NSPE Gateway to Industry Winter 2010/2011
In This Issue of PEI e-News...

How Industry Accountability Can Restore Public Trust

Steven Storts

Major industries have been engulfed in several critical events this past year — an oil rig explosion and ensuing spill, mine cave-ins, a utility pipeline explosion, and multiple environmental investigations — all raising issues of safety and quality. For the engineering community, these issues pose a more diverse challenge: how to regain public confidence in the products and services provided by industry.

Restoring public trust can often be evasive. Determining fault or liability for any industrial incident is certainly the first step, but that is usually an action reserved for the legal system; accountability, on the other hand, is a decision the public renders, one that invites industry at large to provide some assurance that similar incidents will not occur in the future.

So, how can credibility be restored? It begins with a set of principles that point toward measures of accountability. For professional engineers employed in industry, accountability has always been a long-sought-after goal. Repeal of the engineering licensure exemption has been legislatively lobbied for decades at the state level, but tendering an across-the-board repeal is probably only a distant possibility. What is proving more practical is convincing young engineers of the long-term value in pursuing licensure by laying out the tangible career benefits of professional credentials: better compensation, expanded opportunities for management roles, wider selection of technical assignments, and the option to practice in other engineering fields such as consulting.

Still, individual accountability is only part of the equation. And it is not just a matter of licensure or removing the industry exemption; it is doing the right thing and making the right decisions. Individuals within private industry do not have the option of setting their own standards, although many companies are developing mechanisms for some type of internal peer review. Instead, accountability must be achieved on a wider scale that encompasses all business operations.

Industry leaders might do well to take a page out of the playbook of the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, an advocacy network of investors and environmental groups. Years ago, CERES promulgated a set of challenges that are now serving as a model for accountability among numerous global enterprises. Aimed at helping industries incorporate environmental stewardship into their business culture, these challenges include: protection of the biosphere, sustainable use of natural resources, reduction and disposal of wastes, energy conservation, risk reduction, safe products and services, environmental restoration, informing the public, management commitment, and audits and reports.

Full accountability, however, does not end with environmental advocacy; it is just the beginning. Accountability must be self-imposed. For instance, in the aftermath of the BP oil spill, major energy companies are beginning to disclose information regarding their risk oversight measures for their offshore oil operations around the world. Transparency has come to the forefront because investors (the public) are now focusing attention on the necessary governance, compliance, and management systems for minimizing risks associated with industrial operations.

Environmental sustainability and transparency of business practices, however, are only two elements of self-imposed accountability. Other factors include risk management, the economic and social impacts of business operations, and corporate governance and ethics. Of those remaining factors, risk management assumes a dominant role for the industrial engineering community.

With risk inherent in any venture, particularly where human decision-making is a major consideration, many industries have turned their attention more toward risk assessment, a process that scrutinizes policies and procedures from every perspective to limit the possibility for any business operation, product, or service to endanger the public or environment. Those advocating this process contend that accountability will improve when risk assessment becomes part of the business culture itself. But that culture will require bringing every possibility for imminent danger to the forefront, thereby erasing the stigma of whistle-blowing from any level of employment.

For industry there are many simple tools at hand for engaging in risk assessment:

   Conducting brainstorming sessions that consider all scenarios of potential threat;

   Doing more in-depth research from a socio-economic perspective prior to actual industrial design;

   Scrutinizing safety and environmental regulations more closely; and

   Improving inspection training.

Industry risk assessment is also expanding use of information technology, 3-D modeling, and various imagineering techniques, whereby computer modeling “imagines” countless scenarios that pose an imminent threat to public or environmental safety. Part of this process also involves “designing for failure,” with failure meaning the unforeseen, accidents, or mechanical breakdown. This technique not only targets the unexpected in the actual use of a product or service, but it also addresses one of the many principles espoused by the late W. Edwards Deming, founder of the original Total Quality Movement — eliminating defects in the industrial production process, primarily through statistical analyses and reduction of human error.

Automotive, farm machinery, power tool, landscape equipment, and aircraft manufacturers are examples of industries using these risk assessment tools to help eliminate or reduce the possibility for human error before, during, and after the production process. By striving to limit any dire consequences due to human error, these industries are strengthening their accountability practices before the eyes of the public.


