In the broadest sense, a mechanical engineer is someone who not only designs the type of systems and processes that are typically found in an engineering or larger manufacturing environment, but who also develops them, builds them and tests them as well.
In essence, they are someone with a job that requires them to work closely with anything that moves. That includes large pieces of machinery, small components that make that machinery functional, and absolutely everything in between. Medical devices, computers, engines and even airplanes are just a few examples of the many things that mechanical engineers will find themselves in close contact with.
As one would expect when talking about systems that are as complicated as those, mechanical engineers face a wide range of different challenges on a daily basis. Understanding them is the key to better appreciating these hardworking individuals, as well as the contributions they make to our lives, moving forward.
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The Core Challenges of Mechanical Engineers: Breaking Things Down
By far, one of the biggest challenges that mechanical engineers often face has to do with licensure and certifications.
While you can become a mechanical engineer after obtaining your bachelor’s degree, depending on the industry that you find yourself working in you may need to continue your education by way of obtaining various licenses and certifications in order to stay on-the-job.
What makes this sometimes difficult is that not only will this require an ongoing emphasis on education, but A) the requirements vary depending on the job description, and B) the requirements of certain industries may evolve over time. The licensure that may be adequate today could be inadequate a few years from now, meaning that you’ll again need to get licenses and certifications in the specific area that you’ve chosen to practice. It’ll also be an important part of how you expand your skill set in the future, too.
The Evolution of Modern Technology
This segues directly into another one of the most crucial challenges that mechanical engineers have to deal with: the constant arrival of new technologies.
Think about how much technology has evolved in the last decade, even in a place like a factory. As recently as a decade ago, something like automation was still a far off goal. Fast forward to today, and even the smallest of organizations are leveraging complicated automation-based systems and technologies to allow people to work better, smarter, and faster all the time.
“A mechanical engineer needs to stay constantly up-to-date on what is available and what could be a solution to a problem,” says Hazim Gaber, mechanical engineer and CEO of HSM Global and ehZee corporation. “If they fall behind, the entire organization does the same – potentially sacrificing their competitive advantage in the process.”
The Constant Standard of Safety
Along the same lines, meeting the constant standards of safety is another challenge that mechanical engineers often face. Think about it – if you’re a mechanical engineer who spends a lot of time on projects that are taking place on a shop floor, you have different requirements that you must clear when compared to a job that takes place entirely in a back office somewhere.
Not only that, but a mechanical engineer will constantly be troubleshooting various pieces of equipment and will have to make decision that may not impact themselves directly, but will absolutely impact the safety of others who will eventually use those machines and participate on those projects. All of this can often seem like something of a moving target, but it’s still critical in terms of success both as a mechanical engineer and with regard to the larger role that one plays within an organization.
Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines
One critical challenge that a lot of mechanical engineers have to get used to comes down to project deadlines. More often than not, a mechanical engineer will be working on more than one project at a time. This means that not only do they have a different set of objectives that they’ll need to complete on a daily basis, but the deadline for their part of those processes can directly impact others. If a project gets stalled while a mechanical engineer is taking too long of a time to do their part, the entire process can be delayed – thus preventing other people from contributing and thus harming the quality of the work the entire company is able to do for their clients as well.
The Ongoing Journey of the Mechanical Engineer
In the end, a mechanical engineer’s job is never done – and that can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective. On the one hand, your days are always interesting – each time you come into work you’re faced with new problems to solve and new challenges to overcome. But at the same time, this can be difficult for some people to get used to – especially if they’ve historically held more “proactive” instead of “reactive” positions in the past.
But those who are able to understand this and prepare themselves for it will find a rich, satisfying career ahead of them. If nothing else, it will put them in the best position to continue to further their own skills and increase the quality of their own contributions on a regular basis – the importance of which cannot be overstated.