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 Post subject: PE/Certification (moved from IEEE 1584 Certification thread)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2016 6:22 am 
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There is a long and well documented fight between the NSPE as the "political arm" of professional engineering and various industry groups which have all but made "industrial exemption" here to stay. And speaking from the other side, guess how much support there is in industry for getting that PE? Is there a pay increase or even funding (and time allotted) for taking classes? I'll give you a hint...been there, done that. Furthermore, does hiring an engineering firm versus a "consultant" have any merit to it whatsoever? I'll give you a hint...been there, done that. And doesn't an engineering firm by itself since they are third-party in nature and independent because of the NCEES ethics requirements guarantee that the workmanship is a cut above others? Again, been there, done that.

The answers at least from my point of view are that none of this is any kind of litmus test. In fact someitmes it seems to be almost the direct opposite of a litmus test...those without certification recognize the bigger hurdle to cross and put more effort into producing a good work product. If some kind of license or certification narrows the field of potential bidders significantly it tends to turn into a "good old boys club" and the quality goes totally out the window very quickly with no performance incentives.

And I agree with rubber stamping as far as certification goes, that's very true. However even if the certification process of choice is possessing a PE, in itself that means nothing as well. As a simple practical matter you can't get a license unless you've worked as an engineer to meet the on-the-job requirements. You can't get that unless you work under the "industrial exemption" clause or under another PE's license. Even then if you've ever worked with engineering firms then you know that there is a certain approach to doing business with them. They are used to an environment where you produce paper to fulfill a contract. As long as the paper quality is good enough to pass muster and get another contract, that is the minimum quality standard. Many companies insist on outside engineering groups or don't have engineers on staff and hire whatever they can get, so the quality standard is extremely low. So this is how it played out for me. We hire an engineering firm to do the engineering for a project. The firm comes to me and gets me to do all their research for them. They write it all up and pass it back to us for "checking". They did a crap job so I spend so much time getting them to do it correctly that it's easier to just do it myself. So the end result is that hiring an outside engineering firm which is supposed to reduce my workload actually triples it since instead I'm doing all the engineering and I'm doing all the documentation and I'm also spending all kinds of time in meetings, writing E-mails, etc., so that the engineering firm gets credit for my work. Mind you it's not the 3% of good engineering firms that I have a problem with. It's the 97% that do the crap jobs that actually cost me time and money. The problem of course is that this gets results and time and again, "engineering managers" and "purchasing managers" buy into this crap. So time and again I get shafted with dealing with these idiots. Unlike the engineering firm, I am the one responsible for ensuring that we get a quality work product out. If it doesn't work, I'm answering for it. If it doesn't work, I'm the one spending my midnights and weekends away from my family (and bed) in the trenches with the maintenance guys getting it up and running. I'm the guy that has to work with production training them how to work around the design defects and having to explain why we can't spend an more money to fix it right. They're just responsible for generating billable hours and once the dollars are exhausted, they move on and never get called to the job again.

One of the qualifications I use for engineering firms by the way is that I read their resumes. If I get 3 pages of contract after contract and the person has not had one shred of experience working outside of an engineering firm, the resume goes to the trash can. There is no reason to even bother interviewing them. They have never, ever had any experience with taking ownership of anything and never will, so there is no incentive for them to do anything other than bill hours to a job. They got the PE by virtue of how much money they brought in for the engineering firm, not b virtue of workmanship. And who knows how many of those contracts on their resume resulted in dissatisfied customers.

The same is true with the electrical contractor that comes in with all the full color glossy photos of the big recognizable jobs that they got kicked off of and the star studded staff of site managers and sales people. In reality once they get a job, they either go down to the local union hall or make a stop by the Rio Grande river, or stop in front of every Home Depot in the area in order to pick up their crew before coming to your place. I don't even care that they spend the first week looking like Donald Trump ("you're fired")...the fact is that they didn't vet anyone in the first place beyond maybe doing one of those drug screens you can get at CVS, never mind doing a criminal background check for $20. And yes, they are all licensed and have all kinds of other documentation to go along with it. The little guy that has a shop out in a swamp somewhere that is just happy to take a job that does not involve a fishing boat with some kind of rotting seafood and miserable work conditions doesn't have any of this stuff but will bend over backwards for you and do the best work, if you can manage to find them.

