Attracting and Retaining Engineers

This post was written by Juliana Queiroz, engineer and founder of What Engineers Want, a consulting company that helps manufacturers and engineering firms to unlock their engineers’ full potential towards excellence and innovation.

Juliana Queiroz of What Engineers Want
Juliana Queiroz_Engineering Productivity Booster

Overcoming labour and skill shortages

Businesses stand or fall on the quality of their people – don’t you agree?
If we cannot have enough staff with the right level of skills and experience, that’s potentially a serious problem. Even though Australia is facing one of the highest rates of skills shortages in the labour market, our challenges are not new:
– it is hard to recruit,
– hard to retain and
– hard to keep our people motivated and engaged.

Effective outcomes within a business today requires a high level of staff productivity and performance whilst collaborating and innovating.

Today I propose 3 steps to overcome this skills shortage we are facing in our industry to finally have the dream team that will make the success of our businesses.

Attracting the right skills

It is important to understand that people have different expectations and we need to think about what will attract them to our company. Saying that, we need to be smart and creative in presenting job opportunities.

For example, we can make our business stand out by offering:
– attractive conditions
– competitive pay
– training and career development plans
– making new employees feel welcome
– being inclusive
– etc etc

Defining this competitive advantage is like working in our business. We need to think about what our competitors are offering and work on our unique value to stand out from the mass.
Our business is more likely to attract the best and brightest if we can offer something better compared to our competitors. In order to do this we need to identify our uniqueness.

Uniqueness is what we stand for, what we value and how we intend to impact people around us. To identify our uniqueness, we need to work out our culture.

When we work out our culture, we work out our reputation and the image of our business. This is a key factor in attracting people. Because it is our people who can promote our business the best, helping us to recruit without even know about it. To have that reputation, and be the place to work, we need to create a workplace where people want to work, stay and progress. Where they feel safe and comfortable. Where they understand their value and contribute to creating impact.

So, think about that. What can you do right now to improve your workplace to be more attractive?

Wait a minute! We don’t want to attract just anybody; we want to attract the right ones!

The key to finding the right person, the person we really need, is to focus on skills that we cannot do without. What we call “soft skills” might be much more important than we think. Let’s face it, training a person in trust, empathy, resilience is much harder than training them on a new technology.

So, what are the human skills you are looking for?
Try to focus on that next time you are in a recruitment process.

Retaining the good ones

If we only work on the paycheck and the tangible benefits, we are competing with a lot of other businesses out there! And it won’t help us to retain anybody. So, we need to understand what our employees really want, what they are looking for? And one size doesn’t fit all.
We have in the workforce nowadays at least 3 different generations, and each generation has different aspirations. To touch each one of them we need to adapt our speech and offer. Millennials are the biggest workforce in the market now. This generation is looking for a purpose, to make a difference, to experience moments more than having comfort and money. They are looking for a reason. We need to answer to that, we need to identify how to respond to their needs and propose the right level of challenge.

Working out our uniqueness will help to define the purpose of our business and how to communicate that in a way that touches our employees so they can assimilate it as theirs also. A purpose speaks for a reason for existing.

Why your business was created for humankind?
It sounds a bit lofty but highlighting your business’s benefits helps most employees to feel more engaged and productive.
When we provide people with a reason to come to work that they care about, they will give us the maximum effort and passion; not because they have to, but because they want to.
According to Gallup, “You can increase employee engagement from 14% to 67% by simply focusing on purpose”!

So why you do what you do?

Increasing employee engagement

Employee engagement is about how we create the right conditions in which employees can offer more of their capability and potential. It is based on trust and integrity. It is a two-way commitment between the organisation and its members.

When it works, employee engagement increases the individual performance, productivity and well-being and consequently increases the organisation collaboration, innovation and competitiveness.

Are you ready to create those conditions to unlock your people’s full potential?

First, we need a safe environment. For sure, we need to provide everybody a workplace with all the measures to keep them physically well. But having a safe environment is also working within their psychological safety … and what is that?

