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Am I doing the right thing
19

Am I doing the right thing

Am I doing the right thing

(OP)
I'm a new engineer at a small company which really isn't set up for engineering work. It's mostly a job shop, manufacturing parts that have been engineered by larger companies. They have been awarded a couple of contracts over the past decade, but there isn't a significant amount of experience doing internal engineering projects. I was hired in May after graduating from university, and I was brought into a project that was nearing the end of the design phase. Now it's going out for product certification testing. The CEO and lead engineer (who doesn't have any formal engineering training) is guiding me on this project. If we just focus on the project at hand, there are quite a lot of things he's doing and asking me to do that I don't feel ethically stable on. For example, our customer's approved qualification testing plan document specifically states that all of the units we send to be tested must be production quality units. However, most of the detail parts and subassemblies that make up the final unit are test parts that were made as design validation, not made through the proper methods of tracking material and parts used, having quality inspection buy-off on all stages of the process, etc. We're doing all that now, after everything has already been completed, which leads to a lot of guesswork (we can't verify hardware lot number, for example, so we just pick one that was ordered around the time we think the units were assembled). These certainly aren't production quality units to me.

Another example of this is minimum electrical clearance on electrical assemblies (for the same product I discussed above). We're performing high voltage tests at 1000 V through the unit to ensure there aren't short/open circuits anywhere. I calculated MEC based on IPC-A-610, and there is a part of the design which violates MEC for 1000 V. However, operating voltage is 200 V, and MEC isn't violated at that level. I was instructed to not worry about it because MEC is for operating voltage, not testing voltage, even though the document states "rated voltage" (which to me is whatever our tests run at) as the basis for MEC.

All of this comes down to us being late for certification testing. The unit was supposed to be sent for testing weeks ago, but that kept getting pushed back because of design changes and manufacturing. So it seems like instead of admitting fault and doing it right, the lead engineer wants to try to figure out a way around the system to make the incorrect design work.

Am I right to be concerned about all of this? I feel like the whole situation is unethical, but I don't have a very solid footing for making an argument against it to my boss. I keep getting told this is how it's done all the time in industry. Yesterday I told myself I was going to look for a new job. But I wonder if I'm being rash and getting worked up about nothing. Please share your advice

RE: Am I doing the right thing

LOOK FASTER...

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: Am I doing the right thing

I'd also keep looking. Don't blow the whistle or burn any bridges yet, but something tells me your opinions wont be respected and that this will slow your engineering career progress at a minimum.

Ian Riley, PE, SE
Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries https://www.facebook.com/AmericanConcrete/

RE: Am I doing the right thing

dvanommen,

By the sound of it, the nearest thing to a licensed professional engineer at your place is you. Trial and error is not the best way to learn engineering, especially if safety is involved. You are at the stage of your career when you want to be mentored by a professional you trust and admire.

What do the documents your customer is receiving say? If they say your system is rated to 1000V, then your boss is lying. If they say 200V, then your boss is not lying. I am a mechie, and I do not understand safety factors in the electrical world. Factors of safety are also sometimes called factors of ignorance. You, as a recent college grad, are ignorant.

--
JHG

RE: Am I doing the right thing

(OP)
Thank you all for your input so far. drawoh, you're right that I'm the closest thing to a licensed PE here. In fact, I'm the third current employee who serves as an engineer, and only the second employee who has formal engineering training from a university. Unfortunately, trial and error has been what I've done every day I've been employed here.

I recognize my ignorance in this matter. As you said, I need to be mentored by someone I trust. Unfortunately, due to conversations I've had with my supervisor (the ceo), I can't trust him. The only other engineer in the company is his brother, so how much can I trust him either?

I believe there are some points of reconciliation I've come to on the matter of the design of this particular product. However, the larger issue of trust looms. I can't work at a company where I don't trust the only other people who give me instruction in how to be an engineer. I've come as far as to draft a letter of resignation detailing my concerns, but I haven't sent it yet. It's a big decision to make, and I still don't know if it's the right decision. The product in question is going to certification testing tomorrow, and they've asked me to be the "quality and engineering signoff" on the test documents stating that the test is done per specification. However, I can't sign that document if I'm not comfortable with how the unit was manufactured.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

I agree with JohnRBaker, look quickly for a new place to work. Possibly another bit of motivation to get out: I don't know where you're working, but as far as I know, anywhere in the US, you have to work under the supervision of a licensed P.E. to become a P.E.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

I wouldn't sign the test documents unless the actual extent of the testing, the voltage that passed the test, etc. are detailed in the documents. If the way it was done is really ok, then it shouldn't be a problem to have it documented. Otherwise, you're potentially certifying a fraudulent document, which is not only an ethical problem, but legal one that could cost you much more than just a few paychecks.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

dvanommen,

Can you write up the document you are going to sign? I understand this is a professional engineering issue. You write up and state you observed assembly serial number 0012 on such and such a date, you describe the test and you describe the results. If the customer is looking at serial number 0155 sixth months later, they can read between the lines. This accounts for the near certainty that you are not in charge of production.