So personally, I find absolutely nothing magical about ANY licenses and certifications. A PE is nothing special. When I get to deal with the "big" firms (URS, Jacobs, KBR, Halliburton, etc., etc.) then that's when it turns into a frustrating experience EVERY time. Don't get me wrong. There is an engineer at KBR that I would definitely use without question for some jobs, and one or two at Jacobs or URS as well. But what usually happens is that we get a big job and hire one firm, usually based on the mechanical/structural/process knowledge. Electrical is an afterthought that I get saddled with.

I've had an engineering firm that ignored line losses and basically just treated a system as if transformer impedance was all that mattered for an arc flash study. Or there was the one that just asked the foreman in the area for details and produced an arc flash study for over half a system because they kept losing their qualified people (didn't pay very well) and had to essentially start over 3 times so they ran out of money but felt that this was acceptable. Or how about the one that totally ignored how the plant is actually set up and run, and did the study with all of the ties closed in a system with almost entirely double-ended substations because it gave "conservative" (ie, ridiculous and unrealistic) results. Or the one that did "mitigation" by manually going through the entire model and setting all the circuit breaker settings to minimum tap setting. And this was not even done individually...I mean they did this to the entire model and ran it one time to produce a result. Or how about the one that just loaded up all the details in the software and spit out a pile of results for a 23 kV system with fairly high bolted faults using just Lee equations because it was "conservative"? Or the same one that produced results for cutouts on overhead distribution systems with a working distance of 36" because "that's what the standard says to do", despite the fact that required clearances with hot sticks are vastly larger than 36"? Keep in mind though that these were all licensed engineers that did this.

Licensing and certification is really just evidence of qualification. By itself as you rightly pointed out it is pretty meaningless. Just as with mail-order degrees compared to degrees from universities that have built up a reputation in certain areas, some certifications are more difficult to obtain and more meaningful than others. But in itself even that is not a performance guarantee. If you don't do a background check on who you are hiring (and preferably locate them via networking or via on-the-job testing via smaller contract jobs), you get about as much out of the process as you put into it.

And don't think for one moment that you can sue a licensed engineer for poor work performance. Good luck with that! If you ever take 5 minutes to read over the contracts that engineering firms produce, you will immediately realize that they are so full of "get out of jail free" clauses that the handshake has more value than the paper that gets signed. With arc flash in particular every one of the reports will say that it is based at least in part on information supplied by the site. Even if they do a 100% site inspection, they are going to want someone to escort them around the plant, open panels, etc. So right there, the site is involved in providing them with "something" and thus the report states that it was developed based on site inputs. So they put this down as a layer of assumptions along with statements like "it's what we agreed to" so that in the end all of the liability is transferred from the licensed engineer to the end user and the engineering firm is responsible for absolutely nothing other than generating invoices and mailing out boxes full of dead trees with toner mixed in with it.

So...if IEEE or NFPA or anyone else wants to turn this into a money-making parasitic scheme, so be it. It won't necessarily be any better than what state licensing systems produce. If they want to put some teeth behind a certification, so be it. In the end it's just evidence for me, nothing more or less. I'm still going to check off whether or not the person doing the arc flash study has some kind of certificate or license but at least for me, it's not a litmus test on whether or not they get the work. Clearly being a licensed engineer isn't a good litmus test either.


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 Post subject: Re: IEEE 1584 - Move to Certification
PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2016 11:28 am 
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adpierce wrote:
But certification by the IEEE is, I believe, beyond their terms of reference and if it is the same as the "Royalties" issue in 2012, then why should a chosen, self appointed few make money out of the work of others? I neither believe that to be ethical nor acceptable.


Hard to answer this. Philosophically there is the argument for advancement of scientific knowledge for the benefit of everyone as opposed to advancement only for a few. Need I invoke all the various software patents and other IP that are an utter joke that onl serve to prove that patents are a strong disincentive to economic growth and opportunity, although the argument here is whether it is sufficient incentive for a few vs. many. I think we've seen enough patent trolls and patent wars among large tech companies to prove what a farce that one is.

Another philosophical argument here is arguing for free and open source software, and arguing for a free and open source IEEE 1584 standard is part and parcel the exact same argument. To say something of the fact that there are two documents that almost every corporate job I've ever taken required as part of employment. The first one is some form of noncompete or yellow dog contract against my going to work for competitors. The second is one that assigns all intellectual rights to the employer as well as preventing my from divulging proprietary information. Both of these contracts frequently grossly overstep their bounds and are frequently unenforceable at least on legal theoretical grounds...practically whether or not one has the funding to fight it is another matter.

