Within the air movement and air control industries there is an increasingly severe shortage of skills. A generation that has spent its working life in and around the industry is retiring while graduate engineers are typically spending two to four years in one industry before moving on to another. Hence, there is a widening gap that results in fewer and fewer senior and chief engineer candidates with relevant industry experience.
A way to bridge this gap is to hire engineers from outside the air movement or air control industries and then provide coaching to help them transition into their roles. Coaching may be provided at any level, from the most junior engineer through to the most senior, the common element being that coaching is most successful when working with an individual to address current organizational challenges.
AGS provides professional coaching for all roles within an engineering company, including:
- Technical Specialists
- Development Engineers
- Chief Designers
- Chief Engineers
Coaching can begin with the hiring process, reviewing CV’s and interviewing candidates and in so doing preparing a short list of candidates for a company to consider.
An output of the coaching process can be a succession plan, and the necessary on-going training and development needed for identified individuals to advance, including an assessment of the current staff, capabilities and fit within their roles.
Coaching at the more junior levels is more technically focused on the use and application of engineering tools, processes and procedures. At the more senior levels, there is an increasingly strategic aspect to the coaching, identifying gaps between existing and desired organizational capability, and the practical steps needed to close that gap.
The coaching intervention starts with a review of the company’s current engineering processes, procedures and engineering tools. This review may be facilitated by a root-cause analysis of those engineering failures that have eroded value in the past. From this flows a series of strategic objectives that are reviewed, developed and signed-off by the business owner. These strategic objectives provide a framework when coaching individuals at all levels within the organization to ensure that advice and recommendation move the company towards, and not away from, its strategic goals.
Historically the air movement and air control industries were empirical. New designs would be built, tested and the test results reviewed. The design would then be revised and the process repeated until the resulting product was deemed satisfactory.
Whilst an empirical approach to engineering remains effective, the available engineering tools can effectively complement empirical testing with analysis. In this context, effective may be defined as delivering a good enough engineering solution at lower cost and in less time.
In light of these industry developments, Technical Specialist coaching focuses on the proper application of Computer Aided Design (CAD), Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) tools.
The coaching of development engineers is process driven. Specifically, what is the development process currently used? Where has it failed in the past, and what changes are needed to at a minimum provide transparency as to the actual time and cost of new product development projects?
An output of the product development coaching process is an insight into those issues that are constraining the company’s ability to bring new products to market, and to complete order related engineering on-time and on-budget. This insight can result in development of the company’s strategy.
Within an engineering company, productivity of the engineering department is the single most important constraint on the company’s ability to implement its strategy. In any organization, design authority is vested in a single individual. That individual may or may not be called the company’s Chief Designer, but if they are making the judgement calls on the acceptability of a design for an application, they are the Chief Designer. There may be a review and approval process of any new design, but the fact of the matter is that the Chief Designer has a fundamental impact on the engineering department’s productivity.
Chief Designer coaching focuses on:
- Effectiveness & Efficiency: Assisting engineers in finding a workable middle ground where enough work is done to deliver a design fit for purpose, but in a time short enough to allow the company’s other priorities to be addressed.
- Minimizing Technical Risk: Minimizing technical risk is the process of formalizing organizational processes and procedures, and adapting them in response to in-service issues.
There is inevitably an overlap between the roles of a Chief Designer and Chief Engineer. However, the Chief Engineer is a key part of the management team of any engineering company as they are responsible for identifying gaps between current capability and organizational strategy, and then addressing those gaps.
Coaching of a Chief Engineer typically focuses on each aspect of the engineering function, and its ability to deliver its part of the organization’s strategy. There is then a process of defining actions that can be taken to close identified gaps.
At a more fundamental level, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable Chief Engineer candidates. Hence, it may be necessary to hire Chief Engineers from outside the industry. In these instances, there is a process of educating the Chief Engineer as to the specific challenges associated with each project in an effort to support them as they transition into the industry. Typically, good candidates from outside of the industry pick up sufficient industry knowledge within 12 months. Hence, coaching is initially focused on transition into the industry over the first year and then shifts to the organizational strategy and the gaps between current engineering capability and those needed to deliver the defined strategy.