--
JHG

RE: Am I doing the right thing

(OP)
That is a separate conversation I'll have to have with the lead. As far as I understand it, these documents are already written, and I am simply signing "pass/fail" on the face of the document. I was already uneasy about being asked to be the witness to the test because I haven't been involved in the design of the unit save for the last few weeks, and I don't understand how the unit operates. I voiced my opinion that I'm not the best fit, but I was assured that someone with any technical understanding would be able to visually verify the test was set up and performed correctly.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

"...I was assured that someone with any technical understanding would be able to visually verify the test was set up and performed correctly."

Perhaps you have too much technical understanding, which they didn't anticipate when looking for a scapegoat.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

So... why are you staying?

RE: Am I doing the right thing

I would write an honest report, detailing the tests that were done, which units were tested, the outcome of the tests, etc. and sign that report, but I would not sign a fraudulent report. If they fire you for that, it'll be a slam dunk when you sue them for wrongful termination.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Don't sign the pre-written document. Sign your own version of it that tells it like it is. What that document needs to say, is up to you. It needs to be the factual truth, whatever that may be.

"Production quality" units doesn't necessarily mean "production" units ... just the "same" as the production units. In my world (automotive) that means dimensionally the same and made of the same materials etc but not necessarily built using the production tooling and automation equipment. If you need to state that in your document ... by all means. If you don't know a serial number, that blank gets filled in "N/A". If you know a range of serial numbers but not the exact one ... explain it. Tell it like it is.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Quote (HotRod)

I don't know where you're working, but as far as I know, anywhere in the US, you have to work under the supervision of a licensed P.E. to become a P.E.

If he is in aerospace as his title signifies then he really doesn't need a PE stamp, he needs to be a designated engineering representative under the FAA (AFAIK). Not sure what that entails but it's not under a state licensing board.

Ian Riley, PE, SE
Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries https://www.facebook.com/AmericanConcrete/

RE: Am I doing the right thing

That's interesting, TME. I didn't know it was that different in the aerospace industry.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

2
When you feel it necessary to write CYA diaries and disclaimers to protect yourself from your employer's actions, it's past time to go.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Quote (HotRod)

That's interesting, TME. I didn't know it was that different in the aerospace industry.

Yeah, that's why a lot of people grumbled about the fine for the guy who wrote a letter about traffic light timing to state licensing board and signed that he was an engineer (he never claimed to be a professional engineer or to be practicing engineering). There are plenty of industries where an engineer is not necessarily licensed by a state board (automotive and aerospace probably the most prevalent).

</tangent>

Ian Riley, PE, SE
Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries https://www.facebook.com/AmericanConcrete/

RE: Am I doing the right thing

dvanommen
Are you producing ground support equipment ,or are you producing flight articles.

You say " Now it's going out for product certification testing." by whom ? The FAA or some other entity?

Is this going to be a part produced under a TSO ?
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

HotRod10,

In aerospace, there are Designated Airworthiness Representatives (DARs) to sign stuff off as safe. Unlike civil engineering, there is a lot of capability to test stuff before it gets used and trusted.

I have just finished a contract with a manufacturer of entertainment products. Stuff has been designed and rigorously tested, and is now being signed off on by professional engineers who either did the testing, or carefully watched it. They are trusting production to build what was designed. Here is a photograph of the cash register in the cafeteria.

--
JHG

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Interesting how provisions for public safety are handled differently in various industries. I thought others were similar to civil/structural, but apparently not. I guess it makes sense to do things differently when you're producing many of the same item, unlike where we usually only produce a few (or one) of a particular design. Overall, the different approaches all seem to work fairly well, as the death rate from engineering failures is very low across the board.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

(OP)
Thank you all for your feedback and guidance on this issue. I made the choice to leave the company on short notice. I wasn't able to move forward with the project at hand knowing how it was being processed, and even beyond that particular project, there were quite a lot of issues I had with motives behind how the company was being run. So I didn't see any benefit in continuing there any longer. It wasn't the easiest choice to make but I know it was the right choice. So thank you again for helping me get to that point.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

(OP)
I have to ask, now, if anyone is aware of any entry level opportunities for mechanical engineers in the Wichita, KS area, please let me know. I have applications out already to 6 different companies, but any other options I can look into, I certainly will. My interests are largely in aviation, but I'm skilled at mechanical design for other applications as well.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Hopefully they 'get' why you left, somehow I think they think it was you with the issues though. Good decision.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Dvanommen,

I started writing my answer before reading all the way... now I see you've quit already. Hopefully my answers below still stand, and are helpful. Best of luck to you, and I hope your next employer is better organized. It's best to land in a fairly structured environment when you are early in your career. Then you can see a process "that works".

