Consulting engineers need to connect with manufacturers. Changing industry standards, however, are blurring the lines between professional practice and manufacturer wooing. A specific consulting engineer group, working as industry contractors to promote new design processes and development, can be challenged to uphold a code of ethics established within the profession. At the same time, they also need to provide cost-effective client solutions.
Modern Consulting: Many Constraints
While safety exists at the consulting forefront, industrial consultants have several factors to consider when forming manufacturer relationships. Between balancing design costs, operational efficiency, total installed costs, maintenance costs, client capital budget and technology changes, profitability can easily become an overindulgence.
As if these factors weren’t already restrictive, studies suggest that the relationship between engineering consulting firm’s operational strategy and size is heavily impacted by consultant-manufacturer relationships.
An Emerald Insight case study, for example, suggests that medium-sized firms may place too much emphasis on process-oriented operations—even beyond typical in-house engineering work. Incorporating all available strategies, the study suggests, can erode efficiency, long-term growth, and even consumer efficiency.
Handling Manufacturer Relationships with Care
It’s no secret that modern engineering firms prioritize dynamic partner relationships. Engineers touch the consumer products used on a daily basis. To uphold and advance the profession’s integrity, the NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers often reaches the consulting realm.
The lines blur, however, when manufacturers offer education, training and noncommercial ins which far surpass the value of typical benefits. Engineering and design service provider, On-Board, has touched upon these blurred lines.
As a private collection of companies, consulting professionals, industrial maintenance providers and production service providers, On-Board has refined the ethics which drive typical business interactions—specifically in the relationships department.
Here, There, Benefits
On-Board’s take on Engineering Ethics places emphasis on the challenges of newcomer education, specifically. The professional engineering world has adopted a relatively uniform code of industry practices. Regardless, technical societies are lagging. An industry dichotomy exists about the prioritization of two important parties: the public and the employer.
Here, industrial consultants—or consulting engineers who also work as contractors—face the problem head-on. This group is constantly challenged to uphold ethical partnership standards while also being tasked to create cost-effective solutions. While the question of, “What constitutes ethical benefits,” might seem nebulous at first glance, it’s a surprisingly cutting question for such a high-responsibility consulting segment.
Getting Down to Business
A small solution posed by Greater Wichita Partnership may be a good consultant-manufacturer model to look at. A prospective study conducted by Mark William, Chairman of the Site Selectors Guild (a professional site selection consultant association), suggests that 70 percent of company site selections involve site selectors themselves.
So, what do site selection partnerships have to do with consultant-manufacturer relationships? The same survey resulted in the proposal for a higher emphasis on worker background and quality of life. Site selectors are surpassing regular catch-all ‘win’ strategies to determine the best location.
Instead, they’re overcoming the pre-1990s ‘wine and dine’ loophole which regularly wiggles past ethical codes of conduct. The number of site selection divisions within major real estate companies, accounting firms, and engineering firms is growing.
Staying True to Partnership Morality
There is a quality which resonates with ethical partnership standards: Start with the facts, then work up. ‘Up,’ here, exists on a moral ladder—rather than one of profitability. Today’s engineering consultants should first determine where educational benefits are most needed. Incoming employee job-site training, as an example, may benefit from university credits within a certain field.
While the prospect of getting into the nitty-gritty of pre-training education might be an expense, time-wise, it can create a firm foundation upon which the latter might rest. Many firms fall into the round-about-isms of training and benefits packages.
Educational leeway which surpasses industry ethics, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. It helps new hires. It also helps firms seeking growth. Unfortunately, it promotes the profit-first environment on the consultant’s end—and a slightly manipulative acquisition-first environment, on the manufacturer’s.
On the brighter side—as profitability does matter—a deeper emphasis on benefit study and new-hire needs is becoming more profitable by the year. The ethical shift in consultancy isn’t derived from higher moral standards alone; it’s powered by deep relationships and data.