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RE: Excel vs Mathcad

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I have been following the Excel vs. Mathcad debate closely with great
interest.  I agree that Mathcad is easier for a peer to review, but I prefer
Excel for the power and the ability to hide non-essential calculations to
save paper.  Once I have verified the accuracy of the program then I have no
need to see any other cells than the input, design decisions made, and the
output.  However, I do need to provide secondary documentation so that the
peer can confirm the procedure and some examples.  This is not a problem
because I must perform a few hand calculations to help in the programming
anyway.  My company requires numbered calculations for every job so limiting
the amount of paper saves time at the end of a project.
I have been developing design spreadsheets for the last five years (I've
been contemplating selling them but I've discovered that everybody likes
their own style and therefore likely not interested in anything that I have
produced).  I create them on company time (i.e. overhead) when I am not busy
or when another engineer requests a specific task to be designed.  Other
than that, I create the spreadsheets on an as-needed basis and charge the
time to the project that I originally needed it for.  My employers do not
infringe on my desire to be more efficient with my calculations mainly
because it allows more time to prepare the construction documents.  One
employer established a job number for me to charge to so they could track my
time but that was unique.  
My employer endorses the use of Excel spreadsheets and other engineers are
encouraged to use them (and check for accuracy also).  Since I am the
creator of these spreadsheets, they will come and go with me.  If my
employer wants the exclusive rights to what I have created, they must
compensate me very well.  I estimate that I have over 1300 hours invested
over the last five years.  I do not receive any additional compensation for
performing my job more efficiently - however, these tools have allowed me to
meet the tight deadlines this profession is subjected to.  In addition, they
have saved me from coming into the office on weekends.  My current company
is an employee-owned organization so whatever design time I save results in
a better bottom line and practically guarantees a bonus at the end of the
year (I only have to wonder how much it is instead of if I will get one). 
I believe in working smarter instead of harder.  I do not like to do things
over and over manually because it becomes extremely stressful and tedious.
It is much simpler to program a computer once, do some test runs, and just
alter the input.  Therefore, once I have developed a design spreadsheet it
can be reused on another project.  Several of these files are over 1
Megabyte and process an enormous amount of information quickly!  For
example, I have reduced the time to design a concrete retaining wall from 5
hours (by hand) to 2 minutes.  I assume eventually I will have a design
spreadsheet for every task I perform ... which will expedite the calculation
phase in order to create "perfect" drawings.  Hmmm - wonder if I could
automate that too??  I hope this insight helps.

William J. Keil, P.E.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jim Kestner [mailto:jkestner(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Friday, August 13, 1999 3:08 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Excel vs Mathcad

For those of you who are not self employed, have you developed these
spreadsheets on your own time or on the company's time? If on your own
time, what agreement do you have with your employer as to owns the right
to these spreadsheets? Do you get some additional compensation from your
employer since it has made you and possibly your co-workers, more
efficient and  you have more value to your firm. If you are not getting
additional compensation or other benefits, what incentive do you have in
writing these, other than some individual satisfaction?

If done on company time, do you charge it to a particular project,
general overhead or something else?

Jim Kestner, P.E.
Green Bay, Wi.