The Industrial Revolution saw the rise of mechanized manufacturing, allowing goods and services once only available in limited quantities for large-scale production. Automobiles, over-the-counter drugs, and processed foods are among the countless examples that help meet the world’s growing demands. These days, a world without it would be unimaginable.
Unfortunately, any modern convenience often gets taken for granted. It’s easy to think that making goods and services has never been easier, and putting together a functional assembly line can’t be as difficult. However, a factory or plant equipped with the wrong tools or working with unsuitable processes can’t be of any use to any industry.
Planning for such projects and building the appropriate equipment are the primary responsibilities of engineering services. Suppose you want to manage a factory that produces aftermarket car parts. Engineering services will draw plans for the assembly line and the equipment necessary based on budget and other factors.
But explaining it this way is doing a disservice to the critical role they play in building the factories and plants of today and tomorrow. Here’s a comprehensive review of engineering services.
Engineering At A Glance
At the heart of the term ‘engineering services’ is, no doubt, engineering–the science of solving problems. It’s accurate to surmise that the discipline is as old as time itself, as ancient civilizations also had to deal with dilemmas that defined their era. For example, there’s as much engineering in building the Great Pyramids as building them using the technology available at the time.
Over the centuries, engineering’s concerns barely changed. If anything, it has only branched out to various fields–from machinery to the environment. It continues to create new solutions or improve upon existing ones by using a seven-step approach.
- ASK about the issue and the need to address it
- RESEARCH on the matter thoroughly
- VISUALIZE the possible solutions
- SELECT the solution with the most potential
- CREATE a prototype of the selected solution
- TEST the solution and evaluate its effects
- IMPROVE upon the solution as necessary
With this model, engineering services can identify essential details about a project. The following questions give an idea for each step, though there can also be more than one:
- What is the issue, and why does it need a solution?
- What does current knowledge say about the issue?
- What are the possible approaches to resolving the issue?
- Which of these solutions is the most feasible?
- How should the chosen solution be formulated?
- Did the solution perform as expected?
- Can the solution be refined further?
This approach is cyclic. Solutions can solve old problems as much as make new ones, so engineers constantly refine them. One can imagine the countless problems that generations of engineers have solved and are currently trying to solve.
Tools of the Trade
Engineers have access to an armory’s worth of hardware and software, but their toolboxes depend on the project and its needs. From the humble wrench to advanced mobile apps, the variety can be astounding.
However, many engineering fields have several tools and instruments in common, like the following:
Since most necessary tools have gone digital, an engineer is never far from a computer these days.
The processing power a decent desktop or laptop can provide allows for complex calculations and simulated designs. Visualizing the outcome as early as the design phase enables engineers to make adjustments as needed. But it wasn’t until the 1980s when computers became powerful and reliable enough to operate computer-assisted design (CAD) software.
In 1982, AutoCAD made its debut. Within four years, it became the most widely-used design program. Its name has become so pervasive that people tend to call any differently-named program with a similar function as AutoCAD.
Engineering services like nwflowtech.com use this software to generate 3D models of custom heavy equipment (they also provide 2D illustrations for review). While equipment may appear standard for all manufacturing facilities, their differences are subtle but significant. That’s why an extensive review of every unique case is necessary.
For a kind of science that concerns itself with solving problems, engineering has an abundance of math. Crunching numbers is all in a day’s work for the consummate engineer when creating and testing solutions. A single misstep can throw off the entire blueprint or, worse, result in a catastrophic loss when already built.
Therefore, an engineer always has calculators on hand, namely graphing calculators. Not only do these devices perform complex calculations, but they also generate graphs based on the data provided. Unlike standard and scientific calculators, graphing calculators can perform algebra and trigonometry, displaying answers in algebraic form.
If AutoCAD is the epitome of CAD software, the TI-84 by Texas Instruments is the household name for graphing calculators. While it didn’t produce the first of its kind, the company’s lines of graphing calculators have seen widespread use in engineering. The processing power these devices possess is almost akin to a full-fledged computer.
In most cases, a CAD-generated blueprint won’t suffice, which is why engineers need to create a mockup to evaluate its overall appearance better. Fortunately, modern technology has blessed engineering with the most suitable means of achieving this–3D printing.
Before the advent of 3D printers, creating a prototype was the only way to evaluate the design. However, this process had several disadvantages, such as spending more time and resources to develop a working model. With 3D printing, the procedure only takes several hours; since it’s only a mockup, it can also reduce the demand for valuable components.
The printers apply to nearly every industry that requires engineering services. For example, 3D printing is prevalent in creating models of new aircraft and parts, as well as perform extensive tests on them. Given the suitable materials, they can also produce working versions of selected components and accessories.
Any engineering project doesn’t end with the finished product as it’ll eventually suffer from problems. When equipment breaks down, the engineer is also responsible for troubleshooting and maintenance. As such, an engineer isn’t without an assortment of tools all packed inside a heavy-duty toolbox.
Screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, wrenches, and various fasteners (e.g., nails, screws, nuts, bolts) are a given. However, engineers also employ tools that don’t have to fit inside a toolbox, such as safety gear, power tools (e.g., drills, saws), and jacks. Measuring tools such as calipers and rulers are also handy on the field.
The toolbox may also contain chemical agents like WD-40, which is a water displacement spray widely used as a lubricant or rust remover. As heavy equipment has plenty of moving parts, a lubricant can significantly contribute to general repairs and maintenance.
Engineering is an intricate science. Even after years of study and work experience, the engineer still needs to refer to specific notes now and then. Not to mention that ideas and aspects evolve with technology, so the notes must constantly be up-to-date.
Fortunately, engineers have access to such information and more through smartphone apps. Mobile versions of engineering software, like AutoCAD, enable engineers to view or edit their designs virtually anywhere. Several apps, like Wolfram Alpha, also serve as a repository of knowledge that engineers can refer to if they ever need a refresher.
While a commercial smartphone works, there are also ones designed for engineering services. Aside from containing the necessary apps, they also come with features like thermal cameras and waterproofing.
Looking To The Future
The roadmap of engineering services for the foreseeable future closely ties with that of mechanized manufacturing. As current trends suggest, factories and plants will employ far more machines and fewer people in the coming years. Automation is slowly taking over many manual responsibilities in the facility, which is a blessing or a curse depending on which spectrum of the debate one stands.
The manufacturing sector is currently feeling the repercussions of the present system. The COVID-19 crisis plaguing the world has caught manufacturers unaware, suffering from a lack of manpower due to strict quarantine measures. As they reel from the pandemic’s impact on the world economy, they’ve also started resetting their priorities to prevent it from happening again.
More factories and plants are going entirely (or mostly) automated, employing both hardware and software to maintain maximum output with minimal human input. As an automated system is data-driven, engineering services can pinpoint any problems more quickly and accurately than a human operator can describe.
As technology introduces new designs and improves existing ones, there’s also a growing need for engineering services to hone their craft. Newer equipment may be less complicated to operate but not necessarily less complicated to troubleshoot. It’ll require better comprehension of the current and future engineering principles.
It’s doubtful that engineering services will become less relevant in the future for two reasons. First, mechanized manufacturing will remain a facet of the modern economy as machines take over most automatable functions. Second, and perhaps more importantly, new solutions breed new problems; breaking this cycle is, for the moment, impossible.
For these reasons, manufacturers must keep a reliable and long-term partnership with engineering services. Their business practically relies on them keeping their equipment in working order.