Back in the 70s when I graduated with an engineering degree, a large percentage of the new graduates went to work for manufacturing companies. A certain percentage went on for advanced degrees and ended up in research positions and academia, but much of the research was carried out by private companies building their own IP portfolios. The exception to this was civil, structural and architectural graduates who might end up working for private engineering and design firms.
When manufacturing companies in the processing segment are faced with having to solve their varied production problems and challenges, they may find due to resource constraints within their own organizations that hiring in some outside help is required. Manufacturers in these situations frequently have qualification steps to go through to ensure that the potential supplier can provide the level of service necessary to solve the problem at hand. This is equally true whether the company in need requires replacement of a failed part, regulatory guidance for a new chemical to be introduced, or installation of a new piece of process equipment. The varied disciplines within a process based company that may be serviced by contractors is broad and varied. Businesses that look to suppliers for assistance should be able to understand and verify the skills and capabilities of their suppliers, on a project by project basis, to ensure a successful outcome.
Say you are a manufacturer with an aging production infrastructure, faced with the opportunity to sell more of your goods (if only you could up your output from your existing equipment). As you begin your investigation into your options to increase your volumes, and consider the possibility of a capital investment, you may then be faced with the need to deal with parts of your existing system which may have to be brought up to current code. The modifications you may desire for your current machinery, which will enable the integration of new equipment to give you the added production you are seeking, are also now mandating certain regulated updates (this can happen to electrical components and wiring, and can also drive necessary improvements to guarding for operator safety).
In today’s rapidly changing manufacturing landscape, many companies that produce consumer or industrial products have evolved to a staffing construct that is lean and cost effective. These companies have found that they can’t afford to carry a technical staff to support all aspects of both their manufacturing platform and their plant infrastructure. So, out of necessity and competitive pressure, they prioritize where to make their staffing investments, and then look to outside help for assistance that can be funded on a pay-as-you-go basis when specific problems or challenges arise. Generally, companies that have focused their technical staff on nurturing their Intellectual Property (either product formulation or process methods) then allow contract engineering firms to partner in the technical space outside of their proprietary domain.
Control system specifications regularly involve deciding where operator interfaces will reside. More recently, a choice must also be made on whether or not to use mobile devices.