MRO Magazine

Survey reveals engineers rely on hand calculations daily

Waterloo, ON -- According to an international survey, mathematical calculations in engineering and academia are sti...


June 2, 2006
By MRO Magazine

Waterloo, ON — According to an international survey, mathematical calculations in engineering and academia are still most often performed with pencil and paper. On a daily basis, respondents turn to scratchpads and calculators more frequently than any other tool for mathematical tasks. The same survey also revealed this community largely considers its field of work and study to be “fully modern” and “taking full advantage of modern tools and technology.”

These results are drawn from an extensive, international survey conducted by Waterloo, Ont., based Maplesoft, of scientists, engineers and researchers across a variety of markets, including aerospace, automotive, electronics, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, life sciences, finance and education.

With more than 2,000 participants, the survey offers unprecedented insight into the daily practices, experiences and perceptions of the technical user community.

When questioned about how frequently they used a range of tools and resources for design and analysis:


— 52% indicated that they use “hand calculations (calculators) and paper” daily, with an additional 21% citing it as a weekly practice;

— 47% of respondents indicated that the next most common resources used daily are “electronic references and tables (e.g. CD-ROM, Web),” with another 26% using them weekly;

— 35% indicated that they use “print reference books and tables” daily, with another 31% using them weekly; and

— 39% indicated daily use of spreadsheets, which remain the most common software tool used in analysis and design. Another 31% of users employ them weekly.

“It is startling to see such hard data revealing the continued reliance on tools and practices that require so much manual effort and leave so much room for error,” said Jim Cooper, CEO of Maplesoft, a provider of software tools for engineering, science and mathematics.

“This is a user base that is charged with driving innovation, exploring the cutting edge and bringing the best new products and services to market and yet, to a large extent, they are holding onto outdated and outmoded practices. So much of their important work will remain locked in their notebooks and lost to the layers of their spreadsheets rather than be captured and carried forward with all of their logic and thinking documented.”

The Maplesoft survey was open to all engineering professionals, including design engineers, research scientists, field engineers, project managers, consultants and educators. From December 2005 to February 2006, 2,092 participants from the United States, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan filled out an extensive online questionnaire covering collaboration and communication, design and analysis tools and overall perception of the design environment.

To see a full report of the survey findings, visit


Maplesoft’s suite of products includes Maple, a powerful and intuitive tool for solving complex mathematical problems and creating executable technical documents. Over two million users at thousands of organizations have applied Maple in nearly every technical field, the company reports. Maplesoft’s commercial customer base includes Allied Signal, BMW, Boeing, DaimlerChrysler, DreamWorks, Ford, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, Raytheon, Robert Bosch, Sun Microsystems, Toyota and Tyco. Additionally, over 90% of advanced research institutions and universities worldwide, including MIT, Stanford, Oxford, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Department of Energy, have adopted Maplesoft products to enhance their education and research activities. For more information, visit