There are times that I realize that I not only am an engineer, but I think like one. Case in point: a while ago I lost a few items, all on the same weekend. These were not any of the biggies like a wedding ring or one of our children, but they were things that were inconvenient not to have, used frequently, and cost something to replace. What the items were is not important, so much as the way my mind tried to work the problem. Which should I spend the most effort looking for? Which is of most “value” to me?

While many people think somewhat like this, the engineer will develop a table, or spreadsheet to calculate which item is of the highest value and which he should look for first. I know I did.

The table looked something like the following:


Frequency of Use

Cost to Replace

Likelihood of Finding with Same Effort

Ordinal “Value”




All of the first three columns after the Item column were given a rank of 1 to 10 for each of the items. Then the final column was simply the addition of the three previous values. I could have made it the average, so that the scale was still a 1 to 10 scale. Instead, I played it crazy and the Ordinal “Value” ended up being a 1 to 30 scale. (I can be quite crazy at times.) I also considered but did not pursue the weighting of one factor over another, either by making the scale larger or smaller for a factor (column) or by creating an equation for the Ordinal “Value” that weighted the other three scored values.

Again, these weren’t highly important or expensive items. I think the one that ended with the greatest Ordinal “Value” was my cell phone car charger, being used frequently but not daily, some cost to replace, but more likely to find since it was probably in one of the cars, or not. At any rate, I spent my time looking first for the car charger.

I may have been able to find all three items in the time it took me to derive their Value, but that is not the point, and if you went there before you read this sentence, well, you are likely not an engineer.