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UK Electronics industry needs re-structuring.


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Thread starter #1
Please find here advice on how the UK electronics industry can easily improve profitability....by adopting a "visible workplace" ethos, where engineers can be seen at all times. This stops non-work-related activity and encourages progress. Other countries already operate like this, and reap the benefits. This is why I direct it at UK, because other countries are already doing this.
I am writing this from my experience of having worked in over 27 different electronics engineering companies/departments in UK.
The idea involves electronics engineering companies/departments, simply adopting a “visible workplace” policy, -a working environment where engineers are visible at all times to their managers, and indeed to preferably most of the company’s other employees.
This creates a more hard-working environment, where engineers can develop better their skills. Also, such an environment makes it more difficult for engineers to waste time in less constructive activities such as messing about, arguing continuously with each other, forming “benefit cliques” (or gangs) so as to put pressure on engineers outside the “clique”, or even sabotaging one another’s work.
I have found that the best electronics companies have such a “visible workplace”. The Dyson company is a good example. The main hall at Dyson is totally open, everybody can be seen and heard at all times, by a number of other people. There are also cameras which is a great idea if not essential. (I believe microphones are also a great idea) At Dyson, there is little scope for engineers to engage in ‘non-engineering activities’ such as ganging up on a bright new engineer who has recently arrived at the company, etc etc. Even the mezzanine lab at Dyson is very open. Indeed, whilst working at Dyson, a young engineer who did not feel that he was being given enough suitable work came up to the mezz lab and continuously moaned at me about how he wanted me to teach him about a certain aspect of electronics. I didn’t have the time to do this. What impressed me was the speed with which a manager came up to the mezzanine lab and took charge of this lad, taking him away and finding something for him to do. This without me saying anything.
The “open” workplace in Dyson helps this to happen.
Unfortunately, I have often seen how engineers, instead of striving to better themselves technically, strive instead to simply try & make some of their other engineering colleagues look worse. –Continuously distracting engineers who are busy working, stealing or hiding their equipment, spreading stories about them, sabotaging their work, putting virus’s on their PC when they are not looking, etc etc. The “visible workplace” makes it so much harder for such less edifying activity to take place.
Sadly, there are few other UK engineering companies with the “open workplace” that Dyson has. Most of the company’s have a multitude of closed rooms, in which engineers can get up to all kinds of shenanigans behind the bosses back…
Example 1:
In one UK based electronics company, I worked in a “closed lab” with three electronics engineers and one assembly girl. One of the engineers continually distracted the other two younger engineers, engaging them daily in hours & hours of non-work-related chat about just about anything. Very often, he would get them to join him in foul jokes directed at the assembly girl. The two younger engineers were of a disposition to 'get-on-with-their-work', however, the older engineer continuously distracted them, making them feel ‘anitsocial’ or ‘geekish’ if they did not join him in messing about instead of working. The manager of that site new that the work was going too slowly, however, that manager was seated in an office in a building across the road, and he simply could not see or hear what was going on in the lab…..and indeed, no other staff could see inside there either. Every month or so, the manager would insist that these engineers, due to their slow progress, should come and work a whole weekend, full-time, unpayed, to try and catch-up….the engineers would agree to this, but come the Monday, the larking about would just start all over again.
(I was in this lab as a contractor, I reported the foul language directed at the girl to her friend in the upstairs offices, but this girl told me not to report it further, as the girl might then be taken off her soldering exams, which would be useful to her in her imminent job application to a different company.)
One interesting point about this company, was that the older engineer discussed above was quite close to the Chief Design Engineer. The Chief Design Engineer gave me the impression of not wanting the body of engineers to become too technically adept, as indeed, perhaps this would simply act as a ‘threat’ to his technical superiority within the company. On one occasion, a bright new engineer had joined the company, and I overheard the Chief Design Engineer telling the older engineer “if he gets too keen, punch him one!”.
There are multiple examples like the above, I wont bore yourself with them. These things happen far, far less in “open type” workplaces, such as Dyson.
Altogether, only five of the 27 UK workplaces that I have attended benefit at all from the “open workplace” principle.
Tridonic benefits from virtually all internal walls being see-through, thus managers always have good visibility over staff, and multiple different staff members can see each other. –Engineers can’t so easily get up to shenanigans. The engineering office and lab is actually ‘glass-walled’ to the entire production unit. Almost total visibility.
At a certain amplifier company, the entire staffing of the company, including the owners/directors were seated in a large, open room. It was simply not possible for anybody to loaf about or lark about without being in the sight of others who may well object to it/report it. There was a meeting room, but it had a huge glass window into the main room, so when the bosses were in the meeting room, they still had total visibility over all staff.
I have often noticed electronics companies where a number of engineering graduates are simply not given work, or are just given “token” jobs which are monitored loosely , if at all. Where this happens in non “open-workplace” type places, it often just descends into a shambles, with these engineers constantly chattering all day, -typically, at least one engineer will try to distract & stop his/her fellow junior colleagues from working & learning, -not wanting to be ‘left-behind’.
I have been to companies where they are paying hugely for consultancies to come in and present workplace efficiency ideologies such as the “Agile” working principle. The problem has a far simpler solution than that…..as discussed here, the “open workplace” principle. Get people working and stop the shenanigans/time-wasting.