Open source software has been detected multiple times in commercial software and from your point of view, it's stealing. The IEEE 1584 equations are already embedded in all of the commercial arc flash analysis software out there except for ArcPro which uses it's own analysis technique and one or two of the software programs Arcad has created. If it's a matter of simple intellectual property though and not the idea of taking public information and selling it privately, then most certainly corporate noncompete and intellectual property assignment law also falls into the concern you raise, whether those ideas were developed with corporate resources or not.

My own concept is very much utopian...the idea that information should be free and unfettered by intellectual property rights. Ideas are quite literally a dime a dozen in most cases. Actually turning those ideas and concepts into products and services is where all the costs and talent lie, so my general feeling is that you shouldn't be limited in making money off of that aspect of things. This gets into many sticky areas such as...should Elsevier be able to make $15-$35/article off of publishing scientific research publications to the point where it is prohibitively expensive to even do research on a small student or hobbyist budget? This is not as far fetched as it sounds...IEEE is charging almost $1,000 now for a single copy of IEEE 1584-2002, certainly a document that by supporting development they had no small part in but not to the point where it becomes burdensome for everyone involved to even be able to get a copy of the standard that they are being held to. Is this making a buck or actually several bucks off of the backs of the researchers that freely published the data that went into developing the standard? It would seem so.

If we then extend this same concept to certifying users of IEEE 1584, it is building on top of an already existing precedent. The reverse would be to suggest that IEEE 1584 should be free or at least that it should be priced only to cover the costs of publication.


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 Post subject: Re: IEEE 1584 - Move to Certification
PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2016 11:34 am 
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PaulEngr wrote:
There is a long ..............either.


Wow. Epic rant there Paul. I hear you loud and clear and feel your pain. 24 years ago I started out after finishing college working for an electrical contractor, then quit there after a few years and joined an A/E consulting firm. Figured then if I couldn't beat 'em, I'd join 'em. A few stints here and there, some on my own, I ended up at a university in facilities engineering so now I get to live with the consequences of poor designs and poor workmanship.

Even though the tools at the engineers/designers disposal get better and better the drawings seem to get worse and worse. The craftsmanship of the installing contractors has declined too.


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 Post subject: Re: IEEE 1584 - Move to Certification
PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:36 pm 
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Sorry if it was a big rant.

About 15 years ago I stood on the deck of a dredge in the middle of nowhere with one of the lowest paying mining operations in the country. I was about 32 at the time and he was 58. I had just gotten the call to work a double shift and cover for the production foreman that couldn't make it into work. The mechanic said just remember...whatever happens out there tonight, I have all the power and also all the responsibility for that crew and that operation. Those words had a huge effect on my outlook on life from that point forward. He was right. It was no longer about someone else's equipment, someone else's problems, someone else's safety, someone else's product, and someone else's money. For at least a short period of time, it was all mine.

Last night I got a call just before I sat down to dinner. I can't tell you how much later I regretted not eating ahead of time. I went on an emergency call to a business that has a very pleasant sounding name and asked to help them with a problem with a drive. Once I got there is when I found out the business takes whatever is left over from a slaughterhouse and liquifies it, meat bones and all, into tanker trucks to go into moist pet foods. They had a problem with a 250 HP drive that was sandwiched between about 4 ammonia compressors. Fortunately the smell of the ammonia that was leaking was enough to knock out the gagging odor of the rotting leftover/discarded liquified meat stuff in a nearby sewer ditch. Right in the middle of this was a drive and I was asked to come in to help a couple of guys that were more mechanics than electricians to get it up and running. The two of them looked like the big dog and the little dog from Tom and Jerry cartoons. They had already been working hard since early that morning and hadn't caught a break all day. Not knowing what I was going to run into, I was dressed professionally so I looked somewhat out of place. I am working as a contractor for the local distributor for the drive so when it messed up, they were the first to take the call.

Driving up to it, I could immediately tell what kind of place it was. Trucks more or less just parked anywhere they wanted to. The employees clearly didn't get dressed up in their Sunday best to go to work. And you could definitely smell a lot of things that signaled what was to come. Logic would say to get right back in my vehicle, turn around and drive away. I had never even worked on this particular version of this drive before. Let them figure it out for themselves, or call the factory rep to fix it. It would be so easy to do.

