Changing industry standards for OEMs Enginers & contractors: one year on!


In 1998, Google was founded, the first Apple iMac was introduced and the legendary Windows ’98 was released by Microsoft. In a less glamorous but equally important corner of industry, a new commission was being formed to revise the complex IEC 60439 industry standard, which governed the safety and performance of electrical switchgear assemblies. Although Windows ‘98 has long been consigned to history, the new industry standard – BS EN 61439 – only became mandatory on November 1, 2014.

One year on, Pat McLaughlin, Boulting Technology’s Operations Director, evaluates how original equipment manufacturers, panel builders, electrical engineers, consulting engineers and contractors have been affected by the new BS EN 61439 standard.


Why a new standard?
In a market where the demand to optimise and reduce costs blends heavily with higher needs for assembly flexibility, the introduction of a new set of standards was needed to guarantee the performance of Low Voltage Switchgear Assemblies.

Switchgear and Control Gear assemblies are multifaceted and have an endless number of component combinations. Before the introduction of the new standard, testing every conceivable variant was not only time consuming and costly, but impractical.

The intricate character of assemblies also meant that many did not fit into the previous two testing categories: Type Tested Assembly (TTA) and Partially Tested Assembly (PTTA). For example, panels which were too small to be covered by TTA and PTTA fell outside the standard. Finally, in the case of a PTTA, ensuring the safety and suitability of a design was often dependent strictly on the expertise and integrity of the manufacturer.

Design verification
The major change introduced by the new BS EN 61439 standard refers to testing. It states that the capabilities of each assembly will be verified in two stages: design verification and routine verification. This means the new standard completely discards the type-tested (TTA) and partially type-tested assemblies (PTTA) categories in favour of design verification.

Although BS EN 61439 still regards type testing as the preferred option for verifying designs, it also introduces a series of alternative routes to design verification.

The options include using an already verified design for reference, calculation and interpolation. The BS EN 61439 standard specifies that specific margins must be added to the design, when using anything other than type testing.

One of the main benefits of the new design verification procedure is its flexibility. Under the old BS EN 60439 specification customers would demand a Type Test certificate for each assembly particularly Incoming Air Circuit Breakers, which was very expensive and time consuming.

The new standard allows users and specifiers to pertinently define the requirements of each application. Annex D of the BS EN 61439 standard provides a list of 13 categories or verifications required, what testing method can be used and what comparisons can be made. In order to optimise testing time, the standard allows derivation of the rating of similar variants without testing, assuming the ratings of critical variants have been established by test.

Dividing responsibility
The second major change implemented by the new industry standard refers to the responsibilities of each party involved in the design, test and implementation of low voltage switchboard assemblies. Unlike BS EN 60439, which stated the OEM or the system manufacturer was solely responsible throughout the testing programme, the new standard divides the responsibilities between the OEM and the assembly manufacturer, or panel builder.

The new standard recognises that several parties may be involved between concept and delivery of a switchboard assembly. The OEM is responsible for the basic design verification. In addition, the assembly manufacturer is meant to oversee the completion of the assembly and routine testing.

For innovators like Boulting Technology, the new BS EN 61439 has brought more freedom and flexibility when designing switchboard assemblies. For example, Boulting Technology has designed and launched the Boulting Power Centre, a range of low voltage switchboards, which are available in 25kA, 50kA, 80kA and 100kA, fault ratings, and up to 6300Amp current ratings.

Although change is never much fun, it’s what technology and industry are all about. If this wasn’t the case, we would all still be using Windows 98 or the indestructible Nokia 5110.

Strategies for equipment inspection and maintenance!

Will Russell, Senior Technician at Ashtead Technology, examines some of the key features of an effective inspection and maintenance strategy, and explains some of the advantages to be gained from renting specialist equipment.

iniucadhThere can be nothing more frustrating than a vital piece of equipment failing to perform when it is needed most. Not only can this result in infuriating delays and unforeseen expenses, but it can also affect production performance, let down customers and damage a company’s reputation. Maintenance is a vitally important component of risk reduction and is most effective when predictive maintenance is employed in conjunction with an effective test and monitoring regime. However, in order for this monitoring to be as effective as possible, it is necessary to utilise high quality test equipment that is itself well-maintained and calibrated. These instruments should be able to perform the latest tests, employing the latest technologies and running the latest software.

