A sustaining engineer provides support to streamline the process of taking plans for a product into development and full scale production. Companies use sustaining engineers as part of the teams that are tasked with getting an idea into production after approval by company officials. This work usually requires a degree in engineering along with extensive experience in the industry and familiarity with a company's capacities, processes, and policies. Fields with a need for sustaining engineers range from biomedical sciences to software design.
As plans for a product are completed by the development team, the sustaining engineer is brought on board. This person reviews the plans and proposals to determine their feasibility, and may submit a formal report to the employer. The report can discuss the limitations and flaws of the project, and may make recommendations for changes that could improve the product from the perspective of production. The sustaining engineer often needs to be able to work in computer aided design programs and with other tools in the office.
The sustaining engineer can develop a timetable, look into resources for materials, evaluate prototypes, and start to plan for production. This work usually includes visits to the production site, such as a factory facility, to examine available equipment and meet with workers. Sustaining engineers may also need to travel to the field if they are working on products designed for use in locations like oil fields. Knowledge of the company's resources can be critical at this phase, as the sustaining engineer can determine what the company needs to successfully produce the product.
As products move into production, this member of the staff monitors the process, develops improvements, and identifies problems that need to be addressed. This work can be demanding and exacting in some settings. Sustaining engineers can also discuss ongoing production issues with products in successful production. They participate in decisions about the purchase of new process and manufacturing equipment, and in training for workers as they learn about project production.
Sustaining engineers need to be able to interact with many different members of the design and development teams. Good people skills are useful in this position, as is a high competency with communication. Analytical abilities can be necessary for many positions, as is the ability to think quickly and maintain a mental inventory of information and resources. Competency with computer systems used in engineering and design is also usually required for this work, as is the ability to develop presentations for company personnel.