Untapped Potential of Engineers: Constraining the Productivity of Companies

V. Balaji, CIO, Tata Technologies Ltd.

The well-documented shortage of qualified engineering talent has increasingly become a front-burner issue for manufacturers the world over. The need of the hour for the global Product Development companies is that they should take a keen interest in helping manufacturers find new ways to work around this challenge. 

If the strategy team of an enterprise conducted a study analyzing the problem and broke it down into two fundamental root causes, the following factors would come to light: the supply side (number of qualified engineers) and the other being consumption (effective use of the engineers’ time). Proper and collaborative survey would reveal, in many cases, manufacturers are being irresponsible with the use of their existing engineering resources. Research indicates that, though the work is vital to the product design and development process, as much as 80 percent of an engineer’s workday is spent on tasks that do not require the skills of an engineer. When you balance ever-growing demand for new products with the talent shortage, it’s perplexing that manufacturers still overwhelmingly use their qualified engineering resources at a mere 20 percent of their professional capacity. This means, the true potential of an engineer is left unharnessed. 

Moreover, manufacturing sector employees already put in an average of 17 percent more working hours than employees in all other private industries combined. For engineers, while increased overtime may mean higher pay, this trend has been a net negative. Frequent, and at times mandatory, overtime constrains productivity and restricts innovation. To unlock the true potential of engineers and at the same time provide them with a rewarding work experience manufacturers must redistribute tasks and get smarter about how their engineers are deployed within the product development lifecycle. Sad part is, these issues are acknowledged but not put to consideration, let alone mitigating them. Enterprises are required to take this information and re-examine their IT systems. The introspection will help them realize that they can release talent, improve productivity and save money by streamlining their employee self-service systems.
Companies that are working as a part of the IT transformation program must deploy several IT systems to digitize and streamline their employee travel, procurement and recruitment processes by leveraging technology and digitizing different processes. Organizations with their analytical tools and techniques must have an objective centered on diagnosing and streamlining key process by measuring process throughput time. After conducting interviews with key managers and assessing issues users face with the in-place systems, organizations will actually be able to make enhancements using a data-driven approach.

The results will certainly be transformative. 
For example, let’s consider engineering software licenses. Having the right software is essential for delivering work to our clients, but the substantial cost makes it equally important that the licenses we do acquire have a high utilization rate. As a result, we keep idle license inventory to a minimum, which often means that we have to acquire new licenses when a new work order comes in. Organization can use data analytics to gauge the existing procurement system and give the team leaders a monthly report that summarizes pending requests from their respective groups. This is important as it will provide visibility to the broader licensing picture while simultaneously giving key individual stakeholders a clear understanding of where a speed-breaker could potentially arise. A software stock checker can also be designated globally to manage the license inventory, which will cut down on the confusion and create a centralized point of contact for the available catalog for team leaders. The data will allow the stock checker to better create yearly forecasts and to keep on-hand more licenses during peak times of the year because a baseline has been developed from fiscal year 2012-13. As a result, engineers will be able to start working on a project on an average of 12 days sooner than before, enabling faster project completion and faster revenue realization. It also means less of the engineers’ time is spent on administrative tasks, and more time on engineering, designing and innovating great new products on behalf of the clients. 

This is a journey that will continue to evolve and produce results both within the enterprise and with their clients. Working at 20 percent of their professional capacity, an engineer’s productivity and ability to innovatively design and engineer products, will undoubtedly suffer. It’s time to challenge established IT paradigms and find other productivity models.