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Why Are Engineers Reluctant to Change?

Jan. 27, 2016
While researching my latest feature regarding 3D computer-aided design (CAD) and its developing role in the cloud, I found the same story again and again...

While researching my latest feature regarding 3D computer-aided design (CAD) and its developing role in the cloud, I found the same story again and again: engineers and companies resistant to adopt it. While I can see reasons for holding off on something like using the cloud, it was bothering me that so many engineers were resistant to change. I started to think back upon my previous working experiences with engineers and the old saying is one of the dominant theories among engineering professionals: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

As I was doing research for my CAD feature, I discovered how many engineers expressed a dismissive behavior against the use of cloud services. Many called it unsecure, dangerous, and unreliable. The most common criticisms were about hackers and reliance on Internet connections. While I agree that hacking threats have increased and the Internet, while becoming faster, is unpredictable at times, it should not deter us from using the cloud. CAD in the cloud provides engineers with massive amounts of storage, greater computing power, and up-to-date software. Since the software is on the cloud, the cloud provider is in charge of security and providing software updates from the CAD developer. Companies do not need to rely on in-house services to maintain and repair failing software. So then the question becomes, why the push back?

The problem with accepting change or innovation is that it happens at a faster pace than production. Company ABC acquires a new project. They will start the project using software X and it will take five years. However, three years into the project, software Y is released. Company ABC does not want to invest in software Y. They feel that adapting software Y will slow them down and delay their project. They stay with software X. Now it is 10 years into the future and the company has taken on more projects. To stay on track, they have continued using software X and the current software has passed version Y and is onto version Z. This becomes a continuous cycle. Until companies are forced to use a new software, material, part, standard, etc., they will not adopt it for fear of losing productivity. In my experience, engineers don’t like to mess around with a set process. Getting a process or a part to work happens after several attempts of plugging and chugging away at different possible solutions. And once engineers know it works, they start using that solution in other places,compounding the problem.

I believe there are a few things we can do to help this problem. One is that innovations need to be more seamless. Whether it’s software, hardware, or standards, innovations should provide a level of backwards compatibility to help ease the transition. Second, companies should not push off change or innovations. A company can continue to use older technologies on existing projects; however, new projects should be promoted using new technologies. The last would be education. Engineers need to continue their education and ensure they are up-to-date with new technologies. The engineering profession does not require much continuing education and it is really up to the engineer to educate themselves. By staying current with the engineering progress, it will be easier to embrace the changes. 

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