It goes without saying that the world will always need engineers. At its core, engineering is the use of scientific principles to solve physical problems. It is an extremely broad field that includes many specialized roles and skills. Modern society relies upon engineers to run smoothly. We need engineering Management solutions to accessibility, connectivity, travel and a host of other puzzling problems.
The engineering industry is absolutely vast, employing thousands of people across the UK and hundreds of thousands worldwide. Teams of engineers working on large projects often require effective management. General business managers often struggle to understand the management needs of an engineering workforce, which severely hampers projects. For this reason, the field of engineering management has emerged.
Engineers typically form some of the top echelons of FTSE 100 companies. It is a prestigious field with a huge amount of potential for individual and organizational development. Engineers have shaped our world.
Engineering management requires a synthesis of business management and technical knowledge. Specialist courses have sprung up that are specifically tailored towards the training of engineering managers. Click here to find out more. Typically, these courses are focused on homing the managerial skills of people with some existing engineering knowledge and experience.
The Stephens Institute of Technology in New York State established the first course aimed at training engineering managers in 1908. Since then, universities around the globe have offered courses, and often integrated them with business MBA or Master of Engineering programs. In much the same way that engineers almost always need to have an MSC for certain jobs, engineering managers have to prove that they have the technical knowhow and business skills that befit their role if they are to gain employment in the field.
Engineering management is at the cutting edge – combining business acumen with a deep understanding of technological development. In order to succeed in engineering management, you’ll need to develop a unique skillset – through the completion of a course or through self guided learning. You will absolutely need to decide which field or fields you wish to go into. Engineering management can be an incredibly rewarding career. It holds extremely deep career advancement possibilities and near limitless potential for innovation.
Here are the top five fields you will need to brush up on if you want to be a great engineering manager.
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Business is often more of an art than it is a science. Sometimes though, the scientific eye of an engineer can help an organization work through tricky problems. Management science is a field that essentially requires an engineering mind to be applied to business issues.
Working in management science, you may be required to think outside the box. Can a mathematical formula be developed to help smooth out the infrastructure of a company? Can quantitative data be collected that helps build a new system?
Management science is all around us. The algorithms that are employed in the structure of social media sites are a good example of how organizations use scientific principles to control their structures, data collection methods and user interactions.
It is a management scientist that might manage the development of these algorithms, and ensure that they are integrated into the running of an organization efficiently. Management scientists use statistical research to better understand the organization that they are tasked with improving. Taking an engineering approach to business is especially useful in modern tech based businesses where data is plentiful and accurate. You will be helping to give an organization the big picture, having a huge influence on their business practice as a result.
Management of Technology
Management of technology is a rather broad field within engineering management. According to the Journal Of Technology Management In China:
“To many, MOT means managing engineering and technology. To others, MOT indicates managing knowledge and information, managing research and development, managing manufacture and operation, managing the activities of engineers and scientists or managing the functional activities without concern for the total of activities that encompass the business concepts to commercialization process”.
As you might be able to tell, there is some disagreement within engineering management circles as to how management of technology might be defined. When choosing a course or an area to study, think ahead to what you want your specialization to be. Each course will have a separate academic definition of technology management. Think about what kind of organizational structure you want to be a part of. Do you want to be a part of the commercial structure of a company, or do you want to focus solely on solving technical issues through engineering management? It is crucial that you start with a plan, as you might end up studying something completely useless to you if you just rush in.
One thing is for certain: whatever industry you end up in, management of technology will form at least a part of your role. No matter how you specialize, you are going to want to at least dip your toe into this area of study.
As an engineering manager, it is highly likely that you will be involved in some sort of systems engineering management. Systems engineering and its associated management practices is a broad field that influences almost all modern engineering.
Complex problems often require synergetic and multifaceted engineering solutions. These solutions often take the form of ‘systems’- structures of solutions working together. The management of these systems takes both creative and scientific thinking.
Systems engineering was born as a field in the 1940s at Bell Telephones. The company recognized that the manipulation of a multifaceted system as a whole would take a unique approach. Instead of focusing on the design evolution of individual products, a systems engineer would take a step back and look at how all of the products and people were working together.
This ‘widescreen’ method of engineering management soon took hold – in part because of its adoption by the US military. The military application of systems engineering was essential to the smooth running of such a diverse system as a modern industrialized army. With so many engineering projects, specialized personnel and logistical problems, the military benefitted hugely from engineering solutions that took in the bigger picture in order to prevent stasis and backlog.
Multinational corporations have similar requirements. You need to be able to see the network as much as the individual, the interplay between structures as much as the individual organizational challenges faced by such structures.
Managing industrial engineering projects takes a very disciplined mindset. Industrial systems are typically concerned with driving growth and eliminating waste, so you will have to tailor your scientific methods to fit this model.
Industrial organizations are complex, and often contain complex problems requiring systematic change. As an engineering manager, you are responsible for building and implementing scientifically sound solutions to these complex issues.
As well as your engineering know how, you will be required to have a good knowledge of business practice and industrial structures so that you can effectively collaborate with the organization you are working with. Increasingly, industrial engineers are being tasked with using social science to complement their engineering knowledge when planning solutions for industrial organizations.
Industrial engineering developed as a field during the industrial revolution. It was first defined during the 19th century, and was finally offered as a specialist course in 1907. The industrial revolution catalyzed the use of complex systems in industry. A good example of this comes in the form of the English cotton mill: cotton had to be imported, machined and then refined using different human and mechanical systems – including, terribly, the slave trade and child labor during the early years. Trying to make all of these systems work synergistically required systematic thinking that gave birth to the first