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Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(10):22-27. doi:10.1115/1.2008-OCT-1.
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This article discusses about engineers who by nature have an insatiable need to learn. Regardless of specialty, engineers are often most comfortable in an environment that includes like-minded individuals who are not afraid to push the limits to achieve something new or original. Whether they are designing the architecture for the next generation of computer chips, evaluating the barriers that must be overcome to allow human travel to Mars, or reducing the costs of staple items to raise the standard of living in an emerging nation, engineers are constantly learning, with society reaping the rewards of their efforts. Communities of practice have potential benefits for everyone involved practitioners, the organizations they work for, and the engineering profession as a whole. Communities of practice exist in nearly every organization, whether or not they are formally recognized. Companies and their management must not expect a community of practice to be the magic solution to a business problem. Inappropriate application and cooptation of communities of practice by managers can be especially damaging.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(10):28-31. doi:10.1115/1.2008-OCT-2.
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This article discusses managers who must not discount everyday collaborative tools—like phone calls and instant messaging. To help far-flung team members bridge the distance and feel like part of a team while they hash out ideas, engineering managers must call upon a rich technological arsenal of collaborative tools. To keep up with personal events like that and to let team members have the water-cooler confabs necessary for team building, Garton advocates instant messaging. This type of quick back-and-forth messaging encourages relationship building. To ensure participation, trainers call upon a number of interactive features offered within the tool itself. With all advances of the Web, it can be tempting for managers to overlook hardware advances as they seek to build virtual teams. But new approaches, like a recent newly introduced HP Blade Workstation, which allows all team members’ designs to reside on a server rather than on their individual desktops, can keep teams functioning at top speeds.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(10):32-35. doi:10.1115/1.2008-OCT-3.
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This article discusses the stature of George Westinghouse as an engineer who is rivaled by his skill and integrity as a leader. Beginning with the railroad air brake, Westinghouse’s inventiveness formed the basis of a commercial empire. Given the evidence of his companies when he controlled them, there is another case to be made for George Westinghouse that he may also have been America’s greatest living industrial manager. George Westinghouse was honored in many ways during his lifetime. In 1874, he was awarded the Scott Legacy Medal by the Franklin Institute. He was made a member of France’s Legion of Honor in 1895. The American engineering societies in 1905 honored him with the John Fritz Medal. He was awarded the Edison Medal, named for his greatest competitor, in 1912. In 1913, he became the first American to receive the Grashoff Medal from Germany.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(10):36-38. doi:10.1115/1.2008-OCT-4.
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This article focuses on advantages to protect intellectual property by keeping it under wraps. There are some things that just cannot keep from getting out. Probably nothing in the law breeds as many myths as trade secrets. One positive aspect of trade secrets is that they can protect things patents cannot, since the general definition of a trade secret is any information that is in some way valuable, provided that reasonable efforts are used to maintain the secret. Trade secret protection can also last indefinitely. Patents, by contrast, expire 20 years after they are filed. The problem with trade secrets begins when engineering managers rely on trade secrets without understanding their limits or use trade secrets as a fall-back business decision. Conducting regular trade secret audits is a mechanism where a trade secret specialist gains an understanding of a company’s secrets, ensures that they are sufficiently defined, and that they are adequately protected. After the product is released, its high-level functionality is no longer a trade secret, but could be protected via a patent. Marketing literature and data sheets are also no longer trade secrets because they are usually made public.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(10):39-41. doi:10.1115/1.2008-OCT-5.
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This article reviews about rigorous equipment specification, which is a sound engineering practice and is important in capital procurement. A complete and robust specification document serves as the basis of all important procurement activities: requesting a bid and competitive bidding, purchasing contract development, and interim and final quality inspection of the delivered equipment. Once the bids have been received, a rigorous, organized, and documented bid analysis should be done. A format that incorporates a comparison of critical variables’ values in each bid should be designed. A rigorous post-delivery inspection is required because there may be serious flaws with the equipment that escaped the manufacturer’s internal quality control. The engineer is better able to thoroughly inspect the equipment at the company site rather than the factory site. Checks involving measurement devices should be included, depending on the type of equipment ordered. Since this is usually precommissioning activity, calibration of instrumentation for this activity is desired, though not required.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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