I have done a lot of aero product tests. Conformity to design is crucial. Early in my career I let a few tests get delayed when inspection caught discrepancies. It was usually an error on the drawing (my drawing!), but still, I don't ever want that to happen to me again.

To underline, perhaps a bit too starkly, an 8130 Form is a legal document. To forge or sign one falsely is therefore a _____. You get my drift. Clearly no one in that company was actually authorized to sign one or had any clue what it means. This document tells you who does.

Lots of aviation companies to choose from in Wichita. Bombardier, Hawker/Beech, Textron and Cessna all have a big presence there. That said... are you willing to relocate? The majority of aero engineering projects done in the US (and Canada, hint hint) are not done by the OEM's but subcontracted or carried out for owners/operators doing their own thing. There are engineering organizations in every major city on the continent.

No one believes the theory except the one who developed it. Everyone believes the experiment except the one who ran it.
STF

RE: Am I doing the right thing

You ultimately decide upon the environment you want to work in, however I'd caution against letting this group get you too worked up on this matter as many here bounce between both extremes on ethical matters. Given the limited info in this thread I dont see any ethical issues. When customers specify "production quality" units for testing they're typically not looking for traceability to the n^th degree bc testing will usually destroy products, they simply want a production released product rather than risk wasting their time and test dollars on an in-development project. In many cases, customer design specs are also over-defined leading to handshake/gentlemen's/etc agreements on acceptability criteria after an engineering spec review. Much as I hate rules of thumb in engineering, a good one for business is that most companies are overconstrained by requirements and process. Here in the auto industry for example I'd wager no vehicle has ever been built to meet every one of a major car company's design requirements and often not even the govt's. As to signing certification or other legal documents, they're commonly prepared by either a test technician or other engineer, don't sweat them unless the boss asks you to lie after the fact. Review them, strikethrough and initial the errors, write-in/correct and initial as necessary, and sign the document you're comfortable with. Rarely will you ever sign a "perfect" document.

Unless you've resigned already I'd suggest sticking it out at least a full year or until you encounter an actual ethical challenge or other valid reason to leave. After a year or two you can claim "learned the job, bored, no room for advancement" and be somewhat believable. Leaving after only a few months seems flaky to most hiring managers and 3rd-4th quarter hiring is often slow. If you have left already I'd advise caution when asked why. From limited info it doesnt sound like you've actually encountered an ethical issue, bottom line is you left bc you didnt trust an established company in a small city, likely a small niche that others will know and/or contact.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

2
(OP)
I understand that I've put myself in an awkward situation with future employers. It looks bad (or, at the very least, questionable) to see someone quit spontaneously after two months of working his first job in the industry. However, what it came down to for me is that I wasn't comfortable with what I was being asked to do, and I wasn't comfortable with the proposed solutions. There is a professional code of ethics and a personal one, and if something violates my personal beliefs of how a job should be run, I can't get past that. That's not how I want to perform in my engineering career, and so whether the issue at hand was a serious ethical problem or not for the industry, it doesn't align with my own sense of right and wrong. There's a place for being able to deviate from your design, and as far as I see it, that is only when it is a purely internal project with no buy-in from any third party customer. If another customer has given specifications on how a project should be handled, there should be no deviation from those requirements without prior approval from that customer and all paperwork in order before moving forward.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

dvanommen,
If asked by another prospective employer why you quit , just tell them you refused to sign off on a non conforming part. Depending on the culture of the company you are applying at it will assist you in getting hired , If it does not , you don't want to work for them anyway.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

dvanommen,

If you tell someone you refused to sign off marginally ethical paperwork, and they hire you, they are the people you want to work for.

--
JHG

RE: Am I doing the right thing

(OP)
Thanks for the encouragement, berkshire and drawoh

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Quote:

There's a place for being able to deviate from your design, and as far as I see it, that is only when it is a purely internal project with no buy-in from any third party customer. If another customer has given specifications on how a project should be handled, there should be no deviation from those requirements without prior approval from that customer and all paperwork in order before moving forward.

In a perfect world I would agree but reality is rarely perfect. More often than not you'll find all manner of issues with customers, colleagues, and managers that prevent this. If I had a nickel for every last minute design change made bc of a two-person conversation with no documentation that didnt involve a working-level engineer...

Unless you were explicitly asked to falsify paperwork or do something that's genuinely unethical then I would forget any further mention of ethics and move on. Empty accusations are a serious matter and most hiring managers will immediately start digging to see if they're true to protect their employer and themselves from the possibility of future accusations against them. Scarily enough, empty accusations are actually pretty common today.

