In most cases, we as engineers are “overhead”. That means that it is difficult, if not impossible, to directly trace our contributions to profits. Salespeople can look at what they sold and figure out how much of the company revenue they brought in. Marketing can look at how much new business accrued as a result of their last campaign. And what did we do? We used Design For Assembly techniques (like we’re supposed to) and made the product easy to assemble and automate. “So what,” says the CFO.
Don’t get me wrong, they recognize that Engineering is NECESSARY, but they fail to see how it contributes to the bottom line in a concrete, measurable, describable value. Therefore, when it comes to outsourcing, where are they going to cut budgets first?
We like to blame everyone but ourselves, claiming that “outside forces” or “global trends” or just plain bad luck are to blame. Well it’s time to stand up and do something about it. Want to keep management from giving your job away? Make them realize how important your job is. And you can ONLY do that by thinking in terms of the almighty dollar.
Design to save the company money. And figure out how much you are saving and use that to control your decisions. Consider every aspect of your design from manufacturing to assembly to procurement to packaging to shipping to the end user to the trash collector that has to pick it up and the recycling plant. Figure out how you can pass savings all the way down the line. You need to prove to your management (you may need your VP of Engineering to pass the message up) that you are contributing to the bottom line profitability, that you recognize that corporate profitability is the most important thing and that you are dedicated to it.
Two more things need to be added here. First, focus more on making money than saving money. As the old adage goes, nobody ever saved themselves into being a millionaire. Look at how you can bring more money into the company. Find new markets for your products (ex. “If I just make it autoclave-friendly, then we can get the medical people to use it too!”) find new reasons for clients to buy more, design add-on products, modularize, do whatever. We’re supposed to be the creative ones, right? Do you think that some engineering sweatshop in
Second, forget about your boss. Your job is not to keep them happy. The huddled masses focus too much on keeping their immediate supervisor happy and not enough on keeping the company profitable. Your job as an engineer is to sell products. Yes, that’s right, you are a salesperson! So break out that yellow, green and baby blue plaid jacket that you bought for Halloween and slip it on. Start thinking like a salesperson, figuring out how you can sell more, and design that way.
Management is only going to outsource functions that they do not think are completely necessary here. We need to prove ourselves every day. We need to stand up and prove to the top tier that we contribute.
Be a CFO. Think like an executive. They wouldn’t dare give their own jobs away.
Business Process Sherpa