Mechanical Engineering Consultants, Manufacturing Engineering Consultants and Improvements Specialists, Contract Engineering Services, Technical Staffing Services and Professional Employment Recruiters in Cincinnati and Dayton Ohio
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Articles, Case Studies, and Viewpoints for Technical Professionals

Case Studies 
 Flow Networks:  Fluid Network Design, Integration, and Tuning
 Industrial Design:  Successful New Products = Listening to Customer Comments + Generating New Ideas
Technical Articles 
 How to Prepare and Organize Technical Presentations
 Drafting Details:  Specifications and Tolerances
 Cyclic and Symmetric Boundary Conditions: The Benefits
 Preparation for Heat Transfer Analysis
 Bearings and Tribology Affect Inline Skating
Employment Related / General Articles
  Resumes 101: Guidelines for Completing, Revising, and Using Your Resume
 Tips and Tricks for Launching a Successful Job Search
 Professional Advancement Through Off Hours Research and Teaching
Viewpoints and News
Solid Modeling: Which Program is Best?
Trends in Employment
Economic Slowdown: When Will It End?
Current Professional Unemployment Rates

Solid Modeling: Which Program is Best?
by JM Tarpoff, PE, President

Parametric solid modeling programs such as UG, ProE, Ideas, SolidWorks, Solid Edge, Inventor, Alibre and others are here to stay. But, which one is the right one for your organization?

Parametric CAD programs began in the late '80s with Pro Engineer. They map component surfaces in such a way as to preserve the shape of the solid and allow "slicing", "milling", "boring", "extruding" and other manufacturing-type operations to be performed during the CAD drawing/design phase. They have revolutionized drafting into more of a design profession.

Most companies look at the special features that each of the solid modeling programs allow and compare them to those required in their business. For example, companies designing sheet metal parts and assemblies usually want the most capable sheet metal solid modeling package. Companies designing unusual surface shapes, as is required in the aerospace industry, prefer packages like Catia, the industry leader for drawing splined surfaces. Industries having assemblies made of hundreds of Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) parts as well as specialized parts require advanced configuration management control. Motion analysis and animation can be very important requirements.

Cost is important, too. Software provider responsiveness to known and discovered deficiencies is important. Associated training costs and the availability of CAD designers familiar with the software can also effect the overall cost of the decision.

Nearly all of the solid modeling programs port into popular Finite Element Analysis (FEA) tools. Most drawing formats can be ported into different solid modeling programs, as well. So, cost and functionality are the key aspects to be reconciled.

Most manufacturing companies in our region have used UG for many years. Recently, less expensive yet functionally comparable programs such as SolidWorks and Solid Edge have gained market share.

The best advice is to obtain short term (30 day) licenses and put each of the programs through a design process typical of your company. Compare the performances, software company assistance and cost. Then enjoy the confidence of your decision.


Trends in Employment
by JM Tarpoff, PE, President

According to recent industry trade publications, the staffing industry is growing by 3% per year on average (prior to the 2000 recession) with segments such as the IT and medical staffing growing at 6%+ per year. This shows companies are using technical staffers and engineering firms to fill more employment openings.

With trends like these you, the candidate, can be prepared in several ways:

First, understand what it means to you:

— Companies are increasingly using technical outsourcers to perform recruiting functions for them. This means that many good jobs are going to candidates who are "tried out" as temporary employees before being hired directly.

— Assignments may be short-term and not immediately lead to full-time direct employment with the customer especially in the IT profession. Whenever a field, in this case IT, changes rapidly requiring personnel with cutting-edge skills, contract labor flourishes. Couple that with short-term jobs like updating a specific feature of a software program and you'll have a recipe for contract staffing. Make the most of it by learning as many different hardware and software platforms as possible until the right long-term direct position opens for you.

— Learn to climb the "learning curve" rapidly on every assignment. Do what it takes, including spending your own time learning the customer's relevant operations, to be productive as soon as possible.

— Career training on your initiative must be considered ongoing in order to prepare for changes in your employment situation. If there are areas of expertise you would like to acquire, take the initiative to enroll in classes or arrange temporary "broadening" assignments with your current employer in other fields or closely related areas to your current field. If you feel like you are falling behind in your knoweledge, you probably need to work at staying up-to-date.

Second, understand what this means to your customer:

— Temporary staff allows companies to measure productivity better and to make smarter hiring decisions. Each piece of the organization is being analyzed for efficiency including how the pieces contribute to overhead. Successful managers have the highest productivity numbers, meaning larger amounts of work are done with fewer manhours. Cost measures really matter.

All this adds up to a shift in employment that I call Just-In-Time Employment. The best defense is to stay on top of the new developments in your in field, maintain a continuous training and professional development regiment, and to constantly strive for the highest level of productivity.


Economic Slowdown: When Will It End?
by JM Tarpoff, PE, President

A few factors to predict economic recovery:

  1. Reduction in Excess Manufacturing Capacity in dominant/large industries such as food processing, chemicals, autos and aerospace

    During the past 6-7 years, equipment used to manufacture everything from food and pharmaceuticals, chemicals and metals, autos and airplanes plus many others has been re-designed replaced or otherwise improved to such an extent that excess production capacity exists. Until these machines are worn out and taken out of service, companies will not be inclined to re-design and manufacture new ones. And to make matters worse, as demand for products made by the machines lessens, operating units will be side-lined until manufacturing output increases.