Choosing a maintenance strategy
Regular inspection and maintenance does not necessarily guarantee successful avoidance of downtime. It is important that the correct inspection strategy is adopted and that the quality of the inspection work is sufficient to enable proactive maintenance. Monitoring regimes that are either reactive or preventative are more likely to fail. Where it is assumed that equipment will reach a ‘wear out’ date, preventative maintenance may seek to postpone this, often as part of a conservative maintenance schedule. This time-based approach can be expensive in comparison with a functional and condition-based strategy. Reactive maintenance is very much a ‘fail and fix it’ approach, that is inherently expensive, due to high repair costs and the resulting costs of downtime.

Best practice when maintaining equipment requires a predictive and proactive strategy, which not only monitors actual equipment condition, but also investigates any drop in performance and corrects this at source. This may mean that organisational procedures may need to be changed. For example, if a specific component is found to perform poorly, re-design or the identification of an alternative source may be necessary. Swiftly and expertly responding to equipment condition ensures flawless operation, prolongs equipment functionality and improves economic performance.

Instrument strategy
An efficacious and dynamic maintenance strategy is clearly a major contributor to the reduction of risk and therefore to a company’s success, but there are a number of questions to be considered:

  1. Is the inspection regime designed to identify flaws before they are able to affect performance?
  2. Is an appropriate level of technical expertise available to set up and run the latest inspection instrumentation?
  3. Is the inspection equipment well maintained, calibrated and ready for deployment?
  4. How often is the inspection equipment required?

If the test and inspection equipment is not in frequent use, it often makes sense to rent specific instruments as and when they are required. Rented instruments are also employed when specific technology is required or when an urgent replacement to an in-house instrument is necessary. However, there are numerous other advantages to be gained from instrument hire.

The benefits of renting specialist equipment
The financial advantages of renting are well known; equipment purchase can involve a significant capital cost, particularly for the most advanced inspection instruments, so renting provides an opportunity to only incur operational costs when the technology is required. However, a major advantage of renting is that it provides continual access to the latest equipment. In contrast instrument purchase locks the technology at that moment in time and precludes access to subsequent developments. Ashtead Technology therefore works closely with leading manufacturers to ensure that its fleet of rental instruments offers the latest, most advanced technology. Often this new equipment is easier to use, faster, with improved reporting and a higher probability of flaw detection. Similarly, the breadth of Ashtead’s rental fleet means that customers can select the instrument that is best for their specific job. Rented instruments are delivered at exactly the time and location at which they are required, tested, calibrated and ready for work, so there are no issues with instrument maintenance and storage.

Clearly there are myriad advantages to renting over purchasing specialist equipment, but perhaps the most important is the transferal of responsibility for the product’s condition. Renting equipment from a specialist supplier means that not only are instruments cared for by a team of qualified, skilled engineers that have been trained on these specific instruments, but also that expert technical support, advice and guidance are provided. Instruments are constantly evolving, so their maintenance is often best provided by those with specialist training and experience.

Typical test and inspection equipment includes Non-Destructive Testing instruments, Visual Inspection kit including Videoprobes, Borescopes and Robotic Crawler Cameras and Environmental Monitoring equipment such as dust, vapour, and toxic gas detectors, and water quality monitors.

In summary, a clear inspection and maintenance strategy should be designed to avoid downtime and ensure the smooth operation of a plant whilst minimising costs and utilising the latest technology to ensure that problems are identified before they are able to affect production. Ashtead Technology’s business is founded in the belief that instrument rental provides an opportunity to achieve this.

Rewards for good automation reads!


The International Society of Automation (ISA) has announced the recipients of its 2015 author awards presented annually by ISA’s Publications Department.

“Each year, ISA is proud to recognize and thank all of the talented authors and contributors who help develop, review and deliver outstanding ISA publications and technical resources to automation and control professionals throughout the world,” said Susan Colwell, director of ISA’s Publications Department and Publisher of ISA’s InTech magazine.

Winners are recognized for their editorial contributions to a wide range of ISA publications, including ISA books; InTech, ISA’s bi-monthly magazine for automation and control professionals; and ISA Transactions, ISA’s bi-monthly professional journal dedicated to the science and engineering of measurement and automation.

Winners will be honored at an awards luncheon at ISA’s Fall Leaders Meeting, 10-13 October in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. The luncheon will take place on Monday, 12 October. 

Awards and award recipients

The Keith Otto Award
Jan-Feb-2014-InTech-cvrThe Keith Otto Award recognizes the author or authors of the best article in InTech magazine. The award was presented to Leif Poulsen for his article, “Life-cycle and long-term migration planning: Successfully upgrading and replacing systems in a running production environment,” which appeared in the January/February 2014 issue of InTech.

