After 16 years with Design News, I am leaving the magazine this Spring to become publisher of a sister engineering magazine, Test & Measurement World.
Reflecting on what I've learned watching the OEM design engineering field, these key trends seem certain to dominate for the foreseeable future:
Time to market. Increasingly, engineers will rely on powerful computer tools to integrate design, analysis, and test for faster product development, as well as for collaboration with manufacturing, purchasing, and marketing.
Outsourcing and technical alliances. More than ever, engineers will stick to their core competencies and look to suppliers and other partners to provide key parts of a design.
Design for export. Each day, commerce becomes more international, with products designed to meet global standards and customer preferences.
Consolidation of suppliers. Global companies with a wide product mix in such areas as motion control will become more dominant, giving engineers one-stop shopping. Even so, there will always be a place for best-in-breed niche suppliers with excellent customer service and a proven track record.
Smart machines. Electronics, and particularly embedded systems, will continue to transform the mechanical world. Also look for more applications of micro electromechanical structures.
Tailored materials. Resin suppliers and molders already offer a full suite of plastics for virtually every product need. Companies like Carpenter Technology can do the same in metals. You'll also find more uses of powder medal and metal injection molding for better parts consolidation and ease of manufacture.
Green design to protect the environment and conserve precious resources. Examples include: energy-efficient motors, improved seals, use of recycled materials, and development of fuel cells and other alternative energy sources.
Broader-based engineers. As if engineering weren't hard enough, now you need to be a team-builder and a good communicator—especially if you go into management.
It is, for sure, an exciting time to be a design engineer, and I wish you all much success. To keep the dialogue going—especially if your job involves the test function—please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or (617) 558-4762.