Search is On for the Nationís Most Innovative New Products

The National Society of Professional Engineers is seeking innovative new products and their inventors for consideration in the New Product Awards program, designed to highlight the benefits to society made by engineers and engineering principles. Now in its 28th year, the program was developed and is sponsored by NSPE’s Professional Engineers in Industry.

The specific purpose of the New Product Awards program is to recognize the societal benefits that come from the research and engineering of new products. These benefits include a direct and unique impact on the public’s health, safety, and welfare; added employment; increased productivity; economic development; the strengthening of the nation’s competitive position internationally; and a significant contribution to the public’s standard of living. This competition recognizes those companies with the pioneering vision and knowledge to bring these new products, and their benefits, to the marketplace.

“New and improved products from engineers enhance our quality of life and ensure our safety,” said Richard Buchanan, P.E., chairman of the New Product Award Committee. “This competition recognizes the efforts and foresight of these companies whose aggressive policies bring new products to the marketplace.”

In addition to the industry recognition and wide acknowledgement of winning products, all New Product Award winners will receive

  • Presentation of the award at the NSPE Annual Conference in Las Vegas in July 2011 and two complimentary banquet tickets;
  • The NSPE/PEI New Product Award crystal;
  • A featured article in the award-winning PE magazine;
  • Media coverage through press releases, media materials, social media outlets, and events; and
  • Featured recognition on NSPE’s Web site.

Entries are judged based on a product’s improved function, sales and economic impact, and innovative use of engineering principles and its improved function. Nominations are grouped according to size of the industrial company and winners are selected in four employment categories: small (50 or fewer employees), medium (51 to 200 employees), large (200 to 9,999 employees), and mega (10,000 or more employees). Past winners have included Uraseal Inc., IntelliChoice Energy, Orion Energy Systems Inc., and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. Inc.

To be eligible, each submission must be for a product, machine, process, or material that has been developed in the United States and first placed on the market between 2005 and 2009. Entries should contain a detailed product description and include photos, brochures, and samples, if possible. The deadline for delivering entries to NSPE is February 15, 2011.

To review the rules and download an application, visit www.nspe.org/npa, or e-mail pei@nspe.org for more information.


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2011 Federal Engineer of the Year Award

The Federal Engineer of the Year Award recognizes federal engineers for their commitment, innovation, and value in service to our nation. Contributions from the private sector help us celebrate these agency-nominated engineers, and are important to the continued success of this nationally recognized program.

Each year, federal engineers from across the country are recognized. They are nominated by their employing agency, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Naval Facilities Command, U.S. Air Force, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy. On February 24, 2011, leaders from both private and public engineering sectors will recognize these engineers at the Federal Engineer of the Year Award luncheon and ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. In addition, the event is recorded and made available on the NSPE Web site, www.nspe.org, as well as other media venues.

This event provides a unique opportunity for your organization to interface with hundreds of attendees, including senior level engineers and agency officials from numerous government agencies. To learn more about the Federal Engineer of the Year Award program and see the high caliber of previous winners, visit our Web page at http://www.nspe.org/FEYA.

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Get Free Online Company Listing

Now throughMarch 1, get 10% off the price of becoming a 2011 PEI Sustaining Sponsor and get exposure, and more business, for your company. By becoming a PEI Sustaining Sponsor, you will help to support the efforts of Professional Engineers in Industry (PEI) as we strive to promote the hard-earned professional engineer (PE) designation and enhance the image of the PE in Industry.

As a 2011 PEI Sustaining Sponsor, your company will receive the following promotional privileges:

  • Company listing: Your company will be included in a searchable directory that includes a complete description of your company and link to your website.  NSPE’s Web site receives more than 75,000 user sessions per month.  All PEI Sustaining Sponsors are listed at: www.nspe.org/PEI/Supporters
  • Valuable Discounts: 25% discount on ads in PE magazine, NSPE Update, NSPE Web banners, and job board postings.
  • Recognition: Listing in an issue of NSPE’s PE magazine (circulation is over 50,000) and in PEI Enews, a monthly electronic newsletter sent to more than 5,500 PEI members.