Poulsen is the senior specialist of automation and IT at NNE Pharmaplan. He holds a master’s degree and a doctorate degree in process engineering and is certified as a professional enterprise architect according to the TOGAF 9 standards. At NNE Pharmaplan, Poulsen is responsible for the development of technology, methods, and competencies within automation and IT and works as a senior business consultant for customers worldwide.

He is an expert on business analysis and conceptual design of automation and IT solutions, including how to deploy such solutions effectively in a GxP regulated organization. He is an active member of ISA88 and ISA95 standards committees.

The Nels Tyring Award
The Nels Tyring Award recognizes the author or authors of the best published article in one of the Society’s journals. Allan Kern is this year’s recipient for his article, “Multivariable control performance: The case for model-less multivariable control,” which appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of InTech.

Kern, P.E., possesses more than 35 years of process control experience. He has authored numerous papers on topics ranging from field instrumentation, safety systems and loop tuning to multivariable control, inferential control and expert systems.

From 2001 to 2008, Kern served as automation leader at a major Middle Eastern refinery, where his responsibilities included deployment and performance of multivariable control systems. Since 2005, Kern has published more than a dozen papers on multivariable control performance. In 2012, he became an independent process control consultant serving clients worldwide.

The Raymond D. Molloy Award
WCFThe Raymond D. Molloy Award is presented annually in honor of Raymond D. Molloy’s contributions to the automation profession. Molloy was dedicated to the ISA publications program for more than 20 years, maintaining a keen interest in developing high-quality publications that met the needs of measurement and control professionals. This year’s award recipients are Terrence L. “Terry” Blevins, Deji Chen, Ph.D., Mark Nixon and Willy Wojsznis, Ph.D., whose book, Wireless Control Foundation: Continuous and Discrete Control for the Process Industry, outsold all other ISA books published in 2014.

• Blevins, principal technologist in the applied research team at Emerson Process Management, has been actively involved in the application and design of process control systems throughout his career. He was instrumental in the establishment of Emerson Process Management’s Advanced Control Program. From 1998-2005, Blevins served as the team lead for the development of DeltaV advanced control products. From 1994-2013, he was the Fieldbus Foundation team lead for the development and maintenance of the Function Block Specification and editor of the SIS Architecture and Model Specifications.

He is the US expert to the IEC SC65E WG7 function block committee that is responsible for the IEC 61804 function block standards. He is a voting member and chairman of ISA SP104-EDDL (Electronic Device Description Language) committee and is the technical advisor to the United States Technical Advisory Group (USTAG) for the IEC65E subcommittee. He is also a member of the USNC TAG (IEC/SC65 and IEC/TC65).

He co-authored the following best-selling ISA books: Advanced Control Unleashed (2002), Control Loop Foundation (2010), and Advanced Control Foundation (2012). He has more than 50 patents and has written more than 80 papers on process control system design and applications. He received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Louisville in 1971 and a master of science degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University in 1973. In 2004, he was inducted into Control Magazine’s Process Automation Hall of Fame. Blevins is an ISA Fellow.

• Dr. Chen recently joined Tongji University as a professor at the Computer Science Department. His research will be focused on the industrial Internet, which is the continuation of his work at Emerson Process Management, where he was a member of the DeltaV future architecture team. Chen has been involved in process automation for almost two decades. He was among the first people who created OPC, and has worked on different fieldbuses, including WirelessHART.

He co-authored the first definitive book, WirelessHART: Real-Time Mesh Network for Industrial Automation (2010), and translated the ISA best-selling book, Control Loop Foundation – Batch and Continuous Processes, into Chinese (2012). In 1999 he received a doctorate degree from the University of Texas at Austin; his thesis was titled, “Real-Time Data Management in the Distributed Environment.” Chen is an IEEE senior member and an ISA senior member.

• Nixon,director of applied research at Emerson Process Management, has been involved in the process industries throughout his career. He started his career as a systems engineer working on projects in oil & gas, chemicals, and pulp & paper. He moved from Canada to Austin, Texas in 1988 where he has held various positions in both research and development.

From 1995 through 2005 Nixon was lead architect for DeltaV. In 2006 he joined the wireless team, taking a very active role in the development of WirelessHART and IEC 62591. His current research includes control, data analytics, wireless, low power, virtualization, and operator interfaces.