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I bet that you are a real barrel of laughs to your co-workers. I wonder why that group that you worked with ganged up on you recently.

Cameras, microphones, what next a spot bonus for "fitting up" your colleagues.
You would be a good fit for a post with the STASI, but they were disbanded with the fall of the DDR.

Just to add a little flourish to your ideal workplace, you could put a sign above the front gate, Arbeit Macht Frei has a nice ring to it in this context.



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Thread starter #3
Seriously these “open workplaces” are the happier , more enjoyable places to work.. as well as being more productive. Think of a premier league football match….that’s effectively an “open workplace”, and nobody complains there.
Many of the UK electronics industries are surviving on Government grants derived from North Sea Oil. The UK pound currently being too high to allow a vibrant UK electronics/engineering industry. (North Sea Oil is almost run out though). Surviving on grants, and not having customer deadlines to meet, can make for slack type activity, so shaping things up a bit is no bad thing. If UK cannot make Engineering work when North Sea Oil runs out, then UK is a gonner.


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I work in a department with 7 other engineers - it is an enclosed room and we have a party in there every day. We also get on with out work, hit deadlines and come up with innovative new designs to help the business sometimes through banter, mick taking and random conversation.

Considering the level of intellect in there, personality clashes are non existent and we've never fallen out with each other.


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Thread starter #5
OK thanks, you didn’t mention whether you seven are the only people who work there, and/or whether or not any supervisors , or the company owner actually sits in that room with you.
Another point is that you say you meet deadlines. But many UK companies are meeting deadlines, but these are just “invented deadlines”, for “invented products” , for “Invented markets”, and the whole shebang is simply being funded by UK government grants which derive from North sea oil.
If you are making it work then all the best to you , but I have many many stories of situations of companies where there are closeted little rooms, and productivity certainly is not high at all.
Another point is that the “open workplace” gets more important, the bigger is the company…..a little consultancy staffed by a group of hardworking mates with similar goals can often work without being in an “open workplace”, as such.

Also, supposing that an eigth engineer was introduced into that room of yours. Suppose that they were someone unknown to any of the clique.
Now suppose that this new engineer happens to be better at some job than an engineer that’s already in there…..and suppose that the new guy actually ends up taking all the nice juicy, technically interesting work away from the engineer who had been there for a while…..your boss demands this. In some situations, the seven may “gang” together in order to try and oust the new guy, after all, they don’t want to see their old mate getting pushed away from his beloved job, even if the new guy is better at it than their mate.

In UK , it is necessary for all to think about these things now, as the UK is drastically falling way behind Mainland Europe and the Far East, and North Sea Oil is about to run out.
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The group has over 60,000 employees, we have around 200 in our part of the business. Our manager alternates with one week in our office and one week in a different office.

Deadlines are pretty vital - it is a fast turnaround business and hourly costs for missing a deadline for a repair or new installation run into thousands.

A new engineer recently was assigned a project/product I'd come up with and had spent a lot of time researching in my own time - not a problem for us as ultimately it benefits the company and we support each other 100% on anything we do. New employees are carefully chosen both on their skills and personality - it is a well run department with plenty of cross skill matching and a great atmosphere.

Not all roses though - maybe 80%+ of my work is general maintenance and pretty tedious stuff but your job is what you make it. A lot of staff in this industry get poached by customers.


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Thread starter #7
Thanks PICbits, and it sounds like you are a software engineer, of course, that’s slightly easier to manage because your always at your laptop terminal, and each laptop has a camera and microphone, and so your boss can look at you and the room through that at any time. Also, the boss can tell on the network, from your computer strokes if you are working on what you should be. The boss may in fact have a hidden camera and microphone in your office of course.


