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Old 07-19-2021, 07:29 AM   #21
Stormcrow
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Engineer

Don't confuse "engineer" the profession with Engineer the skill. The GURPS skill Engineer is not "that which an engineer does"; it's the skill of designing things, divorced from all the other things that designers do. That's another header from How to Be a GURPS GM: Managing Expectations that applies here: "Read Rules, Not Titles."
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Old 07-19-2021, 08:16 AM   #22
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Engineer

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Originally Posted by TGLS View Post
I dunno; maybe it's because I've hung out more with electrical and software engineers, but my experience has a lot more stories that hew closer to the GURPS theoretical (except for the ones who worked at a power plant). Then again, I feel it necessary to give engineers I build in GURPS both the Engineer skill and Professional Skill (X Engineer), to differentiate them from tinkerers, who know how to put things together but have difficulties working with others/standards/etc., and managers, who have let design skills atrophy.
I think it depends heavily on the context you are exposed to. As far as the title goes, its used for designers, but its also used for people who observe the function of machines and diagnose when its wrong. I grew up in an oil-town in its boom phase, and my mother's family have done some weird things in oil. Often the folks with the title of engineer will know the operation and maintenance of their specific machines better than the folks who designed them. Like being able to tell numbers on readings from the frequency of the sound or the physical vibrations, and often why the problem is happening ("we've hit a layer of XXX"). Those sorts of folks sometimes roll their eyes about what the folks in the clean room doing calculations say, because they have on the ground experience.

I'm not sure if the skill needed is gurps's engineer or not.
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For example, the production engineer might notice that the proportion of rifles produced that fail QA inspection has increased for the third month in a row. That could be because of chance. It could be because of a change in the specification of the materials supplied. It could be because a die is worn or a jig has got out of alignment. It could be because one of the bearings in one of the lathes is getting worn. It could be because a machinist has developed presbyopia or a tremor. It could be because the oil in the quenching bath needs to be changed, or because the thermostat in the heat-treatment furnace needs re-calibrating, or because a worker has developed slack habits in the heat-treatment. It could even be because the QA inspector is becoming cross and fussy. So the engineer checks in what way the products failed QA, examines the rejected products, and tries to see whether a bunch of them have failed for a common reason. If so, they use their knowledge of the design to try to discern what defect could cause that failure, and then their knowledge of the manufacturing process to try to narrow down what problems could produce that defect, and then they examine the actual machines and their use to work out which possible reason is the actual reason. And then they use their engineering problem-solving skills to devise and execute a cost-effective way to fix the process. Meanwhile they also monitor not just QA failure rate, but output, consumption of supplies and power, tool wear, inventory levels, staff injuries, and any smell of ozone in the washroom. Besides that they might change the process and tooling to effect an improvement specified by the design office, or continually refine the process to improve quality and reduce costs.
That sort of sounds like mechanic... though it also sounds like more than just mechanic. TGLS expert skill idea may have some merit. The description is really useful though: what skill do you use to troubleshoot a flaw in an manufacturing process? (or more likely in a game, to cause one that will take lots of time to solve and not be noticed immediately).
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Old 07-19-2021, 03:51 PM   #23
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Engineer

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Originally Posted by Agemegos View Post
That gives Administration an extraordinary scope. But GURPS is not a reality simulator.
By my observation, not all engineers have Administration, but a serious project team will probably have at least two who do, and they may be quite good at it. They’ll also have Engineer, of course, if only to ensure the respect of the team and grant basic BS-detecting capabilities. Actually needing Detect Lies would be the sign of a dysfunctional team…

(Computer Operation is also likely to be mandatory these days, of course… And some of the engineers of my acquaintance will also have had Electronics Ops (Telecomms) and Savoir-Faire (Military), but there were project-specific reasons for that.)
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Old 07-20-2021, 12:21 AM   #24
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Engineer

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
I think it depends heavily on the context you are exposed to. As far as the title goes, its used for designers, but its also used for people who observe the function of machines and diagnose when its wrong. I grew up in an oil-town in its boom phase, and my mother's family have done some weird things in oil. Often the folks with the title of engineer will know the operation and maintenance of their specific machines better than the folks who designed them. Like being able to tell numbers on readings from the frequency of the sound or the physical vibrations, and often why the problem is happening ("we've hit a layer of XXX"). Those sorts of folks sometimes roll their eyes about what the folks in the clean room doing calculations say, because they have on the ground experience.