He has co-authored the following books: WirelessHART Real-Time Mesh Network for Industrial Automation (2010), Control Loop Foundation for Batch and Continuous Processes (2010), and Advanced Control Foundation (2012). He holds more than 85 patents. In 2012 he was inducted into Control Magazine’s Process Automation Hall of Fame. Nixon is an ISA Fellow. He received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Waterloo in 1982.

• Dr. Wojsznis, senior technologist at Emerson, has been involved in the development of advanced control products over the last nearly 25 years, focusing on model predictive control, auto tuning and data analytics. Over the previous 25 years of his career, he worked on developing computer control systems and applications. His professional work resulted in a number of successful and innovative advanced control products, more than 40 patents, and more than 50 technical papers.

He received a control engineering degree (EE) from Kiev Technical University in 1964, a master of science degree in applied mathematics from Wroclaw University in 1972, and a doctorate degree from Warsaw University of Technology in 1973. He co-authored two best-selling ISA books: Advanced Control Unleashed (2002) and Advanced Control Foundation (2012).

In 2010, Wojsznis was inducted into Control Magazine’s Process Automation Hall of Fame. He is an ISA Fellow.

ISA Transactions Best Paper Award

ISATransactions172ISA Transactions Best Paper Award recognizes the best technical paper published in ISA Transactions, the ISA professional journal dedicated to the science and engineering of measurement and automation, over the previous year.

This year’s award recipients are Junyong Zhai, Ph.D., and Wenting Zha. Their winning paper, “Global adaptive output feedback control for a class of nonlinear time-day systems”, ISA Transactions, Vol. 53, Issue 1,” was judged to be the best paper published in the journal in 2014. (ISA members have free online access to ISA Transactions. Non-ISA members can learn more about the journal by clicking here.)

• Dr. Zhai received his doctorate degree in automatic control from Southeast University in Nanjing, China in 2006. From September 2009 to September 2010, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Currently, he is a professor at the School of Automation, Southeast University. Dr. Zhai has published more than 100 technical papers. His current research interests include nonlinear systems control, stochastic time-delay systems and switching control.

Zha is a doctoral student at the School of Automation, Southeast University. From September 2014 to September 2015, she was a visiting doctoral student at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her current research interests include stochastic nonlinear control, finite-time control and adaptive control.

“Were you made for me?” – Choosing the right connector spec.


Connectors come in all shapes and sizes depending on environment and application. There are literally thousands of options, sometimes for the same job. Inevitably, this can cause a lot of confusion. To make sure you find the best product for every job, there are a few questions you might want to ask yourself before making a purchase. Here Amy Wells, business development manager at Electroustic poses the questions you need to be asking when specifying a connector.

ELE060First things first, size matters. Do you know the physical size of the connector you need, or are you limited in space and height by the job? Hundreds of connectors are used in wire looms; perhaps even thousands if these are part of an automated manufacturing line. In each case, the requisite space needs to be analysed and the correct connector specifications chosen. Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how often people come a cropper. 

The next question you need to be asking yourself is how many poles the connector needs.

Different applications require connectors with different poles. Future-proofing your choice can be a good idea, especially for a new product. So it’s worth considering whether you should go for more poles than originally required.

Do you know how many mating cycles the connector needs be able to make? Despite what you might think, mating cycles refer to the number of connection or disconnection operations the connector can withstand, while still meeting the specifications for maximum resistance and pull force. Every connector has an expected number of cycles before efficiency is compromised and the connector needs replacing.

This brings us nicely onto the proper protection. Connectors may be susceptible to ingress of foreign materials, such as moisture or dust. Connector protection is provided by the housing and the seal. The IP standard rating system defines the degree of protection provided. The first digit defines the protection against the ingress of dust particles; the second digit defines the protection against the ingress of water. Choosing the right connector for the job is key.

One of the most important factors is knowing what applications and environment a connector will be operating in – we can’t stress that enough. Electromagnetic radiation can interfere with electrical equipment. In applications where electromagnetic radiation is likely to be higher than usual or where operations are critical, connectors need to have electromagnetic fields (EMF) shielding.

Similarly, connectors used in explosive environments must be ATEX certified and components used in military applications need to have Mil-Spec to ensure the highest levels of performance. 

Furthermore, connectors in particularly harsh environments – like those in the oil and gas industry – need to be up for the job at hand. Knowing the minimum and maximum operating temperature is essential for specifying a rugged connector that meets the temperature range set by the application.

