Preparing Engineering


 Carl Baxendell

Carl Baxendell

I think it’s fair to say that the learning transcends into many areas. The concepts of clear sentences and unambiguous terminology have been incredibly useful in many areas of my work.

Verified by an engineer

With 12 years of engineering experience, Carl made the switch from a timber door manufacturer to become a Mechanical Design Engineer for WH Davis, a manufacturer of rail freight wagons that currently employs around 120 staff. This significant career move brought new complexity by creating the need to design parts for a “system” as opposed to a single unit. Nonetheless, Carl has thrived and been promoted to Engineering Manager – a role in which he is finally seeing the context of many of the theories learnt in his Bachelor’s degree.

Carl currently manages a diverse team of designers and technicians in charge of responding to customer requests and designing the solution. “I like that we see the initial enquiry and can view the finished product. We have a hand in everything from innovation to quality control. I like being a bigger cog in a small machine as opposed to a tiny cog in a massive machine”.


Why Preparing engineering specifications?

Carl attended the Institution’s Preparing engineering specifications course in January 2022. A course designed to promote best practice in the documentation used by engineers to communicate between teams, customers and suppliers. This course was an important step for Carl, who describes his employer as going through “a process of modernisation”.

“We had a good understanding of what we wanted to get out of the course and where we needed improvement, but what we wanted was the best practice. Consultants weren’t going to be valuable in our area - to us, our technical knowledge is crucially important.”

Attending with a Design Engineer from within his team, Carl prioritised this course after realising the need to improve their formal documentation processes following “a few near misses”.

“The real turning point was a response we received from a supplier from one of our specifications. We’d duplicated one of our requirements using different terminology and our supplier responded positively to one item but negatively to the other, even though, in our view, both were requesting the same outcome”.

Carl prioritised this ambiguity as an opportunity to improve the accuracy and professionalism with which they operated with their external stakeholders.

What was your experience of the course?

Carl attended Preparing engineering specifications as a scheduled open course, where any members and non-members of the Institution can attend. By attending with engineers from other organisations, Carl was able to learn best practice from both the trainer and fellow delegates, who came from a variety of industries, including Aerospace, Nuclear and Utilities. Most of Carl’s writing experience has been from academia, something he was conscious of as being “a very different style to writing a specification from a multi-billion-dollar engineering supplier.”

IMechE encourages all participants on this course to bring a copy of a specification of which they have been involved in the production. This was a valuable exercise for Carl “We got to see the best practice from our trainer, but also got to see how other organisations handle similar documents. That was important in terms of structure, content and purpose”.

Your three key takeaways

  • Always write in clear and unambiguous terminology, particularly when working internationally.
  • Write a single requirement in a single sentence. Don’t repeat yourself.
  • Be open minded and open to learn. Not every session will result in a penny dropping moment.

What has been the impact?

“I think it’s fair to say that the learning transcends into many areas. The concepts of clear sentences and unambiguous terminology have been incredibly useful in many areas of my work”.

As well as the course notes, Carl and his colleague have a comprehensive set of notes on the specification they brought with them, which they subsequently decided to rewrite from scratch. As Carl noted, “the success of the course is with us now and whether we choose to apply what we learnt, and whether we aspire for that higher standard”.

What is next?

Carl is planning to bolster his leadership and management skills with a CMI (Chartered Management Institute) Level 5 Diploma in Leadership & Management and is also working towards becoming a Charted Engineer with IMechE. As an experienced engineer, he is working with his local Business Development Manager to apply via the Further Learning route.

Preparing Engineering Specifications

  • Duration:
    2 days
  • Location:
  • CPD Hours:
  • UK-Spec:
    B, D, E