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Engineer documents



Hi all! I'm researching (in my university) problems that engineers face in their daily work with different documents (standards, specifications, datasheets, reports, drawings etc.)

What are your daily routines you want to get rid of?

What is time-consuming or inconvenient while working with documents?

Where do the most mistakes usually happen?


I will be very grateful for your sharing!

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Without a doubt, the greatest problem for me is technical papers behind paywalls. As a part of economic reality, publishers either sell the content they publish or they charge the author a steep fee for the privilege of having their work published. Both are bad. Putting information behind a paywall means that if I don't have the money to buy the paper, I cannot get it. Asking the author to pay the publication charge encourages the publication of junk. It is a loose-loose situation.


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Very well said DrD - that is also, by far, my greatest frustration!

With some technical papers and standards - bear in mind that these "standards" are often the "safety blanket" to ensure that things are safe as designed - the cost of a paper is not insignificant itself, but for a copy of the standard can be several hundred GBP, sometimes thousands for a pack of interrelated standards - say for example the Eurocodes! 

All this does is DISCOURAGE safe design or informed research. After all, a small independent often cannot fund these "up-front" costs on even concept work. many builders - rather than "design" against standards, rely on personal knowledge...but the problem with that is no-one knows what they do not know, and that is a very dangerous - hubristic - position to be in!

There is a huge frustration that Standards are generally Government publications that are the "big stick" used to enforce the practices, you have to buy your own "beating stick" but this this is priced to discourage the purchase in the first place!

There are a couple of instances that spring to mind to illustrate the dangers:

  1. I remember calculating a cable a few years back - it sticks in the mind due to the initial "verbal abuse" I got at the time for the cable I had specified...I had to pass 230V/50Amps down a cable 65 metres long.  All the sparks (professional electricians) I knew said that 6mm^2 would be plenty and that 10mm^2 would be overkill but would have extra safety...the reality was that the calculations stated it needed 16mm^2 (which I had specified). I made every one of them sit down and do the calculations and they all changed their tune, backtracked and - to be fair to them - apologised for their error.
  2. Another item was when I inspected a house that was in the process of a (low speed) structural collapse.  They had had an extension undertaken to the rear of this two-storey house, and then had the extension re-worked a couple of years later as the roof was pooling. During the extension re-work, the new builder had changed the roof support beams from lateral to longitudinal as "they should have done it this way!". The problem here was the original builder had chosen a lateral configuration as the main building structure was not strong enough to support the weight of the extension roof without significant reinforcement. The new builder did not reinforce the original structure of the house - it took 20+ years to collapse, but collapse it eventually did, fortunately no-one was hurt.

The irony is that there is no need to "pay" up-front for any of these - software Engineers have it sewn-up near perfectly:  if you use someone's code, you acknowledge their input and - if necessary - pay a royalty for the privilege of use on a successful design. Similar is the case with the patents market, although the rules are a little stricter.

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