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Costs of poor design


Often engineers don’t think and don’t realize the importance of their work and their impact on society. The main goal is finishing the job and move on to the next one, without taking a special attention to the usability, the way it will work or if people will enjoy it. In most cases, the costs of a poor design are much bigger in magnitude to the design/engineering costs or even the implementation costs. When it is a public work, people must live with something poorly designed for a long period of time, affecting the lives of everyone involved.

One of the big and very important places where we can see some of the poor design impacts is on road traffic. When you think of the causes of road traffic, usually you don’t think about bad design, but the reality is that one big part of road traffic is caused by engineers. In some cities like LA and London, drivers spend on average 1h30m on traffic congestion. In the US, traffic congestion is the cause of more than 11.700 million liters of fuel spent and 42 hours of each driver per year. If we convert that into costs, considering the direct and indirect costs, in every major city of every rich country, people lose approximately 800€ per year while sited in his car during traffic congestion.

 Queues are another part of everyone lives that we wish to avoid, and engineers have also a big role in reducing the queue time. From the layout to the process design and process management, there are a lot of things that engineers can do to reduce the queues waiting time. The average adult spends on average 5h35 on queues per month. Some of the major places where you lost a lot of time queueing and there is room for improvement are supermarkets, hospitals, and airports. Did you know, for example, that the way you generally board on an airplane is not the most efficient one, and if we change the way we board on an airplane, the boarding time can be reduced in almost 10 minutes?

The short-term thinking in engineering services and design is having a great impact on society, with the loss of many millions of euros. The long-term thinking must be valued and awarded to improve the situation. Engineers must have a clear notion of what is his role and the impact of their work, as the contracting institutions must know that there are other things that must be valued outside of the short-term needs and regulatory conditions.

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