IPlantE News

IPlantE at Plant & Asset Management

19th Apr 2016

Ian Jackson

At the recent Plant and Asset management conference at the NEC the IPlantE PSC member Ian Jackson presented on why registered engineers and technicians (in alphabetical order Chartered Engineers, Engineering Technicians and Incorporated Engineers) have a competitive advantage that benefits themselves, their employers and customers and society as a whole.

Ian set out why the striving for competitive advantage brings benefit for society as a whole and how it fits with plant and asset management. He then gave two points for why having more registered engineers and technicians would benefit everyone involved with plant and asset management and then gave some ideas as to how we can get more engineers and technicians to become registered. He concluded that the more engineering registration and Continuing Professional Development there is, the greater the competitive advantage and thus the benefit there is for us all.

In explaining why the striving for competitive advantage brings benefit for society as a whole, Ian said that the supplier who wins a particular contract is the one that the customer believes offers the best fit to their criteria. The problem is, how does a supplier, as an individual employee or a corporate group, enhance their competitive advantage so as to get more people to see the offering as the best fit to their particular needs? Ian argued that it comes down to making sure you are providing the best offering for your target audience. In other words make sure your target audience sees you as their first choice.

Ian explained that striving for competitive advantage fits with good plant and asset management. Users of plant need their plant to do what they require of it safely, legally, reliably and at least cost. The issue is how do the users find the right people to manage their plant in such a way?

Ian listed some obvious checks that users of plant can make, such as are the potential providers properly trained, do they have the experience, are they up to date in best practice and on the new technologies, how professional are they and do they have a set of standards they work to? He then explained these sort of checks are covered if customers insist on contracts where registered engineers and technicians will be involved. If they do that then they are going to have working for them people who have:

  • attained a level of training which has been independently assessed;
  • attained a level of experience, which has been independently assessed;
  • committed to Continuing Professional Development; and
  • committed to a set of professional standards that they will work to.

The result is that customers who understand registration know that they a probably going to get a better level of plant and asset management if they use registered engineers and technicians. This means competitive advantage for all those that are registered. The problem is that there are not many customers who understand.

Ian’s second point of why having more registered engineers and technicians would benefit everyone involved with plant and asset management, was linked to Continuing Professional Development. With registered engineers and technicians committing to Continuing Professional Development they:

  • are gaining a wider knowledge base upon which innovation can thrive; and
  • they are becoming better equipped to take advantage of change.

This is because through Continuing Professional Development, within their workplace and crucially through membership of a professional institution, such as SOE, registered engineers and technicians are:

  1. more aware of potential change,
  2. better equipped to take advantage of and embrace change;
  3. keeping up to date with new developments;
  4. aware of developments and issues in similar engineering fields;
  5. better prepared to take on more responsibility and broaden their field of expertise; and
  6. refreshing the knowledge they would otherwise have forget.

All these points combined mean that those doing Continuing Professional Development are in a much better place for being able to take advantage of new developments and innovation, both in their immediate field and from similar fields.

With more innovation the better the offering and the realisation of real competitive advantage.

Ian warned that the effectiveness of Continuing Professional Development is largely dependent on how proactive those doing it actually are. It also depends on how wide they go. He said that being in an institution should help broaden Continuing Professional Development from the immediate work area to associated areas and beyond. If society as a whole can get more Continuing Professional Development in the engineering associated with plant and asset management, then standards should not only be maintained, but rise. Also, an environment can be created where innovation and the embracing of change flourishes.

The problem is that to get more engineers and technicians to take up the opportunities for registration and the advantages it brings us all, we need wider recognition that society as whole can benefit from greater numbers of engineers and technicians being registered.

Ian identified four target audiences for getting wider recognition:

  1. Society as a whole, as represented by the customers of plant and asset management services,
  2. Employers of engineers and technicians involved in plant and asset management;
  3. Engineers and technicians themselves involved in plant and asset management; and
  4. The institutions who support engineers and technicians become registered.

To the employers of engineers and technicians involved in plant and asset management, he gave four things to think about for getting a little more competitive advantage:

  • Linking up and working with engineering institutions that support the registration of engineers and technicians;
  • Encouraging and supporting young engineers and technicians to start and work towards being registered;
  • Advertising the fact that they are associated with an engineering institution that supports the registration and that they use registered engineers and technicians; and
  • Fourthly, and without it the first three points probably will not stand, promulgating why using providers that are associated with engineering institutions, which support registration and use registered engineers and technicians, benefits their customers.

To engineers and technicians involved in plant and asset management he recommended giving themselves the competitive advantage of being able to better meet their customers’ needs by getting registered. Once registered he advocated advertising the fact that they are registered and taking time to make sure others understand what that means, particularly what it can mean for plant and asset management customers. He reminded the audience that if your customers don’t see the benefit of you being registered, a significant proportion of the competitive advantage registration could give will be lost.

On Continuing Professional Development, he acknowledged it can be a bind, particularly as you have a day job. But he reminded everyone that they would be investing in their own future by giving themselves a competitive advantage. He agreed on focusing on the activities directly applicable to the individual’s job, but suggested thinking broader so as to gain more opportunities and the potential to find the winning innovation. When thinking broader, being proactive in an institution helps get exposure to ideas and issues in very similar, but different, fields to an individual’s own.

He concluded by saying that professional plant engineering is a source of competitive advantage that so many fail to recognise. However, plant and asset engineers don’t have to be registered, or even be in an institution, to be recognised for what they can offer, or to be active in Continuing Professional Development.

However, the key message to get out is that engineers and technicians being in an institution and registered, makes:

  • the recognition of their training and experience easier and so more effective; and
  • their Continuing Professional Development more effective.

The more effective these two things are the greater the competitive advantage for them and the greater the benefit for their customers and society as a whole.

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