May 01, 2018
Software that’s not Skynet: Five ways productivity tools help optical engineer job security
We all have our favorite personal productivity tools that make us more efficient in our lives, whether it’s a map app to shorten our commute, a workflow app to automate how we go about our days, or an app to order groceries sent directly to our homes. But when faced with tools that can streamline processes and shorten optical development cycles, some engineers worry about job security—and that’s a concern for managers trying to get their optical products to market as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
In the movie The Terminator, Skynet is a fictional AI system that not only takes peoples’ jobs—it takes over the world. But in the real world, software that enhances team productivity has major benefits. Here are five ways productivity tools can help instead of hinder job security in optical product development, using modern virtual prototyping as an example.
1. They elevate the quality of the product, which reflects positively on teams.
When efficiencies are created in the optical design process, the whole quality of the design improves. For example, with modern virtual prototyping tools, you can validate a design before creating a physical prototype, allowing teams to catch and correct errors early in the process instead of after a costly physical prototype is created. Finding errors is a natural part of the development cycle—but doing it earlier in the process and at less expense allows engineering teams to have greater confidence in their final designs because virtual prototyping has allowed for more rigorous testing.
“In the 90s, we saw a hesitancy to embrace the optimization tools available in OpticStudio,” says Mark Nicholson, Zemax CEO. “People were afraid the tools would make their jobs obsolete. That absolutely has not been the case. When the practice became industry standard, it just elevated the level of quality of the products that teams were producing, and increased the number of people doing optical system design as well as the numbers of systems being designed.”
2. They boost employee satisfaction, which contributes to job stability.
Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year. One reason employees can become disengaged is frustration with their work. Productivity tools can streamline communication between teams and remove a significant amount of dissatisfaction. For example, Zemax Virtual Prototyping dramatically simplifies communication between mechanical and optical engineers. Rather than spending a lot of time in meetings poring over drawings or exchanging emails to clarify the optical specs, the optical engineer can explain the critical elements of the model to the mechanical engineer, who can begin designing mechanical components within minutes of loading the optical design into LensMechanix.
3. They free teams up to use time at the office to be more creative and innovative on behalf of the company.
When time is saved by productivity tools, teams are freed up to be more creative and come up with new product ideas. Less time in meetings to clarify specs means more time to connect with customers, mine customer data to unearth new pain points to solve, do competitive research for inspiration on new features and functionality to incorporate into an existing product, or simply let the mind wander—which scientists believe improves creativity.
4. They help you get to market faster, which enables teams to transition to new projects faster.
Productivity tools can help you beat the competition to market. Zemax customer Global Surgical, a leading provider of dental microscopes, cut product development time in half using Zemax Virtual Prototyping. “The acceleration is fantastic,” said Robert Mentzer, Global Surgical Optical Engineer. “No paper, no STEP files or ray bundle objects. I don’t hum drum with these horrible question loops. No endless back and forth with the mechanical engineer.” All of this allowed Global Surgical to shave an incredible 106 days from the development of a new, more user-friendly dental microscope.
5. They can help you get funded, and more funding means better job security.
When hundreds of companies vie for investors’ attention, having a rigorously tested virtual prototype can mean the difference between a having a well-funded project and just having another idea. Modern virtual prototyping helps teams model designs extensively in order to prove worth to investors considering backing the product or company. Better funding secured means job security for optical and mechanical engineers working on the project.
“In short order, virtual prototyping will be as commonplace as using optimization tools,” says Nicholson. “Teams will be in a better position to receive funding, get to market faster, have time to be more creative, be more satisfied in their jobs, and, ultimately have a better product thanks to productivity tools like Zemax Virtual Prototyping.”
About Zemax Virtual Prototyping
Zemax Virtual Prototyping is the only solution to create a virtual prototype of the entire optomechanical product—not just the optical or mechanical components alone. It consists of highly integrated software that streamlines optical product development. With OpticStudio, optical engineers can design with great precision. Using LensMechanix, mechanical engineers can package the optics in their CAD platform and then analyze the impact of the mechanical design on the optical performance. Together, these products help you reduce costs and shorten time to market.
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