`Adapt or die’ says GEC chief

by Helen Beasley

The engineering profession must adapt or die, according to GEC chief executive Lord Simpson, speaking at the 1999 Hinton Lecture held this week.

Simpson challenged the industry, which he said was `well past its sell-by date’, to embrace new technologies such as the internet.

In his address, entitled Engineering in Transition: Getting Fit for the 21st Century, he told the audience at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London that tomorrow’s professionals would focus on high technology, creation and innovation.

This, he believes, would be in stark contrast to the `stale old stuff’ of the 1970s and 1980s.

`I think it is self-evident that we are on the threshold of a new industrial revolution and the opportunities this presents for engineering are virtually limitless.

`We can bury our heads in the sand, or we can embrace this new revolution, exploit what it has to offer and make it work for us,’ he said.

Simpson claimed that these changes will dramatically affect the trade process, altering the way manufacturers engage in business transactions. New technologies will allow companies to track products, compare different prices and negotiate deals much more simply than using traditional methods, he concluded.

Agree or disagree?

`[Lord simpson] is absolutely right. Businesses need to find ways of communicating and updating and continuously improving, and this has to be done on the internet.’

Christopher Senior, senior executive, professional development, the Engineering Council.

`Any company that’s not fully integrating technology with strategy, people and processes will have problems later.’

Andrew McCaffer, consultant, Arthur Andersen

`Industry today is all about networking and working in teams, and you can only do that if you have a general appreciation of this whole wide world of engineering. For people to communicate together using IT, they’ve got to have an appreciation of what other people do.’

Professor Peter Deasley, Cranfield University.

`Companies must change over towards new technologies and change very quickly, or, as Lord Simpson says, they will fade away.’

Professor Michael Bevis, Brunel University.