So, What "HAS"​ Gone Wrong with Engineering?

"I have been off line for quite a while but in the meantime thoughts have been progressing pertaining to what needs to be done to assist companies to achieve their overall requirements. The fact that trained B.S.C. engineers are having to experience doing the donkey work to progress the products is because they probably cannot trust that the design intent is not being interpreted to workshops and suppliers in the way it should. Training and education has always been and always will be a key element, so what has gone wrong.” 

Michael Midgley
Contact Mechanical Design Engineer at R.S.D Dorbyl

Michael is from South Africa. This is a comment posted on a discussion on engineering. As I listen to the engineer’s complaints and comments in discussions on Linkedin, I realize that this is an international problem. Below are a few reasons for what has gone wrong with engineering today.

Note 5-31-17

I get in a bit of trouble with a few folks because I focus on Boeing, but these large companies usually lead the way. The smaller companies have not fallen into the PLM/MBE mess because it is far too expensive to maintain. There is a huge effort to make MBE/MBD a standard. It will fail.



A Short Primer and History of Dimensioning

I was one of the first engineering professionals to get into 3D CAD. It was in 1982 with Computervision CADDS 4 and then while on contract with Boeing I was introduced to PC based 3D CADKEY in 1986. I soon became a CADKEY dealer and started selling PC based 3D CAD to Boeing and all of their suppliers in the NW. The high end system didn't make it to the PC until after 1998. I have been involved in most of the 3D CAD milestones, offering them to my customers and competing against them directly. I have been through all of the advancements of 3D CAD functionality.

Conceptual Design - Which 3D CAD Paradigm is Best?

In a short time the complete industrial/mechanical design world was using 3D CAD. Starting with Pro/e and followed by a myriad of clones making common interoperability impossible. Yes, there were a few programs with direct edit in the beginning, but history based parametric design was adopted as the de facto standard. Due to this convoluted design process, it soon made the knowledge of the 3D CAD system more important than pertinent engineering experience. Trust me, companies did not like being training centers for their 3D CAD software.

The 2000's - The Age of 3D CAD Un-Enlightenment!

Reason One: Computerization of engineering with a myriad of unique 3D CAD programs.

Next Generation 3D CAD Technology Applied!

25 Years of 3D CAD Incompatibility - The New Generation of 3D CAD!!

While at Boeing I watched as BCS (Boeing Computer Services) slowly took over engineering. It is similar to a CPA taking over a company. They both know how the basic system works but are far from understanding the “Process”. Whether it be the successful operation of a business or the delivery of correct and duplicable engineering documentation they truly do not have a clue! Soon BCS was in cahoots with Dassault in pushing the PLM fraud only to boost the power of BCS and Dassualt’s control over Boeing and the engineering department. He who controls engineering controls the world! The infiltration of the CAD system's responsibility with PLM into the management of a company can only be describe as diabolical. Does the words "Conflict of Interest" come to mind?

Today the PLM folks are in charge. They introduced MBE (Model Based Enterprise) into the works with the PMI (Product Manufacturing Information). PMI as an attempt to deliver a single file (to replace the simple but complete drawing) to manufacturing. Remember their only focus is data management hidden in a variety of false purposes. The Inspection Department has taken over, defining what engineering delivers to manufacturing with these PMIs. Virtually minimizing the information to a bit of obscure bastardized GD&T in 3D space to the detriment of "Proper Design and Checking". 

CADKEY or Catia? Boeing’s Billion-Dollar 3D CAD Mistake!

PMI vs AID (Associated Information Document)

Engineering Documentation - A Primer for the PLM Guru!

Reason One A: The Major CAD companies are now managed by Marketing and Sales. All development has come to an end.

The four major CAD Vendors, PTC, Dassault, Siemens and Autodesk have all but come to an end in the development of their MCAD software. This video by Steve Jobs describes what happens when the companies are not based on the product development but the marketing of the product. In this case it is not the product that is the monopoly, but the MCAD system paradigm.

