Is the heat on design engineers?

Written by: Tim Fryer | Published:

I was having a conversation with a company about thermal simulation that highlighted the changing role of the engineer.

How a product or system performs thermally often has a critical bearing on how it performs mechanically, electrically or electronically - bad thermal design typically means bad product design. It therefore used to be the norm that such aspects were put in the capable hands of a thermal engineer who could weave his or her magic through this black art.

On the same day as I visited this company, it was announced that Rolls Royce was to cut 2,600 jobs principally from its aerospace division. There has been so much written about the skills shortage in British engineering that you would like to think that those made redundant will have no problem in finding new employment. Maybe the real tragedy here is that this is a company that leads the world with its technology and it is something that we would like to see flourishing on these shores rather than being strategically pruned whenever market forces dictate.

Rolls Royce will have thermal engineers, but how many of them have jobs that are in jeopardy? Is thermal engineering, for example, one discipline that starts to migrate to capable generalist engineers using capable design and simulation software?

This engineer, for example, is now the thermal engineer. And when they train with a fancy electrical design package, what are they now? A system product design engineer?

As the specialist tools become more sophisticated and useable, the skill sets become more accessible and the demands on the individual become broader. So in this multi-disciplined environment, is there room for specialist engineers or even mechanical engineers anymore?

Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.

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