Project Engineering (PE) creates data and procedures. Both are virtual and driven by abstract know-how
rooted into disciplines, each having its own abstractions described by abstract terms and laws.
In modern language PE is digital by birth.
What modern PE does is literally trying to wrap all its virtual products into a paper – Excel, Doc, AutoCad files. Wrapping is an example of inefficiency nearing PE to the last century steamboat.
I remember a young engineer who worked in the desalination project- the largest in the world and a real "treasure chest". For three consecutive years (!) his single job was to maintain multiple records of valves spread over many excel and doc files in consistency. He never complained of this debilitating work, which walled him from this treasure chest. But you can only image what gory details he poured on his close friends. I bet none of them selected engineering for living.
It this case an exception or a rule? Unfortunately, the latter. Today PE is hinged on veteran expert engineer and her herd of less-experienced engineers - the expert's eyes and hands. The critical quality of an expert is a sharp memory of the company projects executed in the last 20 years. As she is obsessed with her memory honing and oiling, she does not have time to think and innovate.
Like a chief cook, the expert selects the project for copying and scaling - two main techniques maintaining most of the engineering companies above the ground. After 5 years of laborious copying of everything by hand, the young engineer will be granted permission to scale, but not to select the source for copying.
Sensing a carrier stagnation and PE imminent death, engineers leave, making their small contribution to the growing deficit of chemical and mechanical engineers, many CEOs are warning about.
They leave for more promising and digital world. How different it is you may judge by 2 latest acquisitions: GE Water and Mobileye. First has been sold for US$ 3.4 billion (7500 workers), second for over US$ 15 billion (300 workers).
This digital world produces 100 times (!) bigger value per capita. That's the true reason why GE sold its water business and is steaming to industrial internet of things and artificial intelligence (AI). I am sure GE will fire back with AI and uberize the water business soon.
The PE world will eventually fall prey to AI as well. AI will break the PE vicious circle of incessant "copy-paste-scale" repetitions and immediately increase the engineer production rates by 10 – 100 times. I must admit, job losses are inevitable.
You think I am hallucinating? Crenger already hit these targets. Others will follow.