I lost my bread and butter CAD system when the company took the product direct in 2009 and took a position as Sale/Tech manager to bring on Autodesk Manufacturing solution for another company. I learned Inventor and started making sales. I quickly found that Autodesk was driven by highly aggressive marketing. It was quotas you would have to set weekly and have a meeting.

PTC was one of these companies that had a monopoly for over 10 years. The Pro/e paradigm was not a flexible base for innovation. They quickly found this out and move to junk yard dog sales techniques to promote their program. There are stories about having to march PTC sales people out the door.

Autodesk and PTC moving to subscription only, indicates they are worried about offering any value with the enhancements to keep the customer maintaining annual maintenance contracts and are moving to lock their customers and their engineering information or intellectual property under their control.

You are Not Stuck with Autodesk or PTC Subscriptions!

Today all of the popular MCAD packages are based on this dated inflexible paradigm. There is no way to move it to a more productive solution. It is not just the CAD modeling but the total system that makes this a paradigm stuck in time. The marketing and hype from these companies have overshadowed any innovative developments in the industry like IronCAD and ZW3D in my case. There are few others, since the market was basically closed by the overpowering influence of these hugely powerful companies. They have effectively close down any more productive competition. 

The Pro/e paradigm used by the major CAD companies is "The Monopoly"

"The companies forget what it means to make great products"
Steve Jobs


Reason Two: The elimination of a "Standard" easily duplicable deliverable.

"Engineering's only purpose is to make available concise, complete
 and unambiguous documentation to manufacturin

The Death of the Drawing

Boeing has eliminated the draftsman. I have to agree with this decision but they were a bit short sighted on the transition for the engineer to replace the responsibilities of the draftsman. Yes, creating drawings and doing most of the grunt form, fit and function design were their main jobs. But they also manned the Checking department and were responsible for the assuring that the design and documentation was standard, correct and complete. They released the engineering packages. If there was a problem they would be the first to investigate. Today, Boeing actually has a Producibilty Group to review the design after release. Probably created to battle the onslaught of overly complex parts coming out of engineering. 

Reason Three: Replacing the drafter with the engineer without a transition plan.

"Hm... Can anyone show a better example of what happens when an apprentice based profession is dumped into 'formal education' format, without any sort of a transition plan? Sure, the allure of cutting costs is appealing to those that view the world a 'fiscal quarter at a time' - but for those that have committed to a company by way of bonds or other long term commitments - it can be terrifying."
Matthew Sawtell
Design Drafter at Fermilab

I don't blame management. It is the nature of 3D CAD that has caused this situation. Today the engineer has no mentoring path, that means it is a much longer learning curve to understand form, fit and function design, drafting and the engineering documentation requirements. As draftsman we had a much easier path. Our drafting tools were designed around the standards of the industry. We had circle templates and scales that defined our designs. Of course "every" draftsman had a Machinery's Handbook and a thorough grasp of their industries standards. Draftsmen had senior draftsman around them for support and checkers to make sure their work was correct. After a couple of years the draftsman had a thorough working knowledge of the companies products. It makes me chuckle when I see a non-standard hole defined, not because the engineer didn't know, but someone allowed it to be released. MBE has become so silly at Boeing they now have a Producibility Group to review the "released" engineering!

The Death of the Draftsman

Educating the "New" CAD Engineer - 2015

Engineering Technologist? Engineering Technician?

It bothers me that there are those that have never designed a part and released it to manufacturing telling us how we should do our engineering. They act like there is a short cut to a complete design. There has been a huge effort to minimize or streamline the documentation process which has affected the quality of our engineering. The last place you cut cost is in engineering design and documentation. Any attempt will end up with errors in the design and only show up at assembly where the cost is ten fold or more.

The only true way to increase engineering efficiency and productivity is to hire a highly talented engineering staff. Never, never put up with mediocre personnel!