After discussing pleasantries with the big dog that was mostly trying to decide if I had ever gotten my hands dirty based on the way I was dressed and he looked like he drove his hog to work every day, I worked through the drive and diagnosed it in about 45 minutes of arrival. Halfway into it the mechanics had to go take care of another emergency call leaving me alone, and about 5 minutes later the ammonia went from smelly to burning so I had to pull back for a few minutes until it cleared out enough to safely enter again. Nobody was around and considering what kind of place it was, I wasn't about to go find them either. Once I was able to coordinate shutting power off without messing up production, it took all of 15 minutes to fix the drive issue and get them up and running.

I drove away with two happy customers (the distributor and the meat company), simply because I took ownership of the problem and helped them resolve it.

All that I ask from my contractors is the same thing. If a 58+ year old salt mechanic that would never advance his career any further in life and was working for the lowest paying mine in the area can take pride in his work and responsibility for doing his job, why can't someone with a degree from college and the credentials to have a professional engineer's license not take pride and ownership in their work? That is my litmus test. You can't get a license or a certificate for it.


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 Post subject: Re: IEEE 1584 - Move to Certification
PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:48 pm 
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PaulEngr wrote:

All that I ask from my contractors is the same thing. If a 58+ year old salt mechanic that would never advance his career any further in life and was working for the lowest paying mine in the area can take pride in his work and responsibility for doing his job, why can't someone with a degree from college and the credentials to have a professional engineer's license not take pride and ownership in their work? That is my litmus test. You can't get a license or a certificate for it.


Well said. Post of the day material. Thanks for sharing the story and the insight.


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 Post subject: Re: IEEE 1584 - Move to Certification
PostPosted: Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:42 am 
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I've read that some states require studies to be done by or under the direct supervision of a PE. I've also read that it is an IEEE recommendation at a minimum but I've not been able to find such language only that individuals must be experienced or qualified but who knows what those definition are in the case of short circuit, coordination and arc flash studies.

Can anyone shed some light on this? Does anyone know about Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin or Michigan specifically? Especially Indiana?

Thanks,
Brent


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 Post subject: Re: IEEE 1584 - Move to Certification
PostPosted: Thu Jul 28, 2016 4:29 pm 
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bbaumer wrote:
I've read that some states require studies to be done by or under the direct supervision of a PE. I've also read that it is an IEEE recommendation at a minimum but I've not been able to find such language only that individuals must be experienced or qualified but who knows what those definition are in the case of short circuit, coordination and arc flash studies.

Can anyone shed some light on this? Does anyone know about Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin or Michigan specifically? Especially Indiana?

Thanks,
Brent


See https://iga.in.gov/static-documents/9/9/b/a/99ba03f6/TITLE25_AR31_ch1.pdf

See the definitions of "Practice of engineering", "Practice or offer to practice engineering", and the sections on "Practicing without license", and "Exempt Persons."


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 Post subject: Re: IEEE 1584 - Move to Certification
PostPosted: Fri Jul 29, 2016 3:17 am 
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stevenal wrote:
bbaumer wrote:
I've read that some states require studies to be done by or under the direct supervision of a PE. I've also read that it is an IEEE recommendation at a minimum but I've not been able to find such language only that individuals must be experienced or qualified but who knows what those definition are in the case of short circuit, coordination and arc flash studies.

Can anyone shed some light on this? Does anyone know about Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin or Michigan specifically? Especially Indiana?

Thanks,
Brent


See https://iga.in.gov/static-documents/9/9/b/a/99ba03f6/TITLE25_AR31_ch1.pdf

See the definitions of "Practice of engineering", "Practice or offer to practice engineering", and the sections on "Practicing without license", and "Exempt Persons."


Yes, I've read all that before. In fact, I re-read it every 2 years and take a test on it to comply with our 30 hours of continuing education 1 hour of which has to be on law (I'm a PE). I don't see anywhere in any of those sections where it specifically mentions power systems analysis. One can generally infer that short circuit etc. studies are considered a practice of engineering I suppose and go from there but it is certainly not clearly defined.

Thanks for taking the time though to look that up and respond.


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 Post subject: Re: IEEE 1584 - Move to Certification
PostPosted: Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:18 am 
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According to NSPE (Natioonal Society of Professional Engineers), 29 states have enacted the "industrial exemption". Almost every state has a slightly different version of this law. The boards of the remaining 21 states are fearful of enforcing licensure because they are afraid that if they push the issue, the legislature will simply add their own "industrial exemption".