It’s not just the connector’s specs you have to be aware of when planning a job. Lead times from manufacturer to supplier can be lengthy, running from anywhere between four to sixteen weeks. It’s no good specifying a part that has a typical 16 week lead time if it will hold up the production process. To combat this potential issue, a good distributor will always hold a substantial amount of stock on the shelf.

Speaking of distributors, they will also be able to advise you on cost effectiveness.  When crafting wire looms, connectors are ordered in bulk, with the resultant savings passed on to the customer. However, if you need just one connector – perhaps if it’s a specialist part – you won’t be quite as lucky. A good working relationship with an experienced distributor can result in alternatives being sourced for a fraction of the price.  

Finally, as any lifestyle magazine will tell you, compatibility is paramount. If you’re retrofitting new connectors to old or simply mating two together in a loom, they need to be intermateable. If not, you risk damage to the system and or data/power loss.

IT isn’t taking all of our jobs!

There is little doubt that IT has comprehensively penetrated all areas of the job market – from low skilled jobs to white collar professions. However, in the majority of cases this has been a steady evolution rather than a computer uprising, as it’s so tempting to portray it. Here Carl Plant, CEO of bITjAM, explains why IT isn’t going to destroy your job, but make you more employable.

Carl Plant

The IT evolution has led to many, many job roles evolving in turn. For example, bookkeepers no longer sit at desks inputting numbers into a database; online accounting software does it for them, while they focus on decision making. Instead, of making them less employable, IT has made them more free, allowing them to work more flexibly.

Sophisticated technology has allowed the modern day white collar worker to gain experience in a host of roles they would never have enjoyed before.

Just as the internet has provided the basis for a new world of interconnectivity, advanced IT has created a world in which jobs become interconnected too. Job titles are no longer one-track; employees are expected to have tertiary skills in other relatable areas. In fact, it’s often these secondary skills that make them more employable over their less adaptable peers.

For example, a modern admin assistant’s CV will probably contain aspects of marketing, HR and PR.

That’s not to say that there are no specialists anymore, but now IT has taken on more job responsibility and employers expect more from employees.

If we were to look at how design has changed over the last decade, you would see that, ten or fifteen years ago, there were two distinct types of designer. The creative graphic designer and the technical web designer did different jobs; the latter was really a coding and programming expert. Designer A would create your logos, branding and advertising. Designer B would write the code to build your website. These two antipodes, or so it seemed, didn’t mix; there were no hybrids. It was the classic left brain, right brain dichotomy.

However, flash forward to the current day and modern designers are expected to do it all. This is partly due to the fact IT has reduced the need for coders; there are now programmes out there that can do it for you.

Of course, still having a basic understanding of coding and being able to dip into it every now and then is a must, but the days of writing streams of HTML are long gone.

IT has lowered the barriers to many jobs that used to be considered specialist. It’s thrown open the doors of careers that were previously only for the highly skilled, and freed workers from the boundaries of their job titles.

Over the next ten years, rather than destroying specialists, IT will push these people to become more skilled, while allowing the rest of us to become more well-rounded. It’s not a revolution, it’s an evolution – it’s not forcing us to study IT, it’s allowing us to work in a wider range of roles using applications that need less study.

Far from fearing IT taking our jobs, we should be embracing it and the sooner the better. For schools, universities and employers group work experience with IT technologies can be a great way to give people invaluable skills and perhaps even inspire them to take a route previously deemed unthinkable.

• bITjAM specialises in helping manufacturing companies utilise their data through the creation of information dashboards and content management systems. Its main aim is how technology can help businesses grow.

Big data analytics poised to change maintenance services models.

The landscape of business opportunities in the manufacturing services sector is expected to increase 1.5 times by the end of 2020

The advent of the Internet of Industrial Things (IoIT) has triggered an influx of technology-oriented services such as cybersecurity and advanced maintenance. This has dramatically widened business opportunities in the manufacturing services sector. As integration with information and communication technologies (ICT) such as big data analytics and cloud-based platforms will form the crux of next-generation manufacturing services, solution providers are developing a portfolio of services that address security and operational improvement as well as maintenance and support.

