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Quality Scan: Information is Power, Especially in Engineering

Andrew Brown

By Andrew Brown
Director of Corporate Sales
New York, NY
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Reliable technical information allows manufacturing engineers to be innovative. Searching for trustworthy information used to be a time-consuming, haphazard process. Engineers relied on their own collection of texts and a miscellany of documents—often adorned with tattered sticky notes—that they bought, begged and borrowed from peers.

Another option was browsing the card catalog in the corporate library, or conducting a Boolean query across engineering abstracts, to find information. If they were lucky, those resources were onsite; otherwise, they would sometimes wait as long as a week to have them delivered. When all else failed, engineers turned to senior staff members to pick their knowledgeable brains. These methods were certainly archaic and inefficient, but they worked at the time.

Today, it’s all about speed to solution. Knowledge management systems drive innovation and deliver more reliable information for engineers at a faster pace to help them produce better results under tight deadlines.

Online knowledge management systems, like Knovel, make it easier for engineers to tap into reliable, technical resources and data regardless of location. This not only saves time, but also ensures teams can document research with consistent references. Knovel, for example, continually adds new subject areas and updates content based upon customer feedback and market drivers, so subscriptions can reflect the range of information users need and evolve over time as necessary.

Accessing information online increases efficiency. If a team of engineers want to exploit the benefits of Additive Manufacturing, not only can they now find trusted references online, but they can also review the information and collaborate with colleagues globally. Technology fosters collaboration and acts as a catalyst for improved efficiency and enhanced productivity within the product and process design and manufacture.

In addition to centralized access to information, web-based knowledge management systems offer better search capabilities, including Boolean searching with wildcard truncation, phrase matching and bibliographic limit fields, to ensure that engineers receive good data. Knovel’s search is optimized for engineering "language" ensuring a high degree of relevancy. Not only can engineers search for key words but also numerical ranges. They receive the results they want, regardless of what unit of measurement the information was originally published in.

Engineers want answers to technical questions fast. If an engineer needs to understand how polymer injection technology can produce better energy efficiencies, he or she can access a wide range of digital manufacturing publications, and with the simple data search tool, pull up specific properties of particular carbon-rich materials often used in this process.

The source of information is also critical. Engineers need to trust the data much more than the average Internet web surfer. Knovel, for example, aggregates content from more than 90 trusted publishers and societies. Engineers save time not only because the information is easier to find, but also because the sources have been vetted and can be documented.

Consider the following: An aerospace engineer was researching the natural frequency of a rectangular plate in the main engine ignition of an orbital spacecraft to determine its structural integrity. During his research, he discovered an aerospace engineering source on Knovel that included equations on plate natural frequency. That helped him derive the answer he needed quickly. He trusted the source and incorporated it into his work.

When selecting the right technical resources for engineers, look for reliable content, discoverability, and integration. The quality of the content is always crucial. It doesn’t matter how intelligent and intuitive a knowledge management system is—if the content isn’t highly validated and is not the right information for your engineers, it can negatively impact work.

As engineers continue to seek to innovate, readily available and authoritative information is critical to successful product and process design. Mistakes and inefficiencies due to missing or hard-to-find information not only can hinder product design and manufacture, but they can also affect the overall bottom line. Online knowledge management systems not only make engineering jobs easier, but ultimately can help to reduce operating expenses and lead to higher profits. ME


This article was first published in the June 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF


Published Date : 6/1/2012

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