Usefulness – The Purpose of Engineering

  • Erik W. AslaksenEmail author


At the start of the previous chapter, we identified usefulness as a main characteristic of engineering. We all probably understand what this means in a general way, but how can we define this attribute in such a way that we can measure it? Our earlier, very general definition of usefulness as the degree to which the results of the engineering activity meets the stakeholders’ expectations is well and good, but when we consider the myriad of activities engineers are engaged in, from teaching to research, design, management, maintenance, etc, we see that the expectations can be very different in nature and therefore require very different measures. What we need to do is to apply the systems approach and, as a first step, abstract from the details of the particular activities in order to identify what they have in common. No matter what the requirements are, meeting them must have a value to the person or group of persons who raised them and, at least in principle, the common measure of value is a monetary one. The idea of putting a monetary value on the outcomes of all engineering activities is controversial, and assigning an actual numerical value to this parameter can be even more difficult, but it is in identifying and confronting these difficulties that we can hope to make some headway into developing this central characteristic of engineering.


System Engineering Construction Industry System Concept Engineering Activity Activity Engineer 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gumbooya Pty Ltd.Allambie HeightsAustralia

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