Management, machining and more

You should have noticed by now that The Engineer has undergone a redesign and that we’ve introduced new content, including The Secret Engineer.

This new piece of the magazine and website invites contributors to share their thoughts, observations and insights about the engineering world from behind the veil of anonymity.

Our first contributor believes successful managers are approachable, good with people and capable of ‘getting the best out of individuals and teams by being good at listening, giving clear direction and praising good results. They need to be firm but fair and they need to make clear decisions in a timely manner.’

Our contributor, however, doesn’t think these attributes come naturally to engineers. This could, of course, be rectified if they developed good communication skills and the ability to make timely decisions, among other things.

Luckily, Keele University is hosting a four day conference this week entitled Essential Management Skills for Engineers.

Publicity material states that workshops and lectures will introduce practical techniques for better project management, process improvement, financial management, negotiation and facilitation. Interactive sessions will reportedly offer opportunities for improved communication, team work and motivating others.

Next comes a reminder that MACH 2012 starts today and that The Engineer’s editorial team will be there to bring you regular updates via MACH Daily.

As stated in the April 2 Briefing, the team would be delighted to hear from exhibitors who are revealing new technologies or who have won new business as a result of the event. Feel free to search them out on Stand 5223.

Reading University hosts an event on Wednesday looking at the future of personal transportation.

Chaired by John Wood — IMechE immediate past president, and former managing director of MIRA — the event, entitled The Great Personal Transport Debate - will my car cost the Earth? brings together experts who will address the most pressing issues surrounding car ownership.

Topics for discussion include future oil supply and pricing, hybrid cars, road pricing and future roads infrastructure, future internal combustion engine cars, plus electric cars and recharging infrastructure.

Speakers include John Rogerson, fuels advisor, BP Global Fuels Technology; Jon Hilton, Flybrid Systems; Newcastle University’s Prof Phil Blythe; and Prof Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation.

Readers with a fear of flying might want to skip the next two paragraphs, given the nature of an event taking place on April 19 at Swansea University.

Entitled Protecting Next Generation Composite Aircraft against Lightning Damage, the talk will look at how composites have given the aviation industry components that can save up to 20 per cent in aircraft fuel emissions. The draw back, however, is that they aren’t so good at dissipating lightning strikes.

The talk will outline the basic physics of lightning generation and its interaction with aircraft before taking a look at current protection techniques and how they are developed.

Finally, Rob Buckingham, MD of OC Robotics is set to deliver a talk about snake-arm robots, incorporating technical details about their past, present and future applications.

No strangers to the pages of The Engineer, OC Robotics’ Snake-arm robots are wire-driven, self-supporting manipulators that can be used for remote operations in hazardous and confined spaces.

In use, the company says its software enables the operator to ‘fly’ the tip of the snake-arm using a joypad, with the software ensuring that the rest of the snake-arm follows the same path. If the operator avoids an obstacle, the rest of the snake-arm will avoid the obstacle too using a technique called nose-following.

They are particularly suited to dangerous or difficult to get to areas and have been used in nuclear, aerospace and security applications.

In March this year the company demonstrated to Areva NC how its snake-arm robot could be used in decommissioning activities.

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