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My Reflections Regarding Ethics on Global Ethics Day

As a licensed Professional Engineer, I am required to abide by multiple Codes of Ethics in my professional life. These codes come from places like from the National Society of Professional Engineers, state engineering licensing boards, and professional societies. But even if I wasn’t required to follow these codes of ethics, being ethical has been engrained in me through my upbringing and my professional development in my career. I share these high ethics with everyone else at Applied Control Engineering (ACE) and they are built into the very cornerstones of our company, whether it is how we interact with customers, employee relations, finance, the project management office, and all other areas. And today, on Global Ethics, I find myself reflecting on what that means to me and my company.

Ethics Compass-Resized


Being ethical and following those ethics in business is one of the reasons ACE has been able to maintain long-term relationships, whether they be internal or external to the company. Our ethics allow us to have frank conversations with all stakeholders. I wanted to highlight some of those conversations and how our ethical standards led us to take actions in the best interests of the public and our clients.

Conduct Ourselves Honorably (Fundamental Cannon #6)

While it is a rare occurrence, we have had to step forward to admit mistakes in a project and then take the necessary steps to remediate the situation. On a recent project, ACE ordered a server with a specific operating system version that at the time seemed appropriate. Unfortunately, the OS will not be supported by the application software in the next application software release. Providing a system that does not have a path forward is not what the customer expected. While the system would have passed the requirements of the specification, our ethics informed our decision to ensure the customer knew the exact situation. After understanding all the technical details of the OS replacement and the costs, our project manager contacted the customer, discussed the situation, and provided a path forward. That path included ACE shouldering some costs. The customer appreciated ACE’s honesty and that we acted as their faithful agent.

Act for Each Client as Faithful Agents (Fundamental Cannon #4)

ACE has always strived to give all options for ways to solve their problems even when it has meant that our services were reduced or not needed. Recently, ACE was hired by a site to help troubleshoot the control system performance. There was a group on site that wanted to rip it out and put in a new DCS. After examining the system, ACE provided the site with several tweaks to the existing control system that would address the performance issues. This included a larger CPU and changes to the networking, but not a major control system migration. Since these were small changes to the existing system, the site utilized their existing control system integrator to implement them and resolved the issues; ACE’s scope was limited to a short consulting engagement. ACE easily could have agreed with the parties on site requesting a new DCS and we probably would have won the project. However, our duty to the client led us to honestly suggest a solution that was in the client’s best interest and limiting the potential for ACE project work.

Hold Paramount the Safety, Health, and Welfare of the Public (Fundamental Cannon #1)

In the final example, one of our engineers was at a customer site assisting with the checkout and startup of a boiler for which our customer had performed all the PLC programming. While on site and during the checkout, ACE’s engineer started to sense things were not right with the customer’s configuration and wiring. After a string of things that were “not quite right” there was an incident where a valve was left open even after the e-stop was pressed and our engineer stepped up and said that there were too many issues to continue. Even though the customer was under a deadline to complete installation and commissioning, ACE allowed (and encouraged) our engineer to step away from the project and leave the site. After travelling home at ACE’s cost, the engineer and I had a call with the customer to talk through our concerns and laid out a plan where ACE would feel comfortable to continue commissioning the system and ensure all standards had been met. The customer agreed to the plan, and we moved forward after the conditions were met with a successful commissioning. While there was a stop work component and safety component to this situation, our ethics and our duty to the safety, health, and welfare of the public also backstopped our decision.

Thank you for joining me on this Global Ethics Day reflection. I am truly grateful and honored to have had the opportunity these last 28 years to be a part of a company that shares my values and my ethical compass. I see it reflected every day in the smaller interactions of our staff and engineers as well as the larger engagements like those listed above.

Lastly, the fundamental cannons referred to in the subtitles above are references to the six cannons contained within the NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers. It is a quick read for those that are interested in checking it out.