Good luck regardless.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

I'd agree entirely with CWB1. I was in a somewhat similar position when i started out and at times did feel I was taking a bit of a gamble but I stuck with the company for a few years and learnt a lot. For me the key issue is that it is a small company, in order to survive and grow they have to take the lowest cost, fastest, easiest route to deliver and often that means taking calculated risks with loose interpretations of customer requirements. You are right not to sign anything that would be legally compromising however the CEO knows the industry and customers better than you, he knows where the legal and ethical boundaries are and where he can push on them. Ultimately it is his company, his risk.

There are many important safety critical procedures and documentation required in NPI in all industries but there is also an awful lot of BS and red tape, I found the experience in a small company helps you workout how to cut through a lot of the BS. That is experience and now-how I have seen lacking in many 'big business' engineers.

That all said, when it comes to career advice, my advice is always trust your gut. It sounds like this company wasn't right for you so you made the right decision. As for moving forward, be honest but not too specific eg - "I realised the company wouldn't take my career in the right direction, no experienced engineer mentor, no training opportunities etc" and even take some responsibility for the failure "I should have done more to research the company - lesson learned - that's why I am applying to you now etc." Having interviewed many engineers myself I find a little self-deprecating honesty makes someone appear more trustworthy. Best of luck and remember, what is for you won't go by you

RE: Am I doing the right thing

"You are right not to sign anything that would be legally compromising however the CEO knows the industry and customers better than you, he knows where the legal and ethical boundaries are and where he can push on them. Ultimately it is his company, his risk."

Unless he just hires inexperienced, unsuspecting people to be a patsies if something fails with catastrophic results.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Someone close to me left an HR job over ethical concerns. When asked in the next job interview why she left on short notice, she just said she left for ethical reasons and left it at that. It shows that she was uncompromising where it counts and also was not willing to air a former employer's dirty laundry with others. She got the job.

dvanommen, let us know how the job situation turns out. I think it would be encouraging for the rest of us to hear a happily-ever-after story after standing your ground on ethics. Thanks for doing the right thing.

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

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Just to point something out. rated voltage = highest operating voltage, not the insulation test voltage or any other higher level test voltage. So 200V wass correct in the example you gave.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

"drawoh, you're right that I'm the closest thing to a licensed PE here" So you're not licensed, then?

If you're not licensed, then there is no concern with sealing something you don't feel comfortable with...Oh well, you already quit so it's a moot point.

What's the deal with all these rookie engineers taking jobs at non-engineering companies and then wondering if they should do this or that for ethical reasons? If you want to be an engineer, go work for an engineering firm, get mentored, get licensed, get some more experience and then go be "head engineer" at some non-engineering company. Or better yet, keep working with an engineering firm. This kind of thing pops up all the time on this forum.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

What is there to get over? There is more to engineering ethics than just how you feel about it. In fact, ethics can be very grey, hence the OP's dilemma. Perhaps you are the engineer that needs to get over self (no PE?). Some formal ethics training and mentor-ship from experienced engineers (usually a PE would be preferable given the personal weight carried with the license) will get you further than your gut.

Now if you are suggesting that we all concern ourselves with the entirety of the ethics of the companies where we work (accounting, environmental, HR, political, etc.), than I guess a PE is not relevant. If you are an engineer concerning yourself with engineering functions, then a PE, on average, would be better at coaching ethics than a non-PE. That's just facts of life, not a personal thing I need to get over.

Furthermore, having mentor-ship for technical applications would help the rookie engineer better understand the real safety risks involved in a situation. Totally no need for a PE in an exempt industry here. But working for an exempt industry with other experienced engineers around and being a lone engineer wolf in a contractor shop are two totally different situations. This is more to my point, but somebody got sensitive...

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Quote:

If you're not licensed, then there is no concern with sealing something you don't feel comfortable with...
What's the deal with all these rookie engineers taking jobs at non-engineering companies and then wondering if they should do this or that for ethical reasons? If you want to be an engineer....

No, there's no concern over sealing anything with a nonexistent stamp however there is always the concern that folks may do something unethical such as signing a false statement and end up in a heap of legal trouble.

What's the deal with folks assuming PEs are the only engineers held accountable for their ethics and actions?

RE: Am I doing the right thing

PE's tend to interface with the public more than exempt industries. So ethics is just more part of daily dealings PE's. No way I am going to tell a non PE anything since they know as much and probably more about ethics than PE's. But that is just my uninformed opinion.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

PEs tend to work in industries with fairly little regulation on projects impacting relatively few people, so their work and ethics arent nearly as critical nor as likely to be challenged. They also tend to work at smaller firms where training often isnt a high priority. Non-PEs OTOH make up the majority of highly regulated industries, often with high volume products where ethics are held to the highest standards out of necessity and ethics training is often the best. I'd wager that the usual 4-8 hour online introductory ethics course most junior engineers take is better training than most PEs could put together, nvm the in-person 40 hour corporate refresher taught by the attorneys.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

See, I just knew I knew less about ethics than a non-PE.

