What do Mechanical Engineers Do In Industry?
The variety of application fields and job functions available to Mechanical Engineers in industry is almost limitless. Within a typical company most of the Mechanical Engineers will be found in three areas: product
Product engineers design, develop, and test the company's products; for example, automobiles or computers. Regardless of specific duties, these engineers share the responsibility for creating products, which are cost effective, competitive, producible, maintainable, and reliable. Engineers contribute to this total effort as testing and evaluation specialists, stress analysts, designers, or parts fabrication or drafting room supervisors; the specializations are endless. A significant point to remember, however, is that a good M.E. can handle almost any of them while also being familiar with the various manufacturing processes.engineering, plant engineering, and the manufacturing organization.
Manufacturing engineers have many different labels: Process engineer, tool engineer, and master mechanic. The manufacturing engineering organization, regardless of its local name, has the responsibility for designing and specifying the tooling and equipment necessary to produce the company's products at acceptable costs and quality. Individual assignments tend to be specialized; for example, one engineer may deal primarily with sheet metal forming and welding, another with foundry processes. Again, it is good to remember that an M.E. with a foundation in the basics can probably handle entry-level assignments in most manufacturing engineering areas. Manufacturing engineering can also be considered a subset of the total manufacturing organization, and this enhances the mobility of the M.E. in this part of the company. It is not uncommon for Mechanical Engineers to move from a manufacturing engineering function to a supervisory or management position in the production organization.
The integration of computers into the manufacturing process has added to the options available to the manufacturing engineer. Computer-aided-design (CAD) is often integrated with computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) to yield computer-integrated-manufacturing (CIM) where paper is replaced by images in the form of data transferred from one location to another by wire. This data is then used directly on the manufacturing floor.
The third concentration of M.E.'s in any organization will be found in the facilities or plant engineering activity. These engineers are responsible for the design and maintenance of the plant buildings and utilities, for the environmental control within and surrounding the plant, and for supplying the energy used in the plant operation. Thus, the Mechanical Engineers in plant engineering contribute both directly and indirectly to the company's efficiency and productivity.
At the corporate or company staff level, Mechanical Engineers are involved in research, design, and development activities in many application fields. Functions are similar to those existing at the operating divisions, but the treatment may be more rigorous or advanced or require a wider financial support base than that available from a single division. Although these corporate engineering support staffs hire young engineers directly from college, it is common for engineers to begin their careers at operating divisions and then transfer to corporate staffs based upon their interests and performance.
Two additional points should be considered in summarizing the role of Mechanical Engineers in industry. First, many engineers eventually become managers; in fact, most young engineers state this as a career goal. Normal career progression for an engineering manager involves beginning with an entry-level job having a heavy and specific technical content. Based upon successful performance in this technical job, the potential manager then moves through a series of positions which have more general technical content and an increasing managerial component. A Mechanical Engineering background is entirely commensurate with this progression. An M.E. education provides the qualifications for the prerequisite initial success as an engineer in the broadest possible number of entry level jobs as well as the analytical and problem solving skills requisite for management positions.
Secondly, although the variety of opportunities available for M.E.'s has been stressed, their positions in industry have some common characteristics, which promote a strong professional identity. Virtually all of the jobs and functions mentioned above involve the application of basic and engineering science to the creation of complex mechanical systems, and most of those systems involve the conversion or transmission of energy. Regardless of whether the design deals with an energy absorbing instrument panel, an assembly line robot, or a waste water recycling facility, the M.E. is practicing Mechanical Engineering, and knows it.