Thursday, 30 January 2014

Expert Witness in Water and Sewage Engineering

I spoke to a new potential Expert Witness client today (to do with an industrial effluent treatment plant job), and I am awaiting the word from another who I spoke to earlier in the week (to do with clean water supply).

With two expert witness jobs on the books, (both awaiting court dates), and a part 35 report about to be sent out, there looks to be a lot of this work. It is well-paid, but I'd rather maintain my engineering practice. I enjoy it, and it keeps me current and credible.

There are too many "experts" who have never designed or operated a plant, and are not even qualified as engineers, who nevertheless seem to manage to persuade courts as to their credibility in offering an opinion on engineering matters.

Then there are those who used to be some kind of engineers, but who now only seem to work as expert witnesses. They claim expertise in a very wide field, sometimes far from their original experience and training. They seem to be experts in being an expert witness.

This is why it is so important for me to continue in professional engineering practice, and to only work as an expert in areas close to my maximum experience and expertise.

I'm sure than many who write reports on subjects far from their real area of expertise must be terrified than one day they will have to stand up in court and defend their opinions. Personally I look forward to it.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Heads Down!

University teaching starts on Monday, and I've cleared my desk of all of the most pressing / time consuming jobs. Work continues to come in, we have bids out for a mix of new R+D, design, and expert witness jobs.

My priority in the next few weeks will be to get my two new modules(one for Year 2, one Master's) working properly. I've decided to try teaching a formal method intended to enhance creativity, the Adapted McMaster 5 point problem solving strategy. I'll see how it goes.

I'm bringing in some other chartered engineers to allow design across a wider range of sectors to be taught in the same way as I have been teaching my Water/Environment sector design examples.

Book chapter is looking good. One of my colleagues pointed out to me the IChemE's CAPE guidelines on use of computers by chemical engineers, which is strongly supportive of my ideas in the area, and I have included a mention of it in there. To summarise - computers support professional opinion, they do not replace it, and it is our professional responsibility to validate all inputs, outputs and the quality and appliability of all programmes used.

More generally, I have not so much been looking for texts which tell me how to carry out design, as those which are based in the same understanding of it which I have intuitively after twenty odd years as a practitioner.

I already knew that we only use validated software and spreadsheets in practice, and that custom writing spreadsheets and programmes (as academics do and teach) to order is fraught with error - the CAPE guidelines only told me that the IChemE had codified my knowledge.

Similarly, I know how I go about solving problems, and the McMaster method only names the stages and formalises the attitudes with which to approach them.

I also know how to carry out a design exercise, and Pahl and Beitz's book only sets down for me a highly systematic and explicit version for beginners to follow.

The problem for those beginners is that for every reliable guide there are twenty unreliable ones in my field, describing not how it is done by practitioners, but some theoretician's unvalidated, unproven, impractical idea of how it ought to be done.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Getting on top of it...

Third stage of bidding for government job was completed on Monday, we find out next week if we got it. Six consultancy days left before teaching starts, and my first book chapter is ready for proof reading, all of the various design jobs are in hand, the current expert witness report is substantially completed, and we have produced the tender for the development work we have been asked to price for. I'm ready for a weekend!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

The Iron Triangle in Design Development

"Fast, good and cheap: pick any two" is an aphorism which sums up the "Iron Triangle" of project management. It was mentioned in an article in today's "Guardian", and it reminded me of some issues associated with the confidential design work I am doing at present.

Both of the things I am designing need to be both good and cheap. Getting these designs right is not going to be quick. In both cases there are many constraints to consider, but working within constraints is what makes design interesting.

From a conceptual design point of view there isn't that wide a range of possible choices which are safe, cost effective and robust..  Both have to be exceptionally robust, and have additional physical as well as cost constraints.

The highly mathematical "Process Design" approach is of no use here- I am doing far more geometry than I am calculus.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Busy, but can't say what with!

Picked up another real engineering job yesterday, to do with sludge drying. More or less all of the other jobs on the books at present are covered by confidentiality agreements, which is a pity, as they are pretty interesting.

We've now got three design jobs, and two expert witness appointments on the books. I'm going to see a government agency next Monday for the third stage of bidding for a couple of training contracts which would give us more or less as much training as we want for the next couple of years.

There are a few other things on the horizon, but I'll be happy to break the back of the various jobs we have now before students return in 2-3 weeks time, and get the first chapter of my book to the editor before month end.