Psychological safety, at its most basic level, is the belief that nobody will be punished just because they made a mistake. The main idea here is to put in place a forgiveness culture. In the case of failure, we need to embrace ‘having a go’ instead of punishing.

Let’s clarify it with a bit of neuroscience: When we are in a conflict, provocative, or competitive situation, is like being in a life-or-death situation for our brain. The amygdala, known as the alarm bell in our brain, ignites the fight-or-flight response. This alarm hijacks the other parts of our brain, shutting down our capacity for reasoning. In other words, we lose our minds and our capacity to interact and collaborate, just when we need it the most.

We don’t want our job or any job to be a life-or-death situation. We want to contribute in an environment that respects us, an environment where we trust each other and where we feel we belong and can give our best.

So, to keep your people motivated and engaged to go the extra mile it is essential to give them the right conditions to do so in a psychologically safe environment. Give it a try!

Implementing these 3 steps – attract the right skills, retain the good ones and increase employee engagement – is not easy and requires us to see things from a different perspective. Our world is changing and to stay both relevant and competitive in the new landscape we need to be resilient. Change is needed to face the labour and skills shortage we are facing.

I hope this article inspired you to give the first step to embrace a new mindset and transform positively your workplace towards a better place.

Juliana Queiroz
What Engineers Want

Thanks Juliana, and a little bit from me. Engineering has the task of building the future by creating the infrastructure and tools needed for tomorrow to be better than today. This is not easy and there is often no single right answer. We trade off cost, time and performance every day to try and arrive at a workable and affordable compromise that meets that goal of making tomorrow better than today.

I’m glad I chose engineering as a career and have had the chance to contribute to some amazing projects. I look forward to continuing to do so and helping others have the same opportunity.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.

You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

This post is Copyright © 2021 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

IoT Security Awareness

IoT Security Awareness Guide for Australia

IoT Alliance Australia
IoT Alliance Australia

The IoT Alliance Australia, IoTAA for short, is working to bring standards and performance to IoT in Australia. We contribute to the Manufacturing Working Group and industry events they run.

The Internet of Things Security Awareness Guide is one of the most significant steps forward for IoT in Australia. Sorting out standards and testing processes for IoT devices will put some implementation confidence into authentication, security, data integrity and privacy in IoT devices being deployed to the field and the web services that support them.

Registration is free so please register and learn about this initiative from the IoT Alliance Australia. This is the signup link

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.

You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

This post is Copyright © 2021 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Product Development Case Study

Startup strategy

This is a classic startup tale where a small team do incredibly good work to get an idea into a demonstrable form and then build a team who can complete the package.

A Melbourne based business came to us with a mechanical prototype operated using 3 Arduino modules and hand wired actuators and drivers that had allowed them to prove the operating principle of their cell processing system. The system was managed by an Excel spreadsheet that allowed them to code the interactions they needed in the spreadsheet itself. This is one of the most impressive uses of Excel as a process controller I’ve seen.

Now they needed us to take that and make it into a robust version that could be transported.

This is a very good example of solving the problems you need to in order to take your next step. This minimise cost now, reduces time to the next step and reduces technical risk.

What we did was to create a set of PCBs that acted as custom shields for the Arduino modules and also provided mechanical support for the drivers, sensors and indicators. The hand soldered wires were replaced by crimped connectors and the whole assembly was now robust enough to put on a plane and allow them to demonstrate to industry experts and potential customers. This they did very successfully.

From Concept Prototype to Production

The next stage was to ditch the Arduino modules and create a more capable embedded system. But they also needed to put together a Control Interface for managing the instrument including in a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) environment with laboratory automation, and an editor for creating the programs (recipes) that defined the cell processing steps.

And lastly they also needs to get the manufacturing systems in place and the service support software.

To manage the risks they divided these tasks between 3 different businesses.

Product in action
Product in action

Another Melbourne developer did the control interface and also took control of the manufacturing processes. These processes require ISO 13485 Quality Management Systems which they had in place but we do not.

Successful Endeavours did the electronics, embedded software and the communications interfaces that ran on the tablet used for the Control Interface and the Service and Production Support software.