EU_PR_JNikishkina_MB1C-10_11Aug15Services 2.0: The New Business Frontier for Profitability is part of the Industrial Automation & Process Control Growth Partnership Service program. As part of the IoIT research portfolio from the industrial automation and process control practice, this study offers a detailed assessment of key manufacturing service opportunities from an application, technology and market stand-point. The study strategically examines the transition of service models and explores the different applications of IoIT technologies, including niche segments such as plant, industrial data, security and asset/process optimisation.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Services 2.0: The New Business Frontier for Profitability, finds that the paradigm of service strategies will shift from corrective to preventive and predictive maintenance services over the next five years.Effective utilisation of predictive analytics can optimise costs and eliminate unplanned downtime, which are highly attractive benefits for manufacturers. They offer complimentary access to more information on this research.

Big data analytics is poised to change the maintenance services models across the manufacturing sector. The investments for establishment of robust maintenance and support service model by leveraging the big data analytic concepts is the critical factor for the high growth rate (CAGR 9.1%, 2014-2021). “In line with the emerging trend of IoIT, manufacturing services are also evolving into a connected ecosystem supported by a single control centre,” said Frost & Sullivan Industrial Automation and Process Control Senior Research Analyst Srikanth Shivaswamy. “The demand for interoperability and maximum transparency across multiple products and processes is lending credence to the concept of connected operations.”

Such extensive integration will entail high costs for manufacturing units. The convergence of ICT with conventional services will require sophisticated platforms, further raising initial capital expenditure. However, the deployment of advanced process controls and smart communication systems will boost efficiency and compensate for the steep investments.

Strengthening cyber security infrastructure, a recent addition to the framework of industrial services, will be vital for the uptake of IoIT-based modules. Innovations in investigation, threat detection and self-aware platforms will be critical.

“Overall, solution providers will be rated on one of two factors,” stated Shivaswamy. “Customisation of service models to match the needs of end users or the capability to migrate to a different service model in alignment with a new end-user process, product or solution.”

Delivering these competencies will allow services providers to mine lucrative prospects in under penetrated resource-based production industries. The availability of cost-effective solutions will lure small- and medium-scale manufacturers to implement IoIT-based systems, thus completing the shift from traditional to managed services.

Engineering is no longer a man’s world!


Amy Wells, business development manager of specialist industrial connectors Electroustic compares unusual roles women have played in the past with the current struggle to get more women into science and engineering.

Amy Wells

Amy Wells

Women’s roles throughout history have varied dramatically from one civilisation to the next. For Britain, the sharply defined domestic role of women lay relatively untouched from the Middle Ages right through to the end of the Victorian era and beyond. But when we look further into history, gender roles were not so sharply defined.

Take the Viking era as an example. Historical attestations show that whilst it was rare for women to take part in warfare, the few that did take up arms were given legendary status as a shieldmaiden, a woman who had chosen to fight as a warrior amongst Viking men. Over 1250 years ago, these rare women were considered to be exceptional and highly respected figures. Through positive portrayal in modern film and literature, they continue to capture attention and admiration today. 

In recent years, there has been a plethora of media coverage and awareness campaigns to encourage and praise the small number of women working in the engineering industry. As a result, female engineers are finally starting to be held in high regard.

A number of recently launched initiatives such as the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and the Women in Science and Engineering campaign (WISE) suggest that the engineering industry is successfully bridging the gender gap. Yet still, only six per cent of Britain’s engineering workforce is female.

There are a myriad of barriers preventing women from entering the engineering sector and inevitably, the gender stereotype remains a large factor. >From a young age, gender conditioning teaches us that hands-on, practical activities like LEGO and Meccano are not for girls. So it comes as no surprise that just 20 per cent of all A-level physics students are girls and that nearly half of UK state schools do not send a single girl on to study higher education physics at college or sixth form.

Perhaps more worryingly, even women who are currently working as engineers have acknowledged the gender gap associated with the industry. Results from the British Engineering and Manufacturing Census state that 75 per cent of the 300 female engineers surveyed still consider engineering to be a ‘male career’.

Although small in numbers, there is an army of proud and exceptional female engineers in Britain. In fact, 98 per cent of female engineers consider their job to be rewarding. These engineering women have built a strong network of support to praise and encourage women in industry. Launched in 2014, The National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) celebrates the achievements of female engineers across the country. Similarly, the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) presents the annual Young Woman Engineer Award to acknowledge the work of exceptional female engineers under 35.

Much like the legendary shieldmaidens of the Viking era, successful female engineers are held in high regard beside their male counterparts. Industry awards and increased media coverage have elevated the importance of the ‘female engineer’ to nationally recognised status, encouraging ambitious young women to conquer the engineering stereotype – perhaps with less pillaging and more programming.


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