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Brynt Parmeter, Director of Workforce Development, Education & Training, NextFlex

This question really spans beyond engineering, to broader careers in STEM/STEAM – which are very much related. The latest common data shows there will be 3.5 million jobs in these types of fields in the next five years, with 2 million open and ready for people to jump into immediately. The majority will be at the technician level, which requires a certificate (or combination of certificates) or a two-year degree. These are accessible jobs for which people can qualify without incurring massive student debt, gain some experience, and then move into more high-paying positions – via further education or by advancing along the career path. What’s exciting about these tech jobs, which range from R&D to design to full-scale production and manufacturing, is the ability they’ll afford to influence the actual application of products being worked on.

We are focused on helping drive creation of exciting technologies and products that are going to actually change the way we live and go about each day. This approach we’re advocating creates opportunities for many folks that may want to go into tech manufacturing – regardless of location, ethnicity, gender, etc. – but didn’t think it was something they could pursue. This includes not only those entering from school/certificate programs, but also underrepresented populations, e.g., women reentering the workforce, transitioning veterans, or National Guardsmen and reservists who are members of their local workforce in addition to their part-time military service role.

What will be required over the next few years is to change the conventional wisdom to which most parents and high school counselors subscribe. We want them to see that this is a rewarding profession, involving very high-tech facilities that encompass everything from learning to program computer-controlled machines, to a whole range of math- and non-math-related topics, CAD/CAM…anything you can think of. Those who advise our kids should be aware of the full spectrum of opportunity so that they can present this as a viable career pathway.

 

Cees Links, General Manager, Qorvo Low Power Wireless

One of the most important trends for the engineering profession is the need to start looking at the big picture. In order to understand what features and products need to be developed for any device and its application, it is critical to take a holistic view of the industry. 

For example, in the rapidly emerging smart home sector, it is no longer good enough to simply connect a device or an appliance to the internet. Instead, the device or appliance needs to be part of the entire solution. Instead of just allowing the product to be remotely controlled over the internet by a smartphone, it needs to be part of an overall service solution.

Along with the rapid growth of the smart home market, has also emerged an array of different protocols and standards for wirelessly connecting all these devices together. Most consumers don’t want to make the technical review and choices between the various options, and instead, would prefer to have a third party company handle all of this for them.

In addition to connectivity, consumers are looking for services that provide the functions that they want and need – i.e. home security, environmental control, energy efficiency, health and family assistance, lighting, entertainment, etc.

It makes a lot more sense for an independent third party to come in and provide all these functions as a single service offering - enabling consumers to simply enjoy the benefits of these new technologies instead of having to wrestle with the complexities of selecting the right technology, evaluating the different devices, installing them and managing them.

This means that design and development engineers need to recognize their entire ecosystem and be aware of how their solution fits into this interlocking network of services. Instead of building a siloed solution, they need to build solutions that connect to and work with other smart home components, and other types of devices and appliances for the home. They need to target the big picture rather than a single smart home device.

 

Christian Fell, VP Position & Motion Sensors/COO, POSITAL FRABA Inc.

We see a lot of pressure on engineers to support more and more product diversity. Whether they are industrial buyers or private consumers, customers want items that meet their exact needs. There are also regional differences in regulations and standards that must be accommodated. As a result, designers must plan their products with an eye to what we call “mass customization” – the ability to make many variants of a product on demand, but without losing the economies of scale that came with traditional mass production techniques. The “Internet of Things (IoT)”, which implies universal connectivity, is both driving change and enabling new approaches of coping with change.

A key to success in this area is close attention to modularity in product design. This makes it possible to build a wide range of product configurations from a relatively small set of interchangeable components and sub-assemblies. We have found that making this approach work requires a carefully designed, data-driven manufacturing system that can adapt to very short production cycles through automation of assembly instructions, bills of material, QA test procedures and logistics. Engineers must also work closely across traditional disciplinary boundaries. With microprocessors and IoT data interfaces showing up in all but the simplest products, R&D teams must include software developers, electronics specialists, mechanical engineers and manufacturing experts. Marketing and sales must also be included to help ensure that technically good ideas find their way to the right markets at the right prices.

In short, the big challenge to engineering professionals is to stay curious, be very accepting of change and never to rest on their laurels!

 

Randy Myers, Application Sales Engineer, EAO Corporation

Engineering practices of today are changing at an unbelievably accelerated rate. New tools, technologies and resources are allowing designers, like me, to engineer and produce highly customized solutions faster than ever before. CAD technologies, 3D printing and other additive technologies, including the use of mixed materials, bring ideas to life in almost real-time scenarios.

We have direct access to incredibly interactive tools and exceedingly collaborative environments. Accurate and precisely defined models can be provided to customers as highly effective solutions with minimal waste. Increased efficiencies result in reduced time to market, lower production costs, and happier customers. Solutions are in- turn more intuitive and focused to address market needs. Single engineers like me are now capable of completing the work of entire departments in a responsive manner with a proactive approach.

Moving forward, I feel as though technology will continue to break boundaries and outpace our ability to effectively implement these tools. I can see the use of augmented reality (AR) and cloud-based solutions used to further increase efficiencies within the design cycle. Customers will be able to see ideas in live, virtual, 3D models. You currently see examples of this type of technology within summer blockbuster Hollywood productions. Both customer and engineering collaborations now become instant and design changes now happen in real time. Smaller, decentralized teams of designers will interact as focused based engineers to collaborate ideas. This type of modernized input will continue to increase efficiencies and minimize time-to-market. Even more so than today, highly customized solutions will be capable in record time and with marginal waste.

This is definitely an exciting time for designers like me. Every day is truly a learning experience. We are able to cultivate ideas that incorporate feedback, haptics and materials to result in sleek, modern and customer-defined ergonomic solutions.

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