UVA Professor Questions Purpose of Code of Ethics in Engineering Profession
The main ethical issue in this case study is the instruction given to engineer A by his supervisor to alter the process of testing the wafers manufactured by their contractor company. The altering of the testing process results in a decline in the quality of the wafers, which causes the contracted company to charge less for the wafers. This is likely to result in the Dicers company improving the profit margins after reducing the cost of procuring the wafers. There was an agreed process of the testing the wafers between the two companies, and this is stated in the contract. Not using that process to test the wafers is a breach of the contract on the part of Dicers company. According to the AIC code of ethics, the engineer should not get involved in deceptive practices that are likely to give any party an undue advantage over the other. Further, the engineer should not injure the professional reputation of others, whether directly or indirectly.
The directive given by Engineer A’s supervisor to alter the testing process of the wafers is the origin of the problem. There is no way of determining whether the supervisor was instructed by his seniors to make that request to the engineer. The alteration of the testing process of the wafer will lower the cost of procuring the wafers from the external contractor. The management of Dicers company is the most likely beneficially of this alteration in the testing process. This is because the contractor for the wafers will demand less money for the wafers supplied, reducing the cost of the procuring done by this company. On the face of it, the supervisor is the root of the problem. However, there is also the possibility of the management of the company being the cause of this ethical problem.
The engineer should consult higher level management at Dicers to get clarification on the instructions that he has been given by his supervisor to alter the testing process. This is the best course to take, as opposed to divulging that information to persons not within the organization. The engineer should also state his reservations regarding the alteration of the testing process and give the higher-level management the opportunity to investigate the matter and the contractual agreement that the company has with the external contractor. Taking this step is in line with the AIC code of ethics which states that the engineer should not divulge any confidential information gathered in the course of professional activities to any firm, individual or company that is not authorized to access such information.
Canon 6 in the ASCE Code of Ethics states that an engineer should not act in a manner that compromises the honor, dignity and integrity of the engineering profession. The engineer is expected to stay clear of practices that involve bribery, fraud and corruption. The practice of altering the testing process is a form of fraud, and it is for this reason that the engineer should be concerned about going ahead and implementing it. This course of action is also backed by Canon 4 of ASCE Code of Ethics that stating the engineer should act in the best interest of the employer or client and act as a faithful agent and trustee of the information gathered on the job and at the same time try and avoid incurring conflict of interest. Engineer A should hold this information that is considered internal to Dicers in trust and not divulge it to outside sources.
The option of approaching the managers of the other companies and informing them of the suspicious activities taking place at Dicers is not advisable. This is because it goes against the duty of the engineer to hold information in trust for his employer. Further, this is likely to result in a dispute that would cost both companies a lot in terms reputation and the possible lawsuits that would follow. The engineer does not have the authority to communicate with the management of the other company, as he is not designated as the contact person for Dicers as far as the other company is concerned. It is unethical for the engineer to leak out such information to an entity that is external to Dicers.
It is also not advisable to inform news agencies of the
activities taking place in the company. This
could put the company in conflict with the engineer and make him lose his job.
There is also the possibility of Dicers getting a bad reputation amongst other
players in the industry and also the
clients (Ferris, par 5). This can have a
prolonged negative effect on both the
engineer and the company. This is not a
preferred outcome for either the company or the engineer. The engineer is
supposed to clarify with the senior level management of the firm regarding the
instructions given by the instructor in order to
make an informed decision. As at now, there is not enough information to decide
whether the supervisor is acting alone or whether this is a decision that has
been made by management of Dicers.
Ferris, Elyse. “UVA Professor Questions Purpose of Code of Ethics in Engineering Profession.” University WireMar 13 2017. ProQuest. Web. 21 Oct. 2017 .