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People and Skills: Embrace change to manage the new engineering environment

14/06/19 Ruksana Begum Consultant, R&D & Engineering

The 4th Industrial Revolution is transforming society and business alike as the UK continues to innovate as a cutting-edge tech hub. As one of the world’s most open and welcoming technology markets, the UK is positioned to help lead the global conversation in designing and scaling technology and engineering, with professional talent at its heart. 

The engineering industry is of vital importance to the UK, contributing a whopping 26% of the UK’s GDP, so being able to keep ahead of the curve is of paramount importance.

As the engineering industry is characterised by innovation and progression, the digital and industrial revolution presents enormous opportunities for businesses and engineers alike and is ultimately transforming engineering jobs globally.

We asked Ruksana Begum, Redline’s Senior consultant - with the driving shift towards the unknown ‘future of work’, how has technology changed engineering and technical jobs so far?

“A great deal has happened in the last five years, both in terms of the environment within which engineers will operate in the future and in terms of major changes in the systems for the development,” says Ruksana.

“Digitisation is changing the operating environment for design engineers. It alters the culture by providing more real-time data on the performance of equipment in the field today, allowing engineers to consider improvements that can be achieved in months through data algorithms rather than years or decades. Instead of focusing only on breakthrough technologies and new models, engineers can now significantly expand the capabilities of equipment already in service through incremental upgrades via software downloads or the incorporation of new sensors.

The tools which design engineers have access to today have extended their analysis capabilities and shortened the design cycle, new product introduction process so that initial design is far closer to the product launch. Previously, the product and engineering design team would carry out an initial proposal, then concept design, manufacture prototypes to test in the lab or field. Based on the test results,  design engineers would modify and enhance the prototype and start the process again. Engineers can now test designs virtually before making prototypes. Safety factors have also shorted the design cycle by using “rules of thumb.” Previously, engineers may have incorporated a safety factor of 1.5 or 2 because they didn’t fully understand the application conditions and resulting stresses, they can now input operating conditions from the start, so the design is often lighter, cheaper and performs better.

In today’s digital world, nothing works without information technology, this change is revolutionary. With 3D-CAD, mechanical design engineers are designing three times faster than before, and the time saved using FEA (Finite Element Analysis) for strength calculations is even greater. Since less resource is applied to setting up models, more effort goes into the material selection, modelling and specialised postprocessing, such as fatigue analysis. Done correctly, this means superior products are launched faster.

New components and technologies are also reshaping the way engineers design and develop equipment. They create opportunities that reduce research and development (R&D) costs and substantially speed up innovation—allowing OEMs to adapt to rapidly changing customer demand.

The engineering profession has seen some interesting transitions. Engineers were once preoccupied with components, now they’re challenged and expected to create modules and entire systems. Design engineers thrive on challenges and changes, but this objective may require a business process overhaul. At the same time, OEMs and engineers have gone from thinking and feeling comfortable about local market needs and strong customer relationships, to working with global customers and having to learn the diverse needs of others.

Moving forward, an engineer’s success will depend on their ability to improve the performance of  products by discovering, developing, and aligning knowledge and capabilities into innovative and valuable technical solutions.”

Let’s look at the future of some existing engineering job roles:

Software Developers and Engineers

As technology continues to develop, the need for software developers is expanding, encompassing new and exciting sectors like healthcare, space exploration, and autonomous vehicles. With the number of connected devices growing, and as the applications for new technological developments expand, there’s plenty of opportunities for software engineers to build a long and prosperous career. These connected devices will begin to communicate with each other on a larger scale, with the ultimate goal to be able to make decisions without human interaction - a significant challenge for talented engineers wanting to have an impact on the future.

As the proliferation of mobile and cloud computing continues to change our interaction with the digital world, businesses are racing to develop new systems and applications to gain a competitive advantage in this evolving space. In addition, software engineers with cyber-security skills will be in demand as companies protect their data and electronic infrastructure from escalating threats.

Electrical Engineers

Electrical engineers work to design and develop components and systems for a wide variety of uses such as electric motors and power generation equipment.  Along with other new engineering job roles in the renewable energy sector is looming. Policy makers have the vision to develop a nationwide or continent-wide transmission grid that is fully-monitored and dynamically-controlled in real-time for high-efficiency, high-reliability, low-cost accommodation of renewable energy sources, full utilisation of energy storage and accommodation of responsive load. This is likely to mean a surge in demand for electrical infrastructure and the associated engineering expertise.

Biomedical Engineers

Broadly speaking, biomedical engineering relies on two factors – healthcare requirements and technology advancing, meaning constant industry development is almost guaranteed. Biomedical engineers design solutions to advance the field of medicine and improve patients' quality of life. This can include activities like designing prosthetic limbs and artificial organs, conducting stem cell research to cure diseases, and developing better biological imaging systems.

As older generations continue to live longer, new advances will be needed for a range of other medical procedures.

The future will bring plenty of diverse engineering career opportunities and businesses who wish to secure their future of work will need to hire the best talent.

Here at Redline, we are excited to see what the future holds for the entire engineering industry, and we’ll be watching closely to see how the landscape changes over the coming years!

If you’re looking for an engineering and technical job, why not take a look at our most recent vacancies?

For more information, please contact Ruksana Begum, R&D and Engineering Senior Recruitment Consultant on 01582 878864 or email RBegum@RedlineGroup.com.