So OP, and all rookie engineers - make it a goal to be the sole engineer at a contractor shop since industry exempt engineers have better ethics training.

I think that is the point that you guys are trying to make?

RE: Am I doing the right thing

"PEs tend to work in industries with fairly little regulation on projects impacting relatively few people..."

Relatively few people? Really? How many people work in buildings designed by a PE? How many people live in structures designed by a PE? How many people drive over or under bridges every day designed by a PE? It seems that covers nearly everyone.

It may be true that PEs don't spend as much time in ethics training as others, but perhaps it's because they're reminded of their ethical responsibilities every time they put their stamp on, and take responsibility for, something that people's lives depend on to function properly.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Quote (Terratek)

See, I just knew I knew less about ethics than a non-PE.

Me, too. And our limited scope of work.

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

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Actually it's an interesting point that some engineers that work in exempt industries help develop products that affect a larger number of people than any single one of my thousands of projects.

So lets play the game of making confident, uniformed (dumb) statements about what each other's jobs entail. Most of these exempt engineers work under corporate policies which strip one's personal choice to the extent that it would be difficult to make ethical bloopers. These are industries with heavy regulations in which big brother has already made critical decisions for the company and the engineers that work there. These engineers are forced to sit through countless hours of expensive but mind numbingly, non-engaging, non-relevant ethics training regarding situations they will rarely,if ever, see solely so the corporation can say they have extensive ethics training for liability purposes. Only the top level, very small percent of engineers are engaged in ethical decisions.

I'd say the above fictional statement is on par with CBW1's fictional statement.


RE: Am I doing the right thing

Terratek,

The OP has clearly identified himself as a recent graduate with no professional engineer co-workers, i.e. not a professional engineer.

Quote (dvanommen)


drawoh, you're right that I'm the closest thing to a licensed PE here

That is the whole point of the quote. Somebody somewhere may be assuming that a recent college graduate is just as good as a professional engineer. This may be due to ignorance, or it may be they have learned from experience that professional engineers won't sign off on this crap. OP is quite correctly not buying it.

Not being a professional engineer does not relieve the OP of the responsibility to act ethically. It just eliminates the consequences of peer review.


--
JHG

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Quote:

Relatively few people? Really? How many people work in buildings designed by a PE? How many people live in structures designed by a PE? How many people drive over or under bridges every day designed by a PE? It seems that covers nearly everyone.

Relatively few people live or work in any given structure, so yes, the specific PE(s) who designed it are impacting relatively few people. An extremely small project for me sees a couple hundred units produced and sold to the public annually, most are in the hundreds of thousands annually. Over a career, that's a helluva lot of potentially injured customers and lawyers who might dig into whether/not I did my diligence, conducted the required peer reviews, or otherwise violated my ethics.

Quote:

Only the top level, very small percent of engineers are engaged in ethical decisions.

Grossly incorrect. Many (most?) of us face ethical decisions daily signing off on safety or other critical design and testing while balancing the usual shortage of both time and budget.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

2
"An extremely small project for me sees a couple hundred units produced and sold to the public annually, most are in the hundreds of thousands annually."

I'll bet everything you do is tested, reviewed, tested some more, reviewed by several more people, etc. before those 200,000 units ever go into production.

I don't have the luxury of being able to test my designs before it gets built - it has to be right the first time, or people could lose their lives. If the designer of a skyscraper cuts corners and doesn't do his due diligence, thousands of lives are at risk. The responsibility falls squarely on the guy who put his stamp on the design.

The point is, all engineers have a responsibility to safeguard public safety. Certain things, especially those that cannot be tested and verified, require qualified and licensed people to take responsibility at each phase. I stamp my design, taking responsibility for the adequacy design. My squad leader stamps the plans, taking responsibility that those plans accurately reflect the design. The field engineer stamps the as-built drawings, taking responsibility that the construction was done in accordance with the plans. If it fails, a determination will be made as to what one person is responsible. The adequacy of the design, and the consequences of a failure of that design, and the lives that could be lost, rest squarely on my shoulders. I don't need to take some class in ethics to remind me of my duty, I just have to look at that stainless steel ring on my little finger, and feel that knot in the pit of my stomach every time I put the seal with my name on it and my signature on a set of design calculations, to know what's riding on my ethics.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

"it would be difficult to make ethical bloopers"

Blooper sounds more like accidents, but most times, it's not an accident. I once had a shouting match with my GM because he wanted to hide some bad test results and continue shipping; I promptly prepared my Pearl Harbor email, and luckily, a GIDEP alert was issued a couple days later anyway, so we had to stop shipments until the problem got fixed. Same company once had months of DOA parts returned because a test manager needed to make his month, so he had a technician wire the testers to always pass parts. A big company is simply bigger, we're still creatures of free will and can make decisions as bad as any made in a small company.

