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Study Shows Engineers Are Feeling the Effects of Fewer Resources, Less Time

March 5, 2015
Feeling stressed at work? Under pressure? Overworked? You’re not alone. IHS Engineering360 report says majority of engineers are tasked with doing more with fewer resources and in less time.

It’s not really news to anyone who’s been paying attention, but just in case you needed confirmation, online engineering resource site IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions has released its 2015 Pulse of Engineering survey, “The Changing Work Environment for Engineers Today,” which confirms many anecdotal reports about the current engineering work environment.

Of the 2100+ survey respondents, 52% said the pace of engineering is accelerating, and 57% said they are being asked to do more with fewer resources and in less time. Forty-six percent reported that they are working on more projects than they were two years ago, and 69% are working on at least three projects concurrently. A majority of respondents also said that the designs they are working on are more complex, but design cycles are shrinking because of increased pressure to get products to market faster. Adding to the pressure, says a majority is the fact that the number of competitors is increasing (55%), and that the competitive landscape is global and 24/7 (64%).

Where’s the Pressure Coming From?

Fifty-two percent of respondents said that the pace of engineering is constantly increasing and 57%  are required to do more with less. Forty-four percent said the pressure to cut costs and meet deadlines are putting product quality/rework at risk. The conclusion: Engineers bear a greater burden than ever.

Meanwhile, 60% say they are facing budgetary constraints. 69% cite time constraints as adding to the pressure, and 44% say that this pressure to meet deadlines and cut costs is putting quality at risk. But at the same time, only 46% said that technology is helping them improve productivity, and just 29% said that additional staff was being hired to help with the workload.

The graying workforce and its associated problems are another familiar refrain in the survey. Eight-four percent of those surveyed have been engineers for at least 10 years, and more than one-third have been in the business more than 30 years. Nearly a quarter of them say they could retire within the next five years.

Engineering = Multi-Tasking

Sixty-nine percent of engineers are working on at least three projects concurrently, with 46% working on three to five projects.

Constraining Factors

Engineers answered a number of questions about the impact of various constraints on their companies. Seventy-one percent said that talent/specialized knowledge shortage was jeopardizing their company’s productivity, innovation and/or product quality; 69% cited project/product deadline/ time constraints; 68% said resources/people constraints/shortage; 60% said budgetary constraints/shortage; and 50% cited constraints managing/accessing information.

The loss of institutional knowledge these numbers imply are of great concern, say 47% of those surveyed, but at the same time only 43% of their companies have formal practices in place to identify senior-level and specialized experts to retain and transfer this information within the company. According to the survey, 32% of the companies don’t have formal knowledge management system or processes to identify, capture, manage and share critical information. 

Given all that, perhaps it’s not surprising that only 40% of those surveyed said it was likely they would be with the same company in five years. They will either be working elsewhere (29%) or retiring (23%).

Tough Competition

The majority (55%) believe the number of competitors is growing, and 64% agree the competitive landscape is global and competes 24x7. Forty-three percent said their technologies are relevant for shorter periods of time, 40% said new technologies and companies are faster to disrupt their products/market, and 38% said competitors are quicker to adapt and take away their business.

Information Attrition

As evidence of a knowledge drain, 47% of engineers said that knowledge/information loss was very important or extremely important as employees left the company.

Saving the Data—or Not

Only 43% of companies have formal practices in place to preserve knowledge by leveraging senior-level and specialized experts.

Moving On?

Twenty-nine percent of engineers said they are very likely to be employed at the same company five years from now. Thirty-one percent said they were only slightly or not at all likely.

Getting’ Outta Dodge Because . . .

The top three reasons cited for an engineer to leave their current role would be to move to a different company (28%), retire (25%) or for a promotion to a senior role (23%).

The complete survey can be downloaded here.

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