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RE: Structural Engineering Online Encyclopedia (software)

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Wow Conrad, drink much coffee! :P

Unfortunately what I think what you're pointing out here has more to do with the fact that most managers aren't necessarily the brightest folks out their (I believe this to be by design, actually) - simply more responsible than some (or in some cases merely have ... 'longer, pointier noses,' as we're all aware (er, most all))
I doubt anything will ever change this fact...

Plus, even the smart hands-on types tend to think lowly of us office guys cause we tell them things don't work when they've already built and ran the very official "jump on it" test.  Why that's not ASTM recognized yet I just couldn't tell you! [sarcasm for those daft readers] Or, at the least, they refuse to believe a formal education lends any actual knowledge above what experience teaches.  Which is one of those 'you have to have been there' situations for most people (*some* are certainly smart enough to pick it all up on their own, but a very small percent IMHO) and since they will never be there... 
I doubt anything will ever change this fact...
Even further, I personally think that most people with masters, and especially Ph.D's, are actually WORSE off than a typical bachelor guy in our industry - they are simply too blinded by too much theory to ever really be profitable.  Let me put emphasis on the "most" there b/c I've known a number of master's guys who really were a cut above the rest, just not a majority of that group...

-----Original Message-----
From: Conrad Harrison [mailto:sch.tectonic(--nospam--at)] 
Sent: Monday, October 05, 2009 10:03 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: Structural Engineering Online Encyclopedia (software)

Software: just a tool for manipulating abstract data structures. Several
years back, upset a civil engineer, by exporting his pipe network, to DXF
then imported into MicroStran (frame analysis software), renumbered the
nodes in a rational sequence, ran it through the pre-processor identified
short elements, and free nodes, cleaned the network up, exported back to DXF
and then put back in the pipe analysis software: which wasn't able to do any
of this. Can't do that because its structural.

I just thought, the pipe network and structural framework were specific
instances of abstract data structures called graphs. What you do with the
graph once you have built it is another matter? As is building a system of
equations and solving the system.

Just use the available tools for the task at hand. The more general purpose
the software the more useful. But just because the basic tools are wrapped
in a custom container doesn't mean they are any less useful.

A designer  the other day, told a story, where by he had called up a
cold-formed c-section for use as a small beam, and a young engineer advised
he couldn't use it because the beam wasn't a purlin, and c-sections are
purlins: it says so on the manufacturers catalogues "girts and purlins".

Which was interesting because I advised a manufacturer a few years back,
that if it wanted to introduce a new section for general use, then don't put
the title "girts and purlins" on their load capacity tables (UDL), and also
if for general use then provide a full set of design capacity tables
(M,V,N). This they did, unfortunately they didn't pay attention to anything
else, I advised. They were blinded by strength to weight ratios, convinced
they had a superior product which would bring untold benefits to all their
customers. Having upset their customers with a more expensive section, which
provides no real benefit, and requires customers to re-design their
products, the company is now moving its equipment to Perth. They had already
upset many customers by competing against them in the  markets the customers
bought c-section for. So whilst supplying parts and assemblies, they didn't
really understand the relationship between the part and the whole: and the
real value of their new section which replaced their c-section. {Marketing
basically informed me their primary interest is selling more steel.}

Oh! The company also paid an extortionate amount of money for the
development of some software, which is largely unfit for the task at hand.
One of the managers informed that they had searched the world for the best.
When informed who they got, I suggested it must have been an extremely small
world they searched (had to restrain from laughing). The company selected
had no cold-formed design software, and no frame analysis software. The
software company now has a collection of new products. The manufacturer is
left with relatively useless software.

If the manufacturer understood the basic tools required, then they could
have developed a toolbox of simple software tools which they made available
to customers and of use to a greater number of customers, and slowly
integrated those tools together for more customised design-solutions: such
as the shed design package they were looking for, and the carport design
package they got from elsewhere. Two places to develop two independent
packages, and neither package is much value. Further more they don't own the
software, so they don't have source code and the modules to develop a more
useful package.

The manufacturer paid several hundred thousand dollars for the software. If
they had really searched the world they would have found companies with
software close to their requirements in the first place, and then discovered
the problems of developing what they wanted from the start. Expensive
lessons: entering the shed industry, developing the software, and
introducing a new section. Now if they employed the right people on staff
with the right skills, then they could have avoided most of these problems.
But no, the industry relies on consultants, has no real idea what it needs,
so it has a tendency to get what it asks for, which is not always in its
best interests nor what it actually wanted.

A structural engineering encyclopaedia may have put them on the right path,
to asking the right questions, assuming of course they looked at it.

Conrad Harrison
B.Tech (mfg & mech), MIIE, gradTIEAust
South Australia

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