Bogged down in the day-to-day operations of an engineering firm, its easy to look at engineering specifications as the mundane cost of doing business. But, when one considers the history and direction of ASME, specs can really come alive. They have a long history of helping engineers think and problem-solve creatively, and safely, in keeping with industry best practices.
ASME cites an 1880 meeting as the beginning of standardization for engineers. Those engineers sought to improve safety as well as commercial success. The United States was quickly outgrowing regional eccentricities. Buildings were getting taller, machines more complex, and a fatal boiler explosion in Massachusetts was the final straw for our predecessors to legislate protective engineering. While engineering standards are rooted in history, they also continue to evolve in ways that keep them current and promote rather than prohibit creative problem solving.
Recently, I found myself elbow deep in ASME BTH-1 and AWS D14.1. Right up front, the ASME spec encourages use of engineering judgment in the execution of analysis per the spec. It offers guidance and options along with requirements for design margin and strength. Specific equations are offered for many geometries, and allowances are given for more complex geometries that might best be suited for techniques like finite element analysis (FEA). The recent project was a genuinely fun exercise in classical by-the-book calculations merged with creative problem solving and analysis.
Now, in the second half of my career, I find myself looking for opportunities to contribute to the development of effective specifications and regulations. As a member of an NSPE committee on new technology policy, I can lend my voice to the chorus of engineers driving design safety and efficacy. I can contribute to effective and efficient legislation that promotes rather than restricts creativity and flexibility in development. For some, this sort of work might seem dry. For me, it is exhilarating.
Just like engineering professionals in 1880, we are working during a period of immense innovation, and careful considerations from our community can prove world-changing for our field.
For more information on the history of ASME, visit https://bit.ly/2GfpnM0