A famous case about 20 years ago involved Boeing, where an engineer found that their competitor had left a proprietary presentation at Boeing, after a customer meeting. Silly engineer had to go and read the VERY clearly marked presentation with his manager, thereby almost eliminating Boeing from the competition.

An older famous case involved Northrop's engineers buying unqualified parts and falsifying test results; Northrop was fined $17 million dollars and lost out on a later contract that they had already spent millions chasing that should have been a slam dunk.

Of course, after that, we started getting annual ethics training and refreshers.

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: Am I doing the right thing

As I stated, my comment was a fictional stupidity, just like CBW1's comment.

The only reason this got sparked off is that gregLock got hurt because he interpreted my statement as some slight against non-licensed engineers. Quite frankly, I don't deal with exempt industry people, so I tend to just take if for granted that engineers get licensed. The OP's situation is certainly one in which the licensing is relevant. And even if it wasn't, I still think it is silly for rookies to go work for contractor shops where there is no mentor-ship.

I suppose if this conversation was face to face, this poop storm wouldn't have have happened. People are rude on the net just like they are when they're driving.

Next time the smallest of small time engineers helps you design your house, tell him that his job is unimportant because it only affects little old you.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Quote:

I'll bet everything you do is tested, reviewed, tested some more, reviewed by several more people, etc. before those 200,000 units ever go into production.

It varies by company and position but in general, unless we're developing a system with govt mandated testing then the decision of what to test and to what extent is largely up to the responsible engineer(s) for that project. Even in the case of govt mandated testing, testing tends to be rather limited/focused and leaves some massive holes that dangerous design can sneak through. In some cases there's enough overlap of knowledge and responsibility within the project team that these decisions are shared and peer reviews quickly conducted. In many more, resources are stretched thin and its up to the individual engineer to go back to their dept and give due diligence to holding reviews and scheduling testing. Its the usual struggle between time, money, and calculated risk, and managers IME put the decision-making on the engineer as they're generally too busy to know many specific details of each project.

I concur with your statement about ethical duty. My only personal nitpick (not with your statement) is when folks correlate a license with having a higher ethicacy, competency, liability, or are otherwise different than any other. IME those are all independent variables and may loosely correlate to an industry but not a license.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

"...what to test and to what extent is largely up to the responsible engineer(s) for that project."

My point is that the reason certain engineering areas are exempt from having designs approved by a PE is that the design is tested and verified to be adequate, usually using prototypes, before the product is mass produced and used by the public. There are typically no full-scale prototypes for bridges and buildings that can be tested, so the very first model has to be done right.

"...unless we're developing a system with govt mandated testing..."

Which is generally anything that carries a significant risk of death if it's not right.

As far as the risk to the public being supposedly higher in those industries where items are mass-produced for public use, consider that it doesn't take more than a few deaths from a defective product before the rest get recalled. OTOH, a poor design (or more often a poorly thought out change to the design) for buildings and bridges have cost dozens of lives. In one case over a hundred lives were lost from one seemingly insignificant change to a single component of a building design.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

4
Any engineer, PE or non-PE, who thinks their group has the market on ethics, is an arrogant fool with blinders on. To argue otherwise is putting your head in the sand.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Am I doing the right thing

So, just curious, since I don't actually know:

Are non-licensed engineers bound by the same laws promulgated by the state engineering board as licensed engineers? Do they face the same consequences? Can you legally title yourself engineer outside of you place of employment? Are you legally required to take continuing education classes? Do you have to have an accredited degree, several years of experience, prove a level of competency through exam, etc, etc.? Who regulates you other than your employer and common law?

Again, I am just curious. Since I do have a license, I don't concern myself with the rules for not being licensed. I was under the impression that a licensed PE would be held to a legally higher standard of ethics. you know, the additional set of laws that the state board has for licensed engineers. Not that one would necessarily have higher ethics, just that one would be held to a higher standard if something unfortunate were to occur. And it stands to reason that I would be more familiar with the laws that bind my license than someone who does not have a license. Otherwise, why do we even have licensing? According to exempt engineers on this board, licensing is irrelevant.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

You continue to confuse legal limitations with individual, personal choices. Just because a group is legally bound to provide an ethical decision process does not mean the other group does not use a similar process, as well... it simply means the members of the former group have a slightly better-defined path to punishment, nothing more.

And prefacing a statement with "just curious" when the previous intent of your statements has been pretty straightforward? I'm sorry, but that dog won't hunt...

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Terratek,

Can you please list for us the ethical behaviours that we not-professional engineers are not required to do? Is it okay if we lie, cheat, steal and endanger the public? I would hate to be doing ethical stuff for no good reason.

--
JHG

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Quote:

My point is that the reason certain engineering areas are exempt from having designs approved by a PE is that the design is tested and verified to be adequate, usually using prototypes, before the product is mass produced and used by the public. There are typically no full-scale prototypes for bridges and buildings that can be tested, so the very first model has to be done right.

