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But That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It!

By on June 7, 2011 in Editorial, Featured with 11 Comments

These are words I despise. They are like, the Hitler of excuses…and I want to punch them in the face.

Technology is constantly changing, progressing, advancing. As a result, Piping Design tools and technology are becoming far more advanced. From software to hardware, everyone is looking for the edge, right? I mean, we have software that makes many previously unthinkable tasks automatic and hardware that processes 100,000 quadrillion peta-triangles/second while letting you stream HD movies at the same time. It’s amazing, it’s unprecedented.I am afraid what we may be lacking here is the meatware that will accept it. I guess the question is, “Is technology racing ahead faster than the general piping design population’s ability to keep up with it?” Allow me to illustrate:

My friend John R. works for a large, multi-billion dollar power EPC. At said company, they have standardized around a very advanced piece of software that we will call (Insert Plant Design software of choice). He says that from a functionality standpoint, the software is the best overall plant design package he has ever seen. He says that with a little finagling, it will do just about everything you want it to. He goes on to say that this is the general consensus of the support people inside his circle. Yet, strangely, he told me that it is constantly being run down by the designers as a piece of crap that doesn’t do anything they want it to and doesn’t work. He tries to treat each support call individually and without bias towards the person calling. He says that 90% of the time, the issue is something they have already dealt with and resolved yet the user either consistently forgets or refuses to learn the procedure for fixing the issue on his own OR refuses to learn the correct work flow to prevent him or herself from having the issue to begin with. He says that in their last desperate act to save themselves from being humiliated by the support guy once again, they all wind up saying “well that’s the way we’ve always done it!“. He tells me that he thought maybe this was a one off, bad apple experience. He then proceeded to tell me that he talks to a lot of other support people from a lot of different companies who all say the same exact thing regardless of software, geographics, demographics, age, sex, weight, color, height, or astrological sign.

So, this got me thinking. Is it really just a case of the users not knowing, caring, or wanting to understand how it all works because (Insert reason)? Is management to blame for not providing proper training or communication channels and as a result failing to understand what is happening at the micro level? Perhaps IT/Support shares in the blame game for not proving the proper infrastructure. More than likely it’s a combination of all 3 and 4 more that I can’t, won’t, or don’t have the scope of experience to mention. But you know what, it doesn’t really matter.

For better or worse, “The way we used to do it” is not “The way we do it NOW” and won’t be “The way we do it tomorrow”. Tools are getting faster and more complex and software vendor portfolios are become more integrated bringing with it so much new, value added functionality that we haven’t even realized how many different applications it has. Does ISO 15926 mean anything to anyone? If that ever bears fruit we are looking at an entire economy built around the tools it will inevitably generate. The options are massive.

Change is good, change is healthy, and change in the piping design world moves slow (PDS anyone?).

Times change and technology changes at a 10x multiplier. I have always thought that technology will swallow you whole and leave your excreted carcass behind if you don’t change with it, but in the piping design world at least, that seems to be the exception not the rule.

Am I way off base here, what do you think?

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About the Author

About the Author: Hi! I am currently an Autodesk Solutions Engineer working to deliver real time solutions to our Enterprise customers. I have been involved with industrial design software for nearly 15 years and am a 3DS Max Professional who is passionate about design visualization. .

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There Are 11 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Kent says:

    This is sooo true, but I would like to add that many companies also have built in old routines for management of change etc. in their existing systems. (drawing/document in paper format most likely) and when implementing new integrated systems some of the jobs is a waste of resource, the systems will handle this for you. I particularly see this when during document handling/control departments but I find them in other departments as well. They are clinging to their old ways of doing things, and some of them their jobs most likely. The companies should have educated this people and given them other responsibilities. A good defined workflow in an integrated environment saves a lot of money and work, and last but not least fewer internal revisions.

  2. Troutman says:

    I agree with most of what you say but the biggest thing is that the designers are not consulted when these revised programs are developed, and possibly when doing a design it does not work. BUT THE MAIN THING IS TRAINING AND COMMUNICATION

  3. Troutman says:

    Further to my earlier post have you ever thought that the management does not always know best with some of these complex programs as they do not have to use them, and I say again that the old fashioned way of training coupled with the new technology would work. You only have to look at some of the questions on Linkedin to see that training is lacking.

