October 10, 2017

Investing in human capital to gain market advantage

Investing in human capital to gain market advantage

American economist Theodore Schultz first introduced the idea of human capital in 1971 in his book, “Investment in Human Capital: The Role of Education and of Research.” He was the first to suggest that, like any other type of capital, human capital could be nurtured and grown through education, training, benefits, and other rewards for employees. Now, at a time when new tech like AR/VR and autonomous vehicles is advancing by the day and accelerated launch schedules are putting pressure on Research and Development teams, it’s more important than ever to invest in the human capital at your company to gain market advantage.

The role of management

Engineering managers must focus on supporting the people on their team in order to meet organizational goals. Engineering managers are adopting a people-first mentality, supporting Research and Development engineering teams who are the first to receive increased pressure on product development schedules.
Dropbox engineering manager Jessica McKellar says that by stepping back from the code, “I have the opportunity to zoom out and think about the way engineering is done more broadly — the way we plan, the way we’re structured organizationally, whether our tools set us up for success.”

Supporting the people on an engineering team means making sure people are happy, productive, and engaged in their work. And one of the best ways to achieve that is by giving your teams the right tools and process. However, most optical and mechanical engineers are working in separate software environments, and exporting and exchanging files strips them of critical design information. This makes sharing information and design decisions inefficient and arduous. A slow, iterative process that often leads to failures in physical prototypes or production creates stress within the team, loss of productivity, interpersonal conflict, morale issues, mistrust, and employee churn.

The role of flexible tools

According to The National Research Council, “The challenges of the future will require new, faster, more flexible approaches to optical component fabrication, with less reliance on skill-intensive, iterative production methods.” Modern virtual prototyping is an innovative new way to develop optical products through integrated software. By giving mechanical engineers optical data and tools to analyze and validate the optomechanical design, they are no longer flying blind. They can more easily assess how the mechanical components will affect the performance of the optical system, and they can easily send completed designs back to optical engineers for final validation. Working on the same virtual prototype, optical and mechanical engineers can see the impact of each other’s work directly.

This transparency overcomes the challenges of the linear workflow by creating a parallel design environment. Product design is less frustrating – and the efficiencies that are gained allow companies to invest more in human capital than in wasted energies, to ultimately deliver products to market faster, with greater precision and reduced development costs.

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