I believe that in your world new materials, construction techniques, and other new technologies are typically developed by researchers in a lab before having relatively large safety factors applied to their application in the field. In mine, engineers commonly develop and apply the new technologies ourselves, usually rushing them into production after applying relatively tiny safety factors with minimal testing. Work "done right" is extremely efficient and heavily based upon FEA and other simulation, work applying the old overly conservative hand calcs and rules of thumb is often viewed as questionable along with the engineer's abilities due to waste (insert maintenance grumblings about cost reducing $0.10 worth of plastic here). Once decently understood here, technology is commonly handed off to non-engineers, many industrial artists, designers, and sales folks today are using FEA as a prescreen before reviewing proposed design changes or new products with an engineer. I cannot comment as to larger firms in your field, but IME the smaller ones seem decades behind the times on both technology and engineering ability, and they seem to be a significant portion of the industry. I really respect the innovators in your field as I suspect its rather difficult to be one, in mine engineers aren't doing too well unless they seriously innovate and are patented every few years.

Quote:

As far as the risk to the public being supposedly higher in those industries where items are mass-produced for public use, consider that it doesn't take more than a few deaths from a defective product before the rest get recalled.

I've worked in missile guidance, flight guidance, and now the auto industry. IIRC the 90s Ford Explorer tipovers killed ~80, crashed planes commonly kill that or more, and I dont care to think about missile failures bc I saw plenty of those while serving in the military.

Genuinely not trying to offend or put on airs in the least btw bc SE to ME-prod dev is a tough comparison, just trying to understand and learn more in my own, occasionally Sheldon Cooper'ish manner.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

drawoh, even the guy working the cash register at Walmart should not be doing these things. Is your point that everybody is apt to have the same level of ethical behavior? Are you arguing there is no point to licensing? Is it your opinion that requirements for maintaining a license don't deter engineers from swaying the wrong direction on gray decisions? That licensing requirements, in general, help to keep an entire industry more ethical than it would be without the extra legal requirements? If not for reinforcing ethical behavior, what is licensing for?

And if licensing does, in fact, help keep an entire industry in check, is it so crazy to think that, on average, the individual components of the industry (the licensed engineers) might be just a little more cognizant of their ethical responsibilities - again on average? God knows that any engineer who posts in this forum is white as snow, but lets talk about real life here.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

CWB1, your description of your industry makes it sound fairly haphazard, but somewhere in all of that, we end up with very few truly dangerous products in use by the public.

"...crashed planes commonly kill that or more..."

True, but plane crashes are rare, and crashes due to faulty engineering, even rarer. Faulty maintenance, yes, but faulty design? How many of those have there been?

"Genuinely not trying to offend or put on airs in the least..."

Same here.

"...SE to ME-prod dev is a tough comparison..."

Agreed. I wasn't necessarily trying to compare, so much as exploring the differences in how various industries handle safeguarding public safety.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

A licensing exam hardly guarantees ethical behavior. Doctors are licensed, yet there are plenty of doctors that break both their ethics rules and the law. The so-called doctor that was in charge of US Women's gymnastics team comes readily to mind.

Just this week was yet again another scandal mongering about Catholic priests that hid child abuse and blatant violation of their vows. These are people that spent a sizable portion of their lives studying and supposedly learning ethical behavior, took solemn vows to obey the laws of the Church and vows of celibacy.

Are you saying that licensed engineers are better than doctors or priests?

This conundrum is like certain statistics problems about tests that are not 100% accurate. The licensing exams are not intended to test ethical behavior; they are intended to verify a certain level of technical competence and knowledge. The whole PE structure was only intended to ensure that the public has access to competent engineers. If there are lots of unethical engineers, then there's bound to quite a few that get licensed. If unethical behavior is rare, then licensing doesn't do much. Obviously, the latter is most likely the case, since we know that unethical behavior is relatively rare, otherwise, our jail system would need 10x the capacity it has.

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: Am I doing the right thing

"A licensing exam hardly guarantees ethical behavior."

I don't see that anyone was arguing that it does. The licensing procedure is supposed to ensure the license holder is qualified in a certain design discipline, for which their PE stamp is the mark of responsibility. Some states are more prescriptive than others, though. Wyoming is one of the states where a PE in any discipline can put their stamp on anything they feel qualified and willing to take the responsibility for. Most other states require a Structural PE to stamp structural drawings, etc.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

With almost 40 years experience in Quality/Engineering and an owner of a overseas consulting company I can say ethics is a hard find in my Asia travels. All about the money.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Terratek,

I am imagining Joe the engineer, standing in an office with his hand out. A document drops into his hand. It his his professional engineer's license! There is a loud POOF, and all of a sudden, Joe knows everything, and he has become ethical!