  4. It is not just the design engineers but also the management and marketing paradigms that must shift. “Who moved my cheese” is a good read for dealing with the evolution of technology. Why would a marketing guru rather spend monies on paper literature, that is almost out of date from the time it is printed, and hand it off to salesmen to throw in their briefcases and automobile trunks, rather than provide their product drawings and data for insertion directly into the design software…at the fingertips of designers? Being in the right place, at the right time and in the right format, for easy selection and insertion into a project, is a marketing utopia! However…”that is not the way we have always done it!”

  5. yo-mama says:

    At the company I currently work at we have shifted to a whole new design program but management is wanting to continue the same mistakes that have pushed us from our previous design tool. Sometimes that paradigm shift has to be forced from management because I think it is a standard part of human nature for most individuals to restrain from changing. It’s just not in our DNA naturally we get comfy in doing something a specific way and we don’t want to change from it unless there is no other option.

  6. Brian Christian says:

    This is the case. We typically see this from purely an engineering/design perspective. Unfortunately this “shift” is something that affects the entire company. Look no further than your Business development group to see the beginning of this cascading problem. It needs to be a multi-lateral approach of educating the engineering/design staff to see the fruits and how a new toolset fills the gaps and have BD buy-in. If this happens this will drive the adoption of not only the tool but the processes as well. All to often this “change” is done in a silo with all the others assuming that all is perfect. Ignorance is bliss until it smacks you in the face. All aspects of the business need to understand, at least at a high level, the expectations of the tools (what are the debliverables we can get), how it happens and how this affects current processes. We have found that the documented processes are veery much in line with the new tools but the practices on the floor are where the disparity lies. Having this being understood and driven by all aspects of the project (BD, procurement, purcahsing, scheduling, etc.) will provide a level of accountability that cannot be escaped.

  7. Mert says:

    The argument “I think it is a standard part of human nature for most individuals to restrain from changing. It’s just not in our DNA ” is specious. If that was the case humanity would be living in a cave, or the dirt, eating bugs, lizards, grubs and whatever else they could catch and shove in their mouth (which some still do). Exploration, change and cahllenges are all over history… it is the norm, not the status quo…. look at the advances of the last 100 years, from firelight and horses to the space age…and change is “not in our DNA”…. please…. just another excuse!!! 😉

  8. Former Yarddog says:

    I get what you’re saying, however, at least in one situation I know of, management chose to implement a certain software package, allegedly because that’s what the customer wanted. It’s a great system but not originally meant for this particular industry so the company blew MILLIONS on customizations that made it impossible to upgrade the software. Then the person in charge of implementation did not listen to the end users as far as tech requirements and pushed down a bunch of totally useless junk that the end users were “required” to use. Then there was the group that refused to admit that the 2D side of the software was more than adequate for producing drawings. It then became a total kludge. They hired designers who had used this same software in other industries and they couldn’t believe that the software was set up so badly.
    As a result, after 10 years and numerous empty promises of software and hardware upgrades, many people left and the company has wasted millions of dollars to write proprietary code and now the parent software company has ended any and all tech support for this program (which by now is close to 15 years old).
    Many of us are also gadget junkies, we like the newest and shiniest stuff out there. When you’re working on 15 year old outdated, kludge software you start fussing. When you see where it can be done better, easier and cheaper but management won’t listen you get disillusioned. When you see the waste and non-value added rubbish added on and the increasing pressure to meet impossible deadlines, you get burnt out.
    I’m a card-carrying member of the “been there, done that” club.

  9. Craving Challenge & Freedom says:

    I may get bashed for saying this but… Some of the Senior Designers fear they cannot keep up with the new talent when learning new things. Some Mid-level designers have become complacent (waiting for their turn at the Senior Level) and don’t want to rock the boat or cause waves. Some young designers (such as myself) find the job tasks given throughout the spectrum simple, and almost offensive. That being said,
    the fact that real 3D CAD workstations run $2000 to $12,000 plus the time it takes unwilling and complacent designers to feel comfortable with the training materials (training must contain each… and… every… simple … step by step function or they get lost) is one of the reasons I believe designers are not keeping up.
    Also draftspeople are not designers! If you make drawings based on redlines you are a draftsman. If you make ISO’s, Models, BOM’s, Layouts, etc. from a description or a set of conditions then you are a designer.

    Many other thoughts like non-standard specfications, data files, and simply not knowing what the terms in the spec actually mean.

  10. ramsi says:

    Technology will swallow everyone…This line will give the present day situation also the future…But see the world from outside you will feel how technology humiliated so many people. The ratio will be unexpected.

  11. Troy says:

    I think I use this excuse a little too often… This is a great post that applies to all industries, and was a great reminder to me that technology is constantly progressing, we each need to keep up.

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