Impact of cultural factors on engineering decisions

Impact of cultural factors on engineering decisions
Impact of cultural factors on engineering decisions

Engineering is considered as some sort of universal myth that does not create any effects from outside sources or areas like National, Regional or Company Cultures. Cultural differences are very interesting but it does not apply to an engineer.

This is the mentality of all types of engineers living in this country. There are universal technical laws and some shared aspects related to the culture of engineering. This approach mainly targets to solve various engineering problems that are strongly influenced by the culture.

There are many examples where engineering is influenced by the culture that includes airliner control systems, design of trucks and silicon chips along with the surprising role in the design of a successful solution that is TVG high-speed rail network. Some of the engineers over different geographical locations understand the difference between the “pragmatic” approaches popular in some cultures compared it to the more “philosophical” approach.

A research has been conducted which shows that a great solution is one that works in practice and nobody minds if it is not conceptually “pure”. In some countries like France, they take a different approach which includes a consequence of the education system and people so that they can start with basic principles and develop solutions in a way that outsiders consider abstract. People sometimes call this approach “philosophical” though it resembles more the mentality of mathematicians.

In many countries the approach to high-speed rail was one of pragmatic compromise and simply finding a solution that could work around issues like the difficulty of building new tracks.  But in countries like France, the problem was approached in a characteristically philosophical way and the first decision was to build a high-speed line, not a high speed train.

Making a fast train is relatively easy, but if it runs on old tracks it cannot run so fast, and if it shares rails with slow trains then you have to compromise on track design. Once you have decided that you will build a high-speed line then the trains are less important. If you decide that all trains will be fast this means that you need less separation and, more importantly, you can also use steeper grades, exploiting the roller coaster effect to climb grades that would stall a slow train.

The decision to focus on the track meant that there was a dedicated track, optimized for fast traffic and with stations located on the main routes and not downtown. The simple, pragmatic approach preferred in other countries might have brought the service to market quicker, while the more theoretical approach may be slower but can often make a better product.

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