Contactpoint took on the Centrifuge Protocol Builder which is a web based tool that allowed creation of protocols and also simulation of them in use in order to refine them off the machine. This is very important because we are talking about processing human cells and if you mess up a batch you have to get more. Which could involve surgery. Contactpoint have an excellent Centrifuge Protocol Builder case study on their site which I recommend you also check out.

Protocol Builder
Protocol Builder

And getting to market

The final step of course is how you sell, distribute and support a product like this which is international in scope. Another great thing they did right was to aim global from day one. So they negotiated and closed a deal with an international distributor who already had the global presence in that market and were able to handle the logistics and presence to support the instrument. The product was launched at the Melbourne ISCT 2019 conference in May 2019.

Market Launch at ISCT 2019
Market Launch at ISCT 2019

We wish them every success with this Designed in Australia, Made in Australia, world first technology product. For us, this one just ticks every box we care about.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.

You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

This post is Copyright © 2021 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Top Programming Languages 2020

2020 Top Programming Languages

IEEE Spectrum has released the results of their survey of programming languages in use in 2020. The results follows the trend for Python as the most used programming language across all platforms.

2020 Top Programming Languages
2020 Top Programming Languages

And we see that C continues to be highly used and tends to still be the dominant language for small embedded systems. Of the top 4 programming languages cited we use C, C++ and Python for our projects.

It will be interesting to see how Swift progresses now that Google have added some significant Artificial Intelligence features to it and support for Differentiable Programming. You can read about that at Swift: Google’s bet on differentiable programming.

Past results

Environmental Solution of the Year

Environmental Solution of the Year

We have been awarded the Environmental Solution of the Year at the annual Manufacturers Monthly Endeavour Awards. This is for the WaterLink SmartMESH pulse water meter reading IoT AMR system that uses Wirepas mesh networking to reduce monthly communications cost by allowing the water meter readers to form their own local mesh network.

This works particularly well for sites where the wiring for BMS integration isn’t already present and there also isn’t local power for the water meter reading modules. The units are battery operated with 10+ year battery life and capable of reading up to 6 water meters from a single unit. This is great for retrofitting to existing sites and equally useful for new sites where automated readings weren’t considered in the planning or building.

Only the gateways need to be Internet connected and this can be via cellular using the latest Cellular IoT Communications CAT-M1 or NB-IoT 4G technologies.That means no requirement for on site IT provisioning. Just cable tie a unit in place and hook up the pulse probe and it is ready to go.

The pulse probe connectors use screw terminals inside the connector body so you don’t even need those prewired. No mains power needed except for the gateways and they run from plug packs. And with 10+ year battery life they are nearly set and forget. You will get notified when the batteries need replacing so you don’t even need to keep track of that.

There is a web service for reporting hourly water usage including minimum and maximum flow rates. This allows advanced functions such as leak detection. One installation found a 27,000 Litres per day leak the first week it was installed.

WaterLink site water usage reporting

The system is in production and the best part from our perspective is that it is Made In Australia. So this is local manufacturing, local jobs and local value creation.

WaterLink daily usage reporting

IoT Technology Base

The IoT Technology Base underpinning the product is the key to the Low Power Electronics operation as well as the low cost of manufacturing.

Waterlink SmartMESH PCB
Waterlink SmartMESH PCB

The underpinning communications technologies come from u-blox with their SARA-R410M dual NB-IoT & CAT-M1 cellular module and NINA-B1 low power 2.4GHz radio module, and Wirepas for the most robust industrial grade IoT mesh networking protocol we have ever worked with.

u-Blox SARA-R410M
u-Blox SARA-R410M
u-Blox NINA-B112
u-Blox NINA-B112
Endeavour Award winners 2020

Endeavour Awards Finalists 2020

We are also pleased to have been selected as finalists for:

  • Most Innovative Manufacturing Company Award
  • Excellence in Growth

Our congratulations go to all the winners and finalists. You are all making Australia better for your efforts and that is particularly important in a time like this where we have seen the value of local jobs and local and local value creation. Well done.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.

You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

This post is Copyright © 2021 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.