Growing Uneasy Alliances

It's a thin line between love and hate. So goes an old soul tune that conveys the ups and downs of a couple's relationship. The same could be said about engineers and product manufacturers: "Engineers are lazy;" "Sales people are too pushy." Other times it's a trusted partnership, with engineers relying heavily on the manufacturer for technical assistance.

11/01/2002


It's a thin line between love and hate. So goes an old soul tune that conveys the ups and downs of a couple's relationship. The same could be said about engineers and product manufacturers: "Engineers are lazy;" "Sales people are too pushy." Other times it's a trusted partnership, with engineers relying heavily on the manufacturer for technical assistance. Regardless, it's clear that both sides need each other.

That being said, this month we explore this symbiosis—at least from the engineer's perspective—toJim Crockett, CSE, editor-in-chief
quantify what consulting engineers like and dislike about these partners and what m ight be done to improve these relationships.

As part of our annual survey of the nation's top M/E/P firms conducted earlier this year, we asked respondents how they get and prefer to receive product information. The answers appear in Professional Practices on p. 15. With an ever-growing client mandate to deliver work "faster, better, cheaper," the Internet, of course, ranked high, but so did old-fashioned, one-on-one meetings, particularly over lunch.

Demands on engineers to deliver fast-track, and even in some cases, "psycho-track" projects (see In the News, p. 11), means engineers must rely on manufacturers to an even greater extent. It does not imply laziness, but rather the reality that is today's business model. If anything, it means both sides must find the balance to make these relationships mutually beneficial, not a necessary evil of doing business.

This is an issue CSE also faces. We also depend on manufacturers, in our case, as a source of income. For many publications, this presents an ethical dilemma as to how to present information that serves a reader's needs, yet still meets the business goals of the advertiser. This is a task not taken lightly. And on this magazine, the spirit of partnership—where appropriate—is one we're also trying to build.

I just returned from a trade show in the Dallas area, where I met with a number of manufacturers and engineers, all of whom had valuable information to pass on. I rely on these visits to get the latest on industry trends and issues. One recent interview with a manufacturer, who also happened to be an engineer, yielded some tips on hot code issues, notably a proposed change to ANSI standard 26 which will significantly impact sound ratings for HVAC equipment in classrooms. While good for his company from a product sales standpoint, in reality, he says the change, in his opinion, is really onerous and will be quite costly for many school districts, if it goes through.

In any case, my point is that manufacturers can be a valuable resource. Of course, a careful line of integrity between editorial and advertising must be drawn. Hopefully we're doing so. In this spirit of "Glasnost," we've invited the manufacturing community to participate more, notably in the M/E roundtables. So far the results have been positive (see Letters p. 7). Without lowering our standards, I hope this demarcation need not be so black and white, and certainly one not bordering on loathing, but one landmarked by a growing exchange of knowledge.


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