I'm not sure if the skill needed is gurps's engineer or not.
Not even slightly. What you described, as far as GURPS skills, is a highly developed operation skill. (And maybe something like a hyperspecialization for the small set of machines they really know.) Your example doesn't include it but high level repair skills are also things you'd find in 'front line' experts.

They only have any use at all for engineer if they're designing the next generation of the hardware. Or maybe devising sufficiently radical field modifications.
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Old 07-22-2021, 12:04 AM   #25
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Engineer

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What I do is to disregard GURPS' definition of the Engineering skills and to define them to be what (IMO) engineers actually do, which is to design and manage technical processes and products. But now they tell me that GURPS is not a reality simulator.
GURPS is NOT a reality simulator, and I would disagree with your description as being typical for engineers. There are many type of engineers (focusing on those with jobs generally requiring academic degrees in engineering), and "design" and "manage technical processes" are typically different jobs with different people. Design engineers often have only a limited knowledge of the processes used to produce their designs, generally just that amount that needs to be accounted for in the design process. And the ones who manage those processes, usually with titles like "production engineer" or "industrial engineer" neither need nor generally have the knowledge to design the things they are building.

The Engineering skill focuses on design, and the other aspects of the engineering profession are best depicted using other skills. This is not unique, this is how GURPS handles most professions, after all.

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What GURPS skills ought to be used to manage a highway construction project, an electrical power station or distribution grid, a marine engine and drivetrain, an oil refinery, or a smallarms factory? Administration?
A combination of Administration and Leadership, generally. Leadership for the people you work with directly, Administration for those whom you do not.
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Old 07-22-2021, 12:20 AM   #26
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Engineer

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An engineer (or team of engineers) usually is the one building a civil engineering project. And an engineer usually is the one managing an oil refinery or an arms factory. But if in GURPS they use their Administration skill and not their Engineering skill nothing more need be said.
Not just in GURPS, in life as well. As you progress in the career of engineering, you can progress along several different paths.

Technical specialists just become more knowledgeable and skilled in their design skills, and often work alone or with small teams. A lot of design work is very detailed and difficult, and it makes more sense to retain someone to do that work than to promote them out of the role and have to spend a lot of time and effort to train someone who won't be as good. I'd give them high levels of skill (and often specializations or hyperspecializations) in a core science-based Engineering skill, like Engineering (Electronics).

Technical leaders learn to integrate lower-level assemblies into progressively more complex subsystems, eventually becoming system architects who are responsible for producing a complete marketable system. They (mostly) retain the knowledge of the assemblies where they were once experts, but add additional, shallower knowledge in other assemblies as well as the knowledge of how they work together. I'd give them a modest level of skill in a science-based Engineering skill as well as skill in a product-based Engineering skill like Engineering (Automobile), and perhaps a little Leadership or Administration, especially at the most senior levels.

Program Managers need a technical background and have often (but not always!) worked as engineers for a while, but their job is to manage the money and the people, and will focus on Administration and Leadership with low levels of skill usually in a product-based Engineering.

You also have system engineers, who work with interfaces between subsystems as well as things like documentation, and I would give them Administration and the skill of Engineering (Systems) to represent these skills... which by themselves are not typically useful even in the crunchiest campaign. But those technical leaders will also have some of these skills as well by necessity.

And then there are the people who actually make the stuff on a production line (one-offs are usually done inefficiently by the designers or technicians). Most of the equipment would be designed by those with Engineering (Tools), and the processes and production line itself designed (incorporating that equipment) by those with Engineering (Industrial). The latter will also have Administration.