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Nope - we have CCTV in the office as we have many £100k's worth of kit - it is only used if we need to see who has pinched a bit of kit. I do both software programming and hardware systems - mainly hardware. I also walk several miles a day doing everything from changing filters in industrial computers to testing fire systems and redesigning data acquisition equipment.


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Thread starter #9
Well you are lucky, but as you can see from "Example 1" in the top post, the poor assembly woman wasn't quite so fortunate to have worked in such a civilised place as your own. Ditto many many other places with similar situations.
You sound like you are doing "real" work, and of course, many of the UK owned companys simply don't have that, and can "drift".


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The only guy that gets ahead is the one that "kisses the bosses A$$". That's just the way it is.

One guy I worked for would interact with you "one on one". Basically a mentor. But for my area I was on my own.

Another guy I worked for basically let me interact with anybody as long as the time wasn't excessive. For that, I needed approval. The neat part is that he knew that a little bit of my time saved lots of effort. Two Phd's were trying to figure out why a piece of equipment sparked. They spent an entire weekend and got no where. 5 minutes of my time on Monday morning the problem was identified.

The last guy I worked for wanted to account for every minute of my time. He owned me. A genuine micro-manager.

At one point of my employment, we had a "matrix management" scheme. One guy had control of your vacation, time sheet and could divide your time percentage wise. The other person had control of what you had to do. I was pretty autonomous in that situation.


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Thread starter #12
Nicolas Sarkozy was exactly right when he said “Britain has no industry”
…Sarkozy said this because of his deep concern that the most densely populated country in Europe is not capable of doing industry for itself. This does not bode well, especially when our one lifeline, North Sea Oil, runs out.
We all know that UK industrial output figures are massaged to include overseas industrial sites which have been invited to UK, -UK using North Sea Oil wealth to literally pay them to set up divisions in UK. Also, the profits from north sea oil are also massaged into uk industrial output figures.
Companies like Jaguar-landrover are great, but its profits go overseas as its owned by Tata. Also, Nissan sunderland is great, but its profits don't funnel into the UK tax system, albeit a good wage earner for the guys working there.
Britain is well on the way down, and needs MASSIVE RESTRUCTURING IN its electronics/engineering industry….this includes a stopping of dependency on north sea oil (because soon it will run out), a depreciation of sterling, and a massive re-think on how British Electronics companies are managed…as in the top post
Nicolas Sarkozy was right, he was speaking out of a genuine concern for Britain, a close neighbour of france.


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Most Helpful Member
OK nice one, not so nice for the poor woman of "Example 1" in the top post though eh?
poor women was going for another job anyway, and had it bothered her that much she could have taken it further. Harassment in the work place has some stiff penalties. You seem to have a huge chip on your shoulder?? You might like to look at altering how you interact with people, also making people feel like they are constantly watched etc may well make them do there £20 hour job upto the value of £20, people who feel valued and trusted tend to work harder and have greater loyalty.

We have enough BB in the UK, I dont see why you would want more. I can imagine your fairly hard to work with and not is generally thought of as a team player. As a kid even I realize it matters to get on with your peers unless you want to impress management, but who wants to impress the kind of people who like people like that? Stop bashing the UK you have the benefit of hard won freedoms so dont be in too much of a rush to give that freedom back. There is something not right with an employee thinking the way you do, I could understand it if you owned your own company and run it so poorly people felt they could or should take the pea.


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Thread starter #16
I am not "uk bashing", and neither was Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy spoke with his genuine concern for UK, a country with whom France may like to shimmy up with, to form an alliance with uk, but the state uk is in, that's not very likely. However, it can all change so easily.
Seriously, the "open workplace" places are really really enjoyable to work in.....its a thriving and buzzing atmosphere....seriously, no one complains at Dyson..everybody absolutely loves it...same with tridonic.
There is not a single UK owned car designer and maker...even morgans use BMW engines.
TVR haven't got any products out at the minute.
Being concerned for the poor woman of ‘example 1’ of the top post is hardly having a chip on the shoulder.
They were giving her absolutely foul, awful language, and if she had complained , she would maybe have been taken off her soldering exams…also, she would have found herself complaining against the senior engineer, who is best buddies with the chief design engineer, which would have put her in a perilous position.
Sorry good friend but objecting to foul language against woman by a group of blokes is not having a chip on the shoulder
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