Your options to participate include the following: (*Price reflects 10% discount for payments received by 3/1/11):


SILVER  $135* (regularly  $150) Company Listing. Includes company listing and link to company website. NSPE’s Web site receives more than 75,000 user sessions per month. ($500 value)

GOLD  $225* (regularly $250)—Includes “Silver” package plus company logo advertisement in PEI E-News, a monthly newsletter delivered to more than 5,500 PEI members by email. ($ 1,000 value)

PLATINUM $270* (regularly $300)—Includes “Gold” package plus company logo advertisement in PE magazine, NSPE’s premier magazine with a circulation over 50,000. ($ 1,550 value)

We appreciate your support and hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to help your business endeavors and fellow engineers in industry.  For more information and to see a list of current sponsors, please visit the NSPE/PEI web site at: www.nspe.org/PEI/Supporters.

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FDA Launches External Defibrillator Improvement Initiative

The Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health has launched an External Defibrillator Improvement Initiative. The initiative seeks to improve the safety and effectiveness of automatic external defibrillators by promoting innovation in the next generation of AEDs, improving the ability of industry and FDA to identify and respond to problems with devices currently on the market, and designate an appropriate premarket regulatory pathway for device design and testing.

While FDA urges consumers to continue using current external defibrillators, the agency hopes to improve design and manufacturing practices to enhance future devices and reduce instances of failure.

NSPE will discuss engineering practices that could improve external defibrillators at an FDA workshop in December.


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Nominate Fellow Engineers for NSPE Awards

NSPE offers several awards that have upcoming deadlines in 2011. Below are just a few of the award programs NSPE will be conducting this year.

To see the complete list of NSPE awards, please visit the NSPE Awards Web page

NSPE Award (Deadline: January 31)
The NSPE Award is the highest award given to an individual by the Society. It is presented to an engineer who has made outstanding contributions to the engineering profession, the public welfare, and/or humankind. Nominations should be made in consideration of the high caliber of some of the previous recipients: President Herbert Hoover, Dr. David Steinman (founder of NSPE), former Puerto Rico Governor Luis Ferré, former NSPE Executive Director Paul Robbins, and R. Bruce Taylor, P.E.

PEI Distinguished Service Award (Deadline: January 31)
The PEI Distinguished Service Award is presented to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution of national scope to advance the causes of the individual engineer in industry or Professional Engineers in Industry (PEI). The award winner will receive an engraved plaque and up to $500 toward travel expenses to accept the award at the 2011 NSPE Annual Meeting in Las Vegas in July. Also included are two complimentary tickets to the NSPE awards ceremony held during the conference.

Mentor of the Year Award (Deadline: March 31
The Mentor of the Year Award is given each year to the one member of NSPE who best exemplifies the ideal image of a mentor. The award may be given to an individual who has established a record of consistent outreach toward individuals in the engineering field, including engineering professionals and students, over a number of years. This award can also be received by an individual who has contributed to the support or development of mentoring programs within their company or in the engineering community. The ideal candidate should have a record of achievement in offering guidance to and fostering development among engineering professionals.

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Professional Engineers in Industry Scholarship

Professional Engineers in Industry Scholarship is a $2,500 award. Applicants must be sponsored by a NSPE member. Students who are children, dependents, or relatives of NSPE members are given preference in the scholarship selection process. Students must have completed a minimum of two semesters or three quarters of undergraduate engineering studies (or be enrolled in graduate study) in a program accredited by the ABET.

To apply visit the PEI web page.  

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Contact the 2010-11 PEI Executive Board Officers

Jonn Nebbe, P.E.

Curtis A. Beck, P.E.

Cullen M Flanders, P.E.

Immediate Past Chairman
Richard L. Buchanan, P.E.

Young Engineer Representative
Austin Lin, EIT

NSPE House of Delegates Representative
Robert (Bob) G. Becnel, P.E.

Northeastern Region

Southeastern Region
Jorge L. Pardo, P.E., F. NSPE

Central Region
Howard R. Jones P.E.

North Central Region
Stephen A. Hutti, P.E.

Southwestern Region
James Mathis, P.E.

Western & Pacific Region
Franklin Fong, P.E.

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