

Then there is the locations of old mines, pipes, and foundations that make things difficult. And yes we have left foundations out their for someone to find.

RE: Future of Engineering Jobs & Automation

Quote (djs)

That being said, in my field (Instrumentation and Control), there has been a steady decline in the quality and quantity of engineer on the PE level. More and more is being left to the contractor and systems integrator. This is combination with specifications which are very vague usually does not go smoothly.

I lead with my experience and PE only to learn I'm competing with contractors or SIs, who have familiarity thus are hard to work around or with. Those are interesting dynamics to watch, in my opinion.

I don't think automation is going to have a bad effect on engineering. I think it has and will have a positive effect.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

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