What does the future of engineering hold?

Engineers are being split into two groups: One that is threatened by future change and one that is excited by the possibilities that the future brings.

10/13/2016


Ryan Nabozniak is an application consulting engineer with Aucotec. Courtesy: AucotecThe tools engineers use need to be interoperable and interchangeable to allow them to work across disciplines, departments, and industries. What's happening in the industry now is pushing the whole field of engineering out of its comfort zone and requiring it to grow. This change is causing a fundamental shift in how and where engineering and construction work is done. The shift is split into two groups. The first group is uncomfortable because it threatens what they know. The second group is excited by the shift and sees endless opportunity.

Engineers today are wearing different hats. They're taking their creative ideas and building products and businesses around them. Engineers are also more frequently collaborating with other professionals such as artists, ecologists, anthropologists, doctors, and pilots. They're working to understand their needs and then turn those needs into workable products as well as new industries, buildings, and processes.

An example of this fundamental change is a young master's student in civil engineering. The student was trying to model the work processes of underground sanitation crews employed by the city of Edmonton. He wanted to determine if he could better motivate these crews and find efficiencies using statistical modeling. I suggested that he talk to an anthropologist. At first, this might sound like a crazy idea, but given some thought and what he was trying to do—influence a diverse group of individuals—it wasn't so crazy after all.

The same can be said of engineering companies, skid package vendors, systems integrators, owner operators, manufacturers, aerospace industries, process industries, pulp and paper industries, food and beverage industries, rail and transportation industries, power industries, medical industries, and so on.

Companies within these industries are challenged to rethink their traditional models of doing things. Silos and specializations simply don't work as well anymore. Government and large, established industries have traditionally driven creative works and new technologies. These were benefactors with deep pockets. This is still true to a certain extent, but at the same time, industries and companies that didn't exist 30 years ago have begun to radically change how we view the world and communicate with one another.

GE, a company with a tradition of innovation, has realized it failed to innovate internally. To solve this, it created an organization called the GE Centre for Innovation. The Centre comprises a number of small start-ups that are responsible for exploring radical ideas, creating innovative products, and turning their discoveries and developments into viable businesses.

It's time we all looked at our companies, industries, and positions. It's time that engineers decide if they want to be part of the past or part of the future. Engineers will face many challenges in this new world, and there will be personal and professional challenges along the way. Some may be content to let things happen to them so they can say they were right in the end. Other engineers, meanwhile, see the chance as an opportunity to create a better future. The latter group are the ones who will be pushing and striving for a better tomorrow.

Which group are you in?

Ryan Nabozniak, application consulting engineer, Aucotec. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

ONLINE extra

See additional stories about recruiting engineers linked below.



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Robotic safety, collaboration, standards; DCS migration tips; IT/OT convergence; 2017 Control Engineering Salary and Career Survey
Integrated mobility; Artificial intelligence; Predictive motion control; Sensors and control system inputs; Asset Management; Cybersecurity
Big Data and IIoT value; Monitoring Big Data; Robotics safety standards and programming; Learning about PID
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This article collection contains several articles on how automation and controls are helping human-machine interface (HMI) hardware and software advance.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Future of oil and gas projects; Reservoir models; The importance of SCADA to oil and gas
Big Data and bigger solutions; Tablet technologies; SCADA developments
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me