    Excess machine capacity appears to be the largest contributor to the continuing recession. It will take time to use up this capacity. As companies continue to purchase manufacturing machines made for less money over-seas, more time is required to reach a new balance of manufacturing equipment capacity. Additionally, when the price for American designed and built machines becomes equal to what over-seas companies produce, business will return to domestic designers.

    Excess equipment capacity can be calculated for each industry. The airline industry will probably see recovery in early 2005. Equipment for most of the food industry should see recovery in early 2004. The automotive industry is just beginning its downturn.

  2. Small Inventories

    For the past 20 years, most companies have practiced Just-In-Time inventory control maintaining very small inventories of raw materials and finished product at all times. This is a positive force because smaller inventories will help us move out of the recession quicker when orders are placed.

  3. Renewed Buying of Technology (Tech Buying) to improve R&D projects, to improve manufacturing efficiency, to improve telecommunications systems, to improve various service provider efficincies, and to outpace global competitors in all industries

    Virtually all businesses that I work with have upgraded software and computing hardware within the last 3-4 years. Because various computing platforms have converged to basically two standards, software can be ported to faster machines without re-purchasing new editions or entirely new packages. This saves large sums of money normally spent on software and reduces the need for programmers and hardware specialists. In addition, tremendous leaps in computing power have reduced the need for new hardware purchases. Once again, we have over capacity that will need to be exhausted before new purchases are made. I predict that we will need to begin replacing software and hardware roughly mid 2004.

    Dramatic improvements in manufacturing efficiencies have enabled manufacturers to slowdown or speed-up production rates on demand. Today, multiple machine speeds exist reducing the need for new equipment to meet increased demand. With the advent of Lean Manufacturing Principles and Six Sigma Programs all the largest manufacturing efficiency improvements have been realized. Obtaining the smaller steps to manufacturing improvements will be more difficult and more costly making it easier to suspend capital spending for efficiency improvements. When product demand improves, spending for machine improvements will pick-up. Manufacturing efficiency improvements should be an on-going business practice, however, when factories experience slowdowns there is less interest in efficiency gains. Demand for factory output will need to increase. I believe this will largely depend on how competitive domestic producers are in relation to foreign producers of the same products. As the standard of living rises and thus the cost of doing business increases in foreign countries, production costs will tend to equalize with domestic producers bringing a return to domestic business. This process could take ten years or more.

    R&D projects are driven by market "confidence" or demand "psychology" as incentive to sell new concepts or technological advances. Smart companies always try to continuously fund R&D, however, most companies reduce spending when they see little or no demand from customers for new product variations or improvements. R&D spending usually picks up when companies get nervous about looking the same as their competition. I look for R&D spending to increase about one year before existing product demand begins to show improvement. Prediction: mid-2003.

  4. Ability of Businesses to Acquire Investor Capital for New Product Developments

    Investment capital has been there for large and medium sized businesses throughout the 90's. It has been somewhat limited for unproven businesses or those perceived to have riskier business plans. With interest rates low, investment should pick up when businesses decide to ask for it. The capital is there for good ideas.

  5. Psychology of Business Leaders and Business and Individual Consumers (Openess of Businesses to Take New Development Risks and the Willingness of Consumers to Purchase New Products Developed to Their Specifications)

    This is "confidence" sometimes called consumer confidence and business confidence. "Market psychology" is how people feel about being able to sell new products and new technology as well as their ability to pay for new purchases. I believe the American market is driven by a sort of "restlessness" and impatience with the status quo or desire to make something happen. We probably can stand the inactivity of a recession no longer than two years before we feel that we "must do something".

  6. Government Spending on Infrastructure Development (Roads, Bridges, Utilities, Education, Technology to Increase Efficiency) vs. Spending on Non-Value Added and Non-Investment Related Functions

    Assuming spending equals tax revenues, one can easily see that if more money is spent on projects that enable investment and growth the more the residents of the community will benefit from that future growth when it happens. If too much money is spent on projects that don't lead to real improvements to communities such as in quality education for residents and programs to draw businesses that employ the residents, then tax revenues are wasted. It's that simple.

    Because most state and local governments have balanced budgets AND because most elected officials know that employment and viable business presence keeps residents from moving to other states and cities, I think we are fairly safe that our tax dollars are not contributing to the recession and will not get us out of the recession at least on the local and state level.

Overall, since late 2000, I have predicted the recession would begin to end in October 2003. Barring set-backs in "market confidence", I think we are on track.


Current Professional Unemployment Rates

Overall reported unemployment stands at 5.9% for November.

However, according to a report published in the Wall Street Journal in the first of December 2003 more than 9 million people classify themselves as independent consultants and roughly .5 million people found new employers.

According to another report published in the Wall Street Journal in early March 2003, the Labor Department has measured managerial unemployment to be 8.9% on average across the nation even though the reported rate accoss all occupations was 5.8%. 8.9% accounts for all white collar professionals including technical professionals classified as "exempt" from the Federal Labor laws collecting unemployment insurance and therefore being counted. Because some people are still unemployed or underemployed and are no longer being counted by the labor department or never were counted as is the case with graduating students, the professional unemployment rate is actually closer to 11-13%.

And only 40-50% of new engineering graduates from good engineering schools having co-operative education programs are receiving job offers. The number is 30-40% for engineering graduates from good schools not having co-operative education or work-study programs.

So...our best advice for landing a new position in your field is to utilize every resource at your disposal...including registering with technical staffing and engineering and IT consultants.



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