Note that repair and maintenance and operation are different skills entirely and many engineers lake them entirely. I worked on radar systems at one point but never approached the user interfaces or touched the maintenance or repair procedures, because, well, that wasn't my job. I could operate at a higher default than a complete novice, but it sure wouldn't be something I could claim to have points in.
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Old 07-22-2021, 12:28 AM   #27
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Engineer

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Originally Posted by Agemegos View Post
Strictly, it's the process. The materials, the equipment, the way the equipment is used, the balance of speed and accuracy with which machinists work.
Again, no. That describes a subset of engineers who are expressly NOT performing the kind of design tasks that the Engineering skill represents. For example, I have on my team a pair of optical engineers who are designing a complex optical system, and they work with a mechanical engineer who factors in how everything is actually manufactured. The optical engineers don't know how to make a rugged and reliable optical system, and the mechanical engineer doesn't know optics at all.

Engineering is a team sport if you want to make anything but the most simple of objects.

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They monitor the process and the product to assess whether the changes (which are continual) require adjustment to the process (and if so what), repair to the equipment, changes to the design and manufacturing method, and so forth.
The production engineers who manage production don't generally do repairs, technicians do that. They also don't change the design, they send their inputs and findings to the design engineers in an iterative process.

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Originally Posted by Agemegos View Post
Industrial production processes are amazingly complex and unexpectedly dynamic. Changes in supply specifications, machine and machinist time, output, quality, inventory, maintenance time, consumption of lubricants, coolants, fuels, and cleaning supplies occur all the time, and they have to be monitored continually by someone who understands the process and product and who can judge what is insignificant, what has to be adjusted for, and what requires remedial action. That's what (I understand) most engineers actually do.
The industrial engineers who design and manage production lines can rarely design or maintain or operate the actual equipment. The mechanical and electrical engineers who design the individual pieces of equipment, and the technicians who operate, maintain, and repair them are also different groups. There can be some mixing of skills in some individuals, but it isn't required or even common outside small companies.
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Old 07-22-2021, 12:31 AM   #28
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Engineer

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Originally Posted by Stormcrow View Post
Don't confuse "engineer" the profession with Engineer the skill. The GURPS skill Engineer is not "that which an engineer does"; it's the skill of designing things, divorced from all the other things that designers do. That's another header from How to Be a GURPS GM: Managing Expectations that applies here: "Read Rules, Not Titles."
And this is consistent with many professions in GURPS. Just about any job in the game requires multiple skills, and the exceptions are really technicians with a very narrow job description. You can see this in just about every template out there. As an easy example, there is a Soldier skill, but no actual soldier at any TL could be even marginally effective with just that skill.
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Old 07-22-2021, 12:35 AM   #29
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Engineer

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Originally Posted by Phil Masters View Post
By my observation, not all engineers have Administration, but a serious project team will probably have at least two who do, and they may be quite good at it. They’ll also have Engineer, of course, if only to ensure the respect of the team and grant basic BS-detecting capabilities. Actually needing Detect Lies would be the sign of a dysfunctional team…
In my experience, most companies try hard to separate the administrative tasks from the design tasks, simply because the former set of skills is more common and cheaper than the latter set. Again, there is some crossover (program managers with a little bit of engineering skill, and senior engineer with some administration skills) but they are rarely equal in any one individual unless the company is just so small they can't even handle that basic level of specialization.
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Old 07-22-2021, 01:33 AM   #30
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Engineer

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In my experience, most companies try hard to separate the administrative tasks from the design tasks, simply because the former set of skills is more common and cheaper than the latter set. Again, there is some crossover (program managers with a little bit of engineering skill, and senior engineer with some administration skills) but they are rarely equal in any one individual unless the company is just so small they can't even handle that basic level of specialization.
The engineering operation I’ve had the best chance to observe (this is an outsider’s view) was very technical, so people at the program manager level often really needed engineering skills and experience, because they needed to understand issues and problems. (Impolitely; geek-wrangling is a delicate art.) They weren’t promoted out of engineering work to waste their experience, but to use it. Even so, the “everything I don’t understand must be simple” effect was a known problem.

And then there were the people whose job was customer interface, whose skillset was, at a guess, Diplomacy, Savoir-Faire (Military), and Electronics Operation, but who were seen as part of the project team. It was a project which did not end when the product was put into service.

Let’s face it, “engineering” is a large and diverse field. Whether or not GURPS is a reality simulator, it’s certainly a simplified model of reality.
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