In industry, some of the most exciting developments of the last ten years have been related to software and engineering. The use of computers to enhance engineering has become increasingly sophisticated, as technology develops to bring us new capabilities. In fact, this has transformed the sector so completely that it’s now known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution – or Industry 4.0 for short.
From civil engineering to structural, manufacturing to mechanical, many of the world’s top engineers now rely on software every day. The sectors have become so interlinked that we even have software engineers, who use engineering principles to develop new programmes and apps.
If you want to find out more about how software and engineering go hand in hand, read on. In this article, we’ll be exploring the relationship between two of the biggest sectors to explain how it’s boosting efficiency in our consultancies and on our factory floors.
1. Material Requirements Planning (MRP) Software
Engineers have to keep track of a long and convoluted supply chain. From the availability of raw materials in their inventory to the circulation of a finished product, it can be difficult to manage this process from end-to-end.
Luckily, material requirements planning software (MRP software) enables engineers to visualise this supply chain in real-time. This is designed to use a Bill of Materials to monitor the status of an inventory and provide updates if any materials run low.
Lots of MRP software also integrates with existing programmes such as QuickBooks and Shopify, providing a one-stop-shop for engineers to oversee their supply chain.
2. Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software
One of the most indispensable types of software for modern engineers is CAD software. These packages enable professionals to manage the design phase of the engineering process from within a single platform.
If an engineer is working on a project which features lots of detailed parts, they can design each section individually using CAD software before compiling them all into a finished model. They can then preview the motion of each part within the whole. For example, if a cog needs to turn in order to complete a process, CAD can model this movement and show an engineer whether or not this will interfere with another component.
Whether they’re designing a household product or major structure such as a bridge, this functionality makes it much easier for engineers to conduct ‘trial and error’ on screen. Not only does this save time, but it also prevents raw materials from being used to test designs that are flawed.
3. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) Software
It might be a bit of a mouthful, but finite element analysis (FEA) software is one of the most indispensable forms of software in the business. Generally used after creating an initial design in a CAD package, FEA enables engineers to carry out the next stage of the process: structural analysis.
Structural analysis refers to the act of analysing whether a structure can withstand force. Using this software, engineers can model a number of different pressures and constraints on a 3D image of their design. This means they can analyse individual components which are likely to bear the force that’s applied to the finished product – for example, checking whether a pipe inside a utility can withstand water pressure.
As software and engineering become ever more closely linked, what new developments could we see in the next few years?