"These "Short Cuts" are always the result of trying to reinvent the wheel in a place where the wheel is very well defined. Product knowledge, proven standards and work force continuity is the formula for design success"

There are also a few other 3D CAD solutions that can increase productivity.

Is 3D CAD Productivity an Oxymoron?

Note 5-31-17: I have added a forth reason.

Reason Four: Overly complex 3D CAD systems and ineffective Modeling (sketching) Techniques

While I was doing some exercises comparing my products to Fusion 360, Solidworks, NX, Catia, Inventor and Creo, I was shocked at the complex modeling techniques that were used by the presenters. I assume this type of wasted modeling techniques are rampant through out the industry, since the constrained sketching and history only world is today's modeling standard.

The modeling technique is hugely responsible for the level of productivity. Those of you that are only trained in the constrained sketching are truly limited by not using the freedom of Streamlined Sketching and Feature Based Modeling that I define in the following article. These techniques increase productivity 10X or more. These processes are available in even the most Solidwork-ish of CAD systems. If your designers are designing in these very unproductive and time consuming processes it might be time to review your standard design processes. Don't have any do you?

3D Modeling Techniques Defined

I know much of my information is duplicated, but the problem is so obscure it may take many different views to properly delineate the problems, hopefully to catch the eye of those in industry and academia  that can see that the system has already failed and have the power to start over from scratch. I am afraid there may not be many with the applicable knowledge or anyone that had not been tainted by vested interests to make this happen.

The following article is more than a comparison of programs, it also shows the philosophy of how 3D CAD was developed and reached this incredible lack of interoperability. Due to the understandable vested interest of the CAD vendors to keep a cash flow it has developed into a chaotic mess, leaving engineering the unintended victim. You can almost make the case that the manual drawing offered a more conducive and productive environment. I believe we can create a system that is even more effective and more simple than before. But will take an overview with a high level of knowledge of the past.

The Worst to Best 3D CAD Systems Expanded!

Related Articles

Much of the problem with engineering is putting its faith in the major CAD systems. Trust me they do not have the applicable engineering knowledge. Just think that through for a minute. They don't do any engineering they spend most of their time trying to keep their product relevant. Most are far past CAD companies and are now marketing firms.

So what "HAS" gone wrong with Engineering? Part II

So, what "HAS" gone wrong
with Engineering? Part III

We haven't made a Drawing
Since 3D CAD was Introduced

Engineering Documentation Today!

Engineering Ignorance Defined

Engineering Ignorance Defined Two
Top 5 Reasons to Use MBD

Engineering Ignorance Defined III
How to Define a 3D PMI Assembly

You have got to be Kidding

Engineering Ignorance Defined IV
Defining the “2D Drawing” 
Redundant? Of course!

Engineering Ignorance Defined V
Altering the Model for PMI Documentation

Solidworks Totally Misunderstands MBD

PTC Creo Totally Misunderstands MBD

Solidworks: Engineering 4.0?

Engineering and Manufacturing

The Space Between Engineering and Manufacturing

The Embedded Title Block! A PLM Solution!

The Ultimate Document Control System

Standard Cloud Based Engineering Document Control

Standard Cloud Based Engineering Document Control Part II

Why TECH-NET Sells IronCAD and ZW3D

With 53 years of experience in engineering, 17 years in manual board design as a contract engineer (jobshopper), 35 years in 3D CAD sales, support, training and providing engineering services, I have a high level of understanding of today's 3D CAD engineering world. For many it is in chaos. If you are having problems or just interested in this subject please feel free to call and we can discuss them. There are so many simpler solutions available that will save you time and money.

TECH-NET Engineering Services!

For more information or to download IronCAD or ZW3D

This the first a in a series of articles that introduces a career defined by the introduction of 3D CAD into industrial/mechanical engineering.

My First 17 Years or "How did we do it without 3D CAD!"

Please visit our Viewpoints for more interesting articles on our industry.

See you online.
Joe Brouwer