Industrial exemptions are very broad. They usually state that a license is not required for substantially any work involved in the manufacturing, installation, or servicing of a product by a manufacturer. The second area is that they usually give a broad exemption to industrial sites doing their own installations, servicing, and maintenance of equipment. Licenses are not required for federal government work because licensing is a state matter and also as a consequence many states even exempt engineering work for state government workers.

Here is a quick summary from NSPE state by state:
https://www.nspe.org/sites/default/file ... -Table.pdf

Note that my state (North Carolina) has several exemptions so it is even more broad than NSPE's summary would seem to suggest.

The industrial exemption in many states goes so far that if an industrial site contracts out engineering work, the engineering contractors also fall under the "industrial exemption" Thus most engineers working for industrial companies don't require licensing and in many states, even contractors who limit themselves to industrial work don't need licenses either.

Not only that but most of the licensing requirements state that engineering can be done while practicing under another engineer's license. There are laws against "rubber stamping" documents as well but the idea here is that you have one or two principal engineers at a firm and a bunch of apprentices who will eventually (maybe) get their own license. This is also the case with internships for doctors and lawyers but the situation can exist in perpetuity.

If NSPE had their way, engineering work would be regarded in the same way as lawyers and doctors, and we'd have 90%+ licensing. However NSPE readily admits that with the exception of engineering firms doing work for the "public", requiring licensing is largely unenforceable or is actually a violation of the various exemptions that exist. According to their data, only about 20% of engineers are actually licensed and of the remainder, half of those are actually working as engineers. This is over and above a whole host of "engineers" by title but not necessarily function or college degree such as locomotive engineers, "operating engineers", and all kinds of euphemisms such as "sanitary engineers".

A college degree is not a litmus test either. I met a licensed engineer about a year ago. He was truly there at the dawn of the digital electronics age. He was going to college and took a summer job working at DEC building logic gates from discrete components on strips (this is before Texas Instruments came out with the 7400 series chips). The pay was very good and nobody then needed a degree for doing electronics so he never went back. He went on beyond that and continued working as an engineer. Over 20 years later when he left corporate engineering and went into contract engineering, he used the "experience" clause to take the exam and obtained a PE without ever having an ABET degree. As Steve explained to me, MOST people at that time did not actually get a degree to do engineering. He is in his 60's now so it might take another 30-40 years before these legacy non-degreed engineers retire.

As a practical matter, requiring a professional engineer to do an arc flash study does not recognize the fact that 2 out of every 3 engineers are not licensed at least in the U.S. I can most certainly agree that it might be something that is recommended but should include some kind of exception such as "or other equivalent experience".

Since state laws already limit the practice of engineering without a license (when there isn't an exemption), for IEEE 1584 to mandate it causes a mess of an already murky situation. I suggest instead to let state or other local law be the determining factor on whether or not a licensed engineer is required. At best IEEE 1584 can suggest but not mandate it just as the NSPE has for years strongly suggested but not mandated licensing.


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 Post subject: Re: IEEE 1584 - Move to Certification
PostPosted: Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:37 am 
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I've worked in several industrial plants in my career. My experience has been that plant employees typically do not have a P.E., but the engineering firms we employ to do design work for us do have licenses.

I personally am not licensed. I looked into it early in my career but found zero support from my employers toward becoming a professional engineer. I was told if we "needed a stamp" that we would pay an engineering firm to apply a stamp for us.

I have a copy of SKM Power*Tools, and I use it to perform studies, including arc flash studies. Where I am now the system model was already built, so I am simply adding to it as changes arise and I have the need. At a prior mill I worked in I developed the entire system model from the ground up. I ended up modeling everything from the main incoming power lines through to every individual 480V motor starter fuses and overloads. I feel comfortable doing system studies for my own facility, but would not attempt to do them for anyone else without being licensed.


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 Post subject: Re: IEEE 1584 - Move to Certification
PostPosted: Fri Jul 29, 2016 8:37 am 
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bbaumer wrote:


Yes, I've read all that before. In fact, I re-read it every 2 years and take a test on it to comply with our 30 hours of continuing education 1 hour of which has to be on law (I'm a PE). I don't see anywhere in any of those sections where it specifically mentions power systems analysis. One can generally infer that short circuit etc. studies are considered a practice of engineering I suppose and go from there but it is certainly not clearly defined.

Thanks for taking the time though to look that up and respond.


I infer the same. Interesting also that since arc flash studies are intended for employee health and safety, the industrial exemption would not apply in this state.


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