There are all sorts of regulations out there requiring designs to be signed off by licensed professional engineers. A licensed professional engineer has had their credentials checked, and they have been peer reviewed, all of this formally, by qualified people. If you don't have the license, we don't know if you have the training and the ethics, and we probably are not well equipped to check this.

--
JHG

RE: Am I doing the right thing

oknow,

Are you dealing with everyone in Asia, or just the people who are cheaper than the folks from where ever it is you are from?

--
JHG

RE: Am I doing the right thing

drawoh,

I'll take your first statement as a funny visual and joke. I totally agree with your second statement and you have made my point better than me. As such, I don't think my advice to OP to take a licensing track is out of line - especially since the context of his situation seems to imply that licensing is relevant in his work. If you work in a field where licensing is prevalent, it seems to make sense that you seek engineering mentor-ship (including as related to ethics) form a PE rather than say, and EIT, or some-guy-that-does-stuff. This was not meant to be a slight to the unlicensed engineers who don't need to be licensed, but it sure got interpreted as such by greglocok. And in defense of myself, I have said some things that are unfair.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Drawoh

I have been to hundreds both very large and small. Should have stated that Japan ia an exception.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Neither extensive training in ethics, nor licensing, ensures an engineer will perform ethically in their job. Licensing, however, does provide a direct line of responsibility, in the event that a failure does occur. Having to seal designs or plans also provides, speaking for myself at least, a very obvious and unavoidable reminder that people's lives depend doing the job right.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Quote:

CWB1, your description of your industry makes it sound fairly haphazard, but somewhere in all of that, we end up with very few truly dangerous products in use by the public.

There's nothing really haphazard about it. For innovation to exist and also for anything to be done in a timely manner we need to enable employees by trusting them with the freedom to alter the standard process. In the case of exempt engineers their jobs are a matter of evolution, survival of the fittest rather than state or union protectionism. If an engineer isnt talented and ethical then they generally don't survive long in the exempt design world before their employer replaces them with someone who is. They don't need legal requirements for continuing education, every 3-5 years for most of their career these engineers are placed in a new role learning/developing new technology, new analytical methods, and the associated tribal knowledge. I will always encourage colleagues to seek any/all certifications and training from advanced degrees to licensure to trades courses as a benefit to themselves, but IMHO our current method of licensing stateside creates more potential issues than it resolves and does not result in a competent engineer. As to tracing a "direct line of responsibility," even before modern PLM systems prints had names and signatures on them as do other documents. At the end of the day, all engineers report to the same court for judgement of our work regardless of license.

RE: Am I doing the right thing

Not sure this has already been stated, but...

In a closely inter-linked aerospace business community... like the Wichita KS metro... the reputation of EVERY company and their managers and production staff is already a 'not-so-secret known quantity'. As a young engineer leaving a less than stellar company for 'higher ground' in the same community... I seriously doubt that much detail needs to be stated. Learn the lessons this job taught you and move-on.

An old adage in the mishap [accident] investigation world is worth restating... "What you don't say you don't have to take-back."

Other phrases/considerations relative to this are...

"You can't un-ring a bell."

"Did I just say that out-loud?" Is a question that may haunt you [as I have painfully discovered].

"Good humor can often diffuse a tense situation."

When writing about, or discussing, a sensitive/emotional matter... like this... WAIT! Cool-down, before hitting the 'send', 'submit post', 'talk' [etc] [button]. Your 'internal editor' will usually kick in and the 'final draft' [if there is one] is likely to be far superior to the hasty draft [hasty words]... including upgrades to basic grammar, spelling and the intonation of the words.

LL... Just saying...

Regards, Wil Taylor

o Trust - But Verify!
o We believe to be true what we prefer to be true. [Unknown]
o For those who believe, no proof is required; for those who cannot believe, no proof is possible. [variation,Stuart Chase]
o Unfortunately, in science what You 'believe' is irrelevant. ["Orion", Homebuiltairplanes.com forum]

RE: Am I doing the right thing

WKTaylor,

On my Linux computer at home, I use an email tool that features a [Send-Later] button. When you hit this, your email goes into a queue, and is only sent when you hit a general [Send] button. Up until I hit [Send], I can re-edit the email, or delete it. I selected this program because at the time, I needed the ability to process email off-line. I hit [Send] when I reconnected.

I have had cause to hit [Send-Later] because I wanted to spend twenty four hours thinking about my email. This was an unexpected capability.

--
JHG

RE: Am I doing the right thing

We've almost always had a 24-hr rule for any sort of technical result, simple because we often find that the solution, or, at least, the path to a solution reveals itself after some calm rational thought. Or the alternative, where some knucklehead GM decides to commit an entire production run on good results that are leter shown to be a fluke (BTDT; it cost the company $500k, back in 1986).

There's nothing worse than sending an email stating, "OMG, the sky is falling," only to find that you simply got hit on the head by a rock someone or something threw by accident.

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

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