I'm not an automotive engineer, but here's a great post from someone who has been (the original post is here):
A day in the life of an automotive design engineer
You get to the office 5 minutes late. You don't feel guilty. You were in till 11:00pm last night. There's 3 paper coffee cups and a red bull in the bin. For a position as lowly as the product engineer you are lucky to have a large desk. Looking at it, you know that you don't stand a chance of winning the top 5S work cell and the $20 'home depot' voucher that comes with it. The phone LED is red meaning that you have phone messages in your voice mailbox. Your inbox is also red: "253 unread messages." 120 of them are from yesterday and the rest are messages that still require action.
You are barely 3 minutes into reviewing the D599 latest circuit design when John, the new guy, stops by and asks you if you think that GM would buy-off on a 16 pin connector that does not have USCAR approval. You shrug. 5 minutes later you're back reviewing the circuit and you're worried that you'll never fit all those components on the 1 inch squared circuit board real estate left for you. You're also wondering how you'll ever dissipate so much heat from such a small area.
The phone rings. It's the buyer and he needs your help because the BCG423 is on allocation. There's an 18 week lead time to purchase the part caused by this post recession spring-back. We only purchase 18,000 a year so we don't have enough clout for the supplier to redirect the last of the stock to us."Pawl," can you find a substitute part? It takes 4 months to validate a change so why do people ask us that? In the end you know that you will be compelled to find a replacement and that all testing will be reduced to a single overnight stress test. The customer would never buy off on that so they won't be told.
So you switch gears to finding a substitute for BCG423. SGmicroelectronic makes a nearly identical one, but the power rating is slightly lower. You're nervous about the lower power rating so you speak to your boss about testing over the weekend. Unfortunately, the lab guys refuse to work the weekend so he tells you to get the chip supplier to do the testing for you. Last month we ordered the same supplier to lower all their pricing by 10%.
It's 9:30 am and time for your XT450 meeting in the 'Maui' meeting room. This business just got awarded to our organisation and our General Manager decided that this will be our showcase program. Rumor is that we were the only company that bid on it because everyone else said that the project timing made it impossible to design and test in time for start of production. Your boss wants a plan of how you will design it and test it in 5 months. You swallow hard. Midway through the discussions your mind rolls back into the circuit design you were reviewing. This circuit was due for production release yesterday. You also remembered that you need to book a hotel because tonight you're visiting a supplier. Then you drift off back into XT450 as the discussion turns to when you could have the first prototypes delivered. You say "3 months" but then you kick yourself because in the spirit of the moment you forgot to consider that the last 2 weeks of December are lost. You utter a silent curse.
The XT450 meeting gets interrupted by the purchasing manager who pops her head in to inform you of a mandatory attendance fire-fighting meeting about the BCG423 allocation. You were planning to check on the progress of some test on the ZD project. So you tell her that you'll try to be there in 10 minutes.
The ZD project is fairly complex and your colleague lost many nights of sleep designing it and dealing with the customer's indecision. During the peak, he was consistently working 70 hour weeks and often had to travel in the weekend. He quit 4 months ago and took a job as a calibration engineer with the government. Now you inherited the ZD. Your customer is pissed off at how slow your responses are. You told them that you'd have designs in 1 week. That was last week and Peter, your designer took emergency vacation.
It's noon. You like noon because people have lunch and leave you alone. You get back to reviewing the D599 circuit. You're getting increasingly nervous about the heat build up. You conclude that you need to prototype it and run some selected development tests. So you mail out the gerbers for quotation. You're impressed at how efficient these auto quote generators are. You're mid way into completing 3 page of the purchase order request form when the phone rings. It's the lab.
They inform you that "the ZD revision 12b stopped working during load dump testing". "Sh*t" you say to yourself, "the change did not work." You semi-jokingly call him an asshole. He chuckles. You try to forget about it and get back to writing the purchase order request form. The phone rings. It's your wife. "Honey, remember to pick up the kids tonight."
You write out a post-it note on your screen with the words 'Janet/John' to remind yourself not to forget them at the sitters again. You get back to your form.
It's 1 pm and the remnants of the smells from microwave dinners linger in the office. Now you're really hungry. Your screen flashes and a meeting reminder pops up:" Weekly engineers' meeting"
You take a bite off your apple and head off to meeting room 'Waikiki.'
This week your boss is stressing the need for you to record your hour-by-hour time allocation daily so that the projects can be billed appropriately. Also, your department scored miserably in a 5S audit with special remarks about "piles of dust collecting parts sitting on your desks." Finally, the president of the company is stepping out of the downtown headquarters and is visiting us. How nice of him. We are instructed to do a good clean up. You ask if it would be a good time to get the chipped 1970s bathroom tiles renovated.
At 2pm you interview a candidate who's fresh out of college. He said that he has no automotive experience but that he learned all about FMEAs at school and that he'd love to try them out on a new design. You don't tell him that his first job would be to rework misplaced resistors on 300 PCBs where our supplier missed the decimal point on our 0.4ohm resistor. He could start on Monday. You're wondering where you'd put him as there's no more desk space. You'll worry about that when he starts.
On your way back to you desk you stop and microwave your dinner. It's KD from last night (with frozen peas added after you heard a program on obesity on the radio). As you're waiting 2:20 minutes for it to warm up, new guy John asks you if the F23 plastic enclosure should be made out of nylon 66. "Absolutely not" you tell him as you recall last January's fiasco with all the tabs breaking off in dry weather.
You get back to your desk. Ketchup squirts on the D599 schematic. No one's looking so you lick it off. You must remember to bring a box of kleenex tomorrow.
The phone rings. The BCG423 allocation issue meeting has been postponed until 2:30 where your online calender is showing you as "available." The meeting is in the "Honolulu" board room.
On your way to the meeting you stop at the lab to see for yourself the issue with the ZD revision 12b. One of the caps seemed to have burst and the room smells of geek perfume (that's the smell emitted by microchips shortly after they make that "popping" sound). You start wondering what Taiichi Ohno would have done if he was in your position.
You stop for a bathroom break. You savour the serenity of having 87 seconds of thinking about nothing.
You get to the allocation meeting 4 minutes late. The general manager is there and asks you what you're doing to fix the supply problem. He uses the tone that implies "you idiot, why did you select a chip from NOsemi, did you not know they are having supply issues?" I point out that the part was designed before the recession.
At 3:45 you get back to your desk. The RED LED is still flashing on your phone. Messages must be piling up. As you glance at your sea of red email, one stands out. It is from Geoff Wilson, your customer, and the subject is URGENT. How original.
You open it. There's a new failure on the KD where your module is signalling an error to the BCM. He needs you down at the design center at 8:00am tomorrow. You don't dare say No.
So you start gathering your stuff to prepare for the meeting. You go to the lab to see if you can borrow the scope. It's out for calibration. You're trying to decide if you should book a hotel and drive there tonight or leave at 5:00am tomorrow.
Your wife calls to remind you to pick up the kids. She is proud when you tell her that you posted a sticky note on your computer.
As soon as you hang up, the phone rings again. This time it's from accounting who point out that you used the wrong cost center number for your purchase order request form and that you'd need to get the right number from the program director.
You're 5 minutes late for picking up the kids.
Your boss stops by your desk and points out that due to the recent surge in design related quality issues, the company is stressing the need for good FMEAS.</body></html>