Mechanical Engineering can broadly be viewed as an amalgam of following three streams:
- Design Engineering
- Production Engineering
- Industrial Management
Most streams you have heard of like robotics, automobile engineering, aerospace engineering or bioengineering can be grouped into one of the above three streams. For example, ‘Medical Device Development’ is a key area of research in bioengineering. It involves two stages:
- Design Specifications and Simulation (Design Engineering)
- Fabrication (Production Engineering)
So, as a mechanical engineer, you can either be a generalist or a specialist. Now, you can specialize in one of the three streams.
A design engineer mostly deals with the computational aspects. A few skills required are:
- Computer Aided Design (CAD): CAD is often the heart and soul of ergonomics and industrial design. A mechanical engineer looking to specialize in this area must master software like SolidWorks, CATIA, CREO/Pro-E, Rhino etc.
- Finite Element Analysis (FEA): Most designed components and the material to be used for the design of components say sandwich composites for the chassis of an airplane, are tested for failure using software like ANSYS, COMSOL or ABAQUS. Often you have to work with mesh reduction software such as Meshlab to achieve computational results faster.
- Computational Fluid Dynamics: Design of turbomachinery and microfluidic drug delivery systems involve complex calculations and the design dimensions can be optimized using CFD. ANSYS Fluent and OpenFOAM are great tools to work with CFD applications.
- Computer Programming: Industries have customized software which often requires coding in C/C++ environment to achieve complex operations. Sometimes, analyzing the results generated by ANSYS also requires programming skills. You don’t have to be a developer but a basic knowledge in a High-Level Programming Language is crucial to be a successful design engineer.
This stream is concerned with manufacturing processes, industrial automation, and quality engineering. The skills may range from traditional milling to unconventional manufacturing techniques like Electro Discharge Machining (EDM).
This stream mostly focuses on supply chain and operations research. Optimization problems are ever-evolving areas of research in this stream. One needs sound mathematical and analytical skills to have success in this stream. Strong foundation in computer programming and data analysis will give an impetus to your career.
- Supply Chain Management:
Corporations of the world rely on supply chains when fulfilling their business and IT goals each year. Supply chain processes affect both the speed and efficient service delivery of a company. Speed and efficiency factors cost money, so it is essential to strike a balance between being highly productive and adhering to cost reduction strategies
Supply chain management (SCM) is critical to a company’s procurement to production lifecycle; however, it is not highly publicised. With the advent of emerging technologies such as cloud computing, big data and more, the need for an SCM system is becoming more prominent. I believe that an efficient SCM system is crucial for almost all industries to run their businesses uninterruptedly, including the federal government.
Some of the other skills are common to any engineering discipline like:
- Interpersonal skills that involve communication and leadership skills
- Engineering EthicsYou may find a more detailed answer in my blog post here.