#BadAssEngineers – tips from top manufacturing engineers in the industry
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
At Valence Industrial, we know that great engineers can inspire others to bring ideas and build things that no one thought possible. We feature Adam Rose, Manufacturing Engineer at Valence Industrial, in the first of our series to highlight #BadAssEngineers --hoping that it inspires someone who is looking for an idea or a tip to be a game changer for the day, week or a lifetime of innovations.
What are some of the more complex projects that you’ve done?
Efficiency on the factory floor
I worked with Martinrea International Inc. to design a mother-daughter cart combination, where the mother cart transported 14 different daughter work in process carts. It cut forklift traffic by 60% through making the carts have more uses (read the full story).
I worked together with my engineering manufacturing partner to hand measure the hole placements – all different sizes, widths, depths and placements for an adapter plate. It goes on a robot with hydraulics so hole placement was critical to get right (read the full story).
I designed 2700 feet of aisle guarding with both, standard and custom sizing. After getting the original floor design, doing the CAD 3D designs of the factory floor, I went to do field measurements. With the customer, we found opportunities to improve the custom aisle guarding path to work around automated bots along with tuggers run by people (read the case study).
What are tips you would have told your younger self?
I name all of my designs with a very specific naming pattern. Before I implemented this naming scheme, someone would walk up to me three years after I designed a project with a part number or a generic name like “lower bracket.” And I’d say, “I have a lot of lower brackets, but what project does this bracket belong to?” Specific naming patterns reduces wasting my time. Now my naming convention will tell me the customer, project and lead me to the exact sub-assembly the part belongs to just by looking at the part number.
I give myself breadcrumbs with my filing system so I can find it by company name, part type or item number.
#1 Try to get on other engineers’ wavelength. Since they know the project inside and out, certain details may not be obvious or what I might think is the most important aspect. Ask enough questions to understand others’ priorities.
Getting to know the person isn’t what you are necessarily trying to do. However, asking questions and getting into the details creates credibility so you can converse freely.
Sometimes, I will work with an engineer who throws a ton of information at me; and after wading through it all, it may or may not be enough.
#2 Keep that line of communication open. That goes a long way to show that you fully understand their end goals and builds their confidence in your abilities. It is your job to be able to bring up concerns that they may not have considered, and have them be open to hearing them.
#3 Avoid tunnel vision. I’ll start designing and get to a milestone point, and then will ask others to take a look. A colleague could point out something that I hadn’t considered. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and start designing down a path that won’t work – wasting your time. It takes another perspective to say, consider this or keep that in mind, especially on a bigger project.
A lot of times using best practices makes it a whole lot easier. Naming AutoDesk CAD parameters or properly linking files can make teaming much easier across engineers. If you go back to my old files, you would see that I didn’t know enough to do that properly, and it caused delays and confusion.
If a colleague wanted to go in to change a dimension, (s)he’d have to go into the model and drill down to a specific hole. (S)he’d have to change it there. The other engineers and I would have to own the design end-to-end because it was too difficult to share and iterate on it.
By using best practices and naming your parameters, you can easily look at a part from a top level and open a single parameters menu--change the dimension. You’re on to your next task without much fuss or confusion.
You can give three different engineers the exact same part to design, and they will all approach the design totally different, but end up with the same result.
It helps for part flow, keeping things organized and if another engineer is working next to me, it helps that person follow along and not have to wade through my unique thoughts via CAD designs.
#1 Understand how your part will be constructed or built. I’ll do a blueprint, and pull my dimensions measuring from one origin. While they are correct, the guys on the floor may want to build the part from an opposite side of the part. They may not want the dimensions the way I gave them. Understanding their workflow as well as yours reduces the time it takes for them to come to you and ask to re-dimension a part.
#2 Don’t underestimate communicating live with your team. I’ll finish a CAD design. On a big project, I’d get approvals from the customer on critical features, and then get to the question of how do we build it? The minutia of this isn’t usually seen by the customer. They come to us because we reduce their attention because we figure “how” to do it
I’d sit down with the operations manager and the head of welding to review it. We’ll discuss how it is constructed and critical requirements. We’ll have a round table and say, here it how I think we should do it. And then get to an agreement on process--executing on that process.
How is engineering at Valence Industrial different?
Freedom, I guess.
I have more freedom to make changes as I see fit. I don’t have a lot of red tape. Larger companies have different levels of managers. I can converse with two to three other people to pull ideas and move quickly with changes.
We’re lightweight and can react quickly.
Long-term, I see myself working here because I have fun. It is a good place to work. You don’t have bureaucracy –just a small, family-oriented environment.
A great avenue of learning is to look up tutorial videos. That’s like the dirty little secret that if you don’t know how to do something, just find a good online tutorial. There are tons of them online. You will see people show different methods you’ve never tried before to create a part or project.
It’s a great way of broadening your skillset.