Do design engineers really need printed hard copy catalogs? PDF files provide all the content and allow just the needed pages to be printed if needed.

Your thoughts?

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I think it depends on the engineer - some still prefer the printed piece while others are happy to download the PDF from the web site - I personally download from the site, but that's only if I know what I want - other times I like flipping through a catalog to find something - so I guess I'm a 50/50 guy
We should go for PDF files.
Most important is that the designer get adequate information to accomplish the project.
Hard copies are passable between individuals and can be marked and highlighted to transfer information or train younger engineers.
While the information is readily available on the screen in many cases we still have many individuals that has a need to know and will benefit from having something in their hands.
We do not need to eliminate Hard Copies from the industry to make someone else job easier, we must consider all avenue to allow the many to benefit from being to able to gather information and communicate ideas.
We must promote verbal communication and the need to up from your chair and experience the charm of speaking to others; we might get back to get a project completed with the budget and schedule.

It is simply service that measure sucess.
I'm the person responsible for creating and designing my firm's catalogs and website. Creating a PDF is a lot faster and easier than "printing" a catalog. Too, a 3D PDF really shows what the product looks like, and takes up much less disk space. With a 3D PDF you can actually "play" with the object and zoom in to see how it works. One object really does replace a thousand words. That said, creating an attractive file with good data, a good layout, and a useful picture goes beyond the skill set of most people tasked with that job. I have seen some really ugly files where 20 year old CAD sketches are crookedly placed on massive tables.
I like to design things using PDF catalogs since I can then cut & paste my part #s into a purchase requisition.

My maintenance guys would rather have a paper catalog since they don't have internet access. So we keep 6 major paper catalogs in the shop and a "specialty" binder full of printouts from online catalogs & the cut-sheets that come with the part.

I think both methods are needed. PDFs have cut down the number of paper catalogs I need to keep, but they won't eliminate them as long as management doesn't trust my maintenance guys enough to give them internet access.
It depends on the person and the organization. Some people are still far more comfortable with something to hold in their hands. They don't need to or don't want to depend on a computer. Maybe they don't have electronic mark-up capabilities due to software limitations. Or they haven't been trained to use it. Other people only want to depend on the speed and ease of use of electronic files. Mostly likely because they have the resources and training to be most effective when working this way.

My general observation is a tendency for engineers over 40 years old to use printed catalogs and those under 30 to prefer only electronic information. This is NOT a hard and fast rule or meant to prejudice against anyone. Just an understanding of where people obtained their training and experience. These help to define what they are comfortable with. PDF files aren't the end-all solution, but neither is manually flipping through the pages of a paper catalog.

My observation with electronic searches is that sometimes you need a good starting point and method for your search or you might not get anything relevant. Plus you wade through tons of advertising. Sometimes with printed material you can flip through a section and visually find what you were looking for. Better catalog websites are aware of this and will not rely exclusively on part numbers or descriptions, but often include a visual "like this" option.
Yes. For the following reasons.
1. They don't disappear when the power goes out.
2. They organize a lot of information in one place that is relatively easy to find, unlike many vendor websites.
3. They can be marked up and referred to later.
4. If the internet is down, they are still on your desk where you can use them.
5. You're not forced to be looking at a computer screen and be tied to your desk for every last thing you try to find.
6. Finding something on the internet can take hours when a printed catalog puts it right in front of you.
7. Many catalogs have built in textbooks, and I find it much more comfortable and rewarding to sit in a chair and read it without looking at a computer screen all day.

I could probably think of a few more reasons, but that's enough for now. I use pdf files extensively and find the internet quite useful for finding things, but nothing will ever take the place of calling someone who knows what their company sells and a printed catalog that organizes masses of information for you and lets you hold the whole thing in your hand. No internet site I know of puts that much information together in a way where I can conveniently refer to any page in it without having to wait for pages to load and go through stupid web pages that don't let me find what I want.
I'm well over 50 and have experience in engineering, publishing, CAD, and documentation. I have even used an X-Acto knife for editing. I much prefer automation, if done right. In the right hands, the tools are nothing short of astounding. For example, one year I "created' 12,000 pages of compiler documentation with an early flavor of a tagged language (like XML). No one can type that fast. But there is always a caveat. Finding typos was a nightmare as the documents were compiled and only by using a log file with a dummy text version could you even hope to find the offending file and then you still had to search.
All this is a round-about way of saying that content creation is still a challenge. And no matter what content is there, users will want more. So the goal is to provide just enough that the sales team can take over and win the job.
That's an interesting persepctive. Thanks for the insight.

ssommers said:
I like to design things using PDF catalogs since I can then cut & paste my part #s into a purchase requisition.

My maintenance guys would rather have a paper catalog since they don't have internet access. So we keep 6 paper catalogs in the shop and a "specialty" binder full of printouts from online catalogs & the cut-sheets that come with the part.

I think both methods are needed. PDFs have cut down the number of paper catalogs I need to keep, but they won't eliminate them as long as management doesn't trust my maintenance guys enough to give them internet access.
I understand this aspect and obviously the quality of the electronic files makes a huge difference. We are thinking of producing a very detailed selector type catalog that compiles all of our products into on place. This would be printed and avaibale in an electronic format off our website. This will include load, speed, materials, size, etc. We would then supply any higher level detailed information off the web site in PDF format. So a sort of hybrid solution but it allows us to limit our catalog printing expenses. As we print fewer and fewer catalogs the cost keep going up.

Kenneth Sauter said:
Yes. For the following reasons.
1. They don't disappear when the power goes out.
2. They organize a lot of information in one place that is relatively easy to find, unlike many vendor websites.
3. They can be marked up and referred to later.
4. If the internet is down, they are still on your desk where you can use them.
5. You're not forced to be looking at a computer screen and be tied to your desk for every last thing you try to find.
6. Finding something on the internet can take hours when a printed catalog puts it right in front of you.
7. Many catalogs have built in textbooks, and I find it much more comfortable and rewarding to sit in a chair and read it without looking at a computer screen all day.

I could probably think of a few more reasons, but that's enough for now. I use pdf files extensively and find the internet quite useful for finding things, but nothing will ever take the place of calling someone who knows what their company sells and a printed catalog that organizes masses of information for you and lets you hold the whole thing in your hand. No internet site I know of puts that much information together in a way where I can conveniently refer to any page in it without having to wait for pages to load and go through stupid web pages that don't let me find what I want.
I have noticed catalogs pile up in hundreds that people don't discard even though they get outdated and outmoded, in the hope that they may be needed some day. Catalogs are useful things but need to be replaced with newer versions or they can take up costly space and cause a lot of clutter. So PDF files can save a lot of trees and can be stored in negligible space compared to thick expensive catalogs.So basically it depends on the individual and what he/she wants.
Yes they need it,As a desig engineer I only look for the companies who can provide hard copy of their catalogue, as it is easy to flp and find information, whereas in case of CD or elcectonoc media ,you must know the contant first, you need a computer,

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