From fictional novels to sci-fi movies, the prediction of automation and robots to blend into the daily routine of human life was very evident. With the escalating and successful progress of technological advancements from the past few decades, we can understand that in the coming few years, the concept of automation will take over not only the working routine but also the workplace and the existing ecosystem. By understanding this concept and establishing it as a foundation for learning, we can visualize that the ‘future of automation’ has great scope in engineering, and specifically the realm ‘mechanical engineering’ will have a great growth in it.
What is the impact? :
From a standard ground-level observation, we know that the mechanical engineering concepts deals with the working of machines and systems that cater to an easy functioning of a chain. Thus, the mechanical engineering deals with the physical specifications of a working system and can produce positive results if they are supported by automation. The impact of automation in a mechanical engineering setup, especially in industrial workplaces, can generate a great amount of efficiency, low risk of failure and achieve more positive results. Though at the moment, only a small number of company executives are trying to maintain the usual and outdated production technologies, hence a correct management decision in this area will be able to make significant changes to the usual situation of the enterprise. A competent leader understands that the modern situation in the industry dictates its own rules, forcing to conduct activities flexibly, not forgetting about the automation of modern production. (IOP SCIENCE, 2019)
What to expect for the future of mechanical engineering? (REDLINE, 2019):
- Internet of Things (IoT): One of the most significant changes in mechanical engineering is the way mechanical products are developed, prototyped, and manufactured. There is a shift away from mechanical systems to more software and data-driven tools both at the design stage and application level with a connection directly to the internet. Many product iterations are carried out on-screen via computer-aided design and simulation, ensuring more efficiency and accuracy using field data. In the future, we’re likely to see more IoT-driven intelligent devices that can communicate with their original equipment manufacturer (OEM) after they’ve left the manufacturing line. As a result, mechanical engineers can easily identify and potentially solve common issues and make improvements, all whilst working remotely. IoT simply helps mechanical design engineers identify and solve problems with their products faster. According to research, the number of IoT devices online will rise to 75 billion by 2025. This means the future mechanical engineer must be ready for a new age of simulations and integrated design processes, both of which will make workflows more streamlined.
- The rise of electric vehicles: There’s no doubt that that electric vehicles (EV) will have a huge impact on the mechanical engineering sector. One of the biggest changes will be the gradual move from combustion engines to battery-based power systems, which are much cleaner and environmentally friendly. But employment numbers are unlikely to be affected as most mechanical engineers in the automotive sector do not design engines. The greatest proportion of work in the automotive arena includes chassis, frame and body, seating, airbags, ventilation, instrument cluster, cooling systems etc. As the EV market grows, there will be an increased demand for mechanical engineers to predict and control how heat moves around the automotive vehicle (computational fluid dynamics), how materials and geometries respond to forces, how materials wear; how humans fit and interact with objects in their environment, etc. Some mechanical engineers may also need to develop the electrical control circuits within the EV. There is a whole range of new opportunities for mechanical engineers with the rise of EVs.
- Sustainability: In the coming years, there will certainly be an increase in the demand for renewable energy technologies. The shift towards more sustainable practices is becoming more common, with solar and wind energy being used more than other sustainable sources. The future of mechanical engineering may revolve around developing new machines to assist in the manufacturer of solar cells and semiconductor wafers. We must focus on sustainable engineering in the future to help minimize the environmental impact. The mechanical engineering sector is very well positioned to create solutions that not only enable resource-friendly manufacturers but also explore new recycling options and ensure waste materials are leaving warehouses in the right way, plastics is an example where many solutions are being developed for comprehensive waste management. In the future, we can expect more products and manufacturing processes that will give mechanical design engineers opportunities to be more sustainable.
The process of design automation is very important while considering the aspects in mechanical engineering.
Will the evolution of automation, will the working individuals lose their jobs? :
Automation alone isn’t going to steal jobs like some people fear. It’s a far more complex landscape than that simple way of looking at things suggests. It will dominate some jobs, but also usher in new forms of employment, much of it (although not all) related to developing, maintaining, or working with this new technological infrastructure. As shown by tech giants’ hiring sprees, and research into ATMs, the idea that companies investing in tech is necessarily bad for human workers isn’t a foregone conclusion. (Digital trends, 2020)
Figure: Jobs created due to automation (Employment, 2018)
Why do we need automation in an area like mechanical engineering, when humans are intelligent as well? :
It is because, automation tactics have higher efficiency and features that humans cannot learn and achieve. IA enables the automation of knowledge work by mimicking human workers' capabilities. It includes four main capabilities: vision, execution, language, and thinking and learning. Each of these capabilities combines different technologies that are used as stand-alone or in combination to complement each other. (Forbes, 2019)
We can say that the impact of automation will largely impact the vision of mechanical engineering as well other fields too. The Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a new wave of the future technologies. Robotic Process Automation is one of the most advanced technologies in the area of computers science, electronic and communications, mechanical engineering and information technology. It is a combination of both hardware and software, networking and automation for doing things very simple (scielo.brazil, 2016). Though many argue that traditional methods are always risk-free and qualitative, we can clarify that the scope of automation and robotics will reap for better outputs and will bring a new wave of innovation in the field (science direct, 2019). Even the fear of losing jobs to an automated machine is still myth for the future, as the hybrid approach of both human mind and robotic machines will be the most favorable combination in most of the workplaces.
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Employment. (2018). Retrieved from https://econsultsolutions.com/automation-mass-unemployment/
Forbes. (2019). Retrieved from What the automation does, that humans cannot?: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/04/08/the-future-is-both-automated-and-intelligent/?sh=41051a625664
IOP SCIENCE. (2019). Retrieved from IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1757-899X/1111/1/012030/meta
REDLINE. (2019). Retrieved from what to expect: https://www.redlinegroup.com/news/what-to-expect-for-the-future-of-mechanical-engineering-16129558364
scielo.brazil. (2016, 05 16). Retrieved from The Future Digital Work Force: Robotic Process Automation (RPA: https://www.scielo.br/j/jistm/a/m7cqFWJPsWSk8ZnWRN6fR5m/abstract/?lang=en&stop=previous&format=html
science direct. (2019, november). Retrieved from History and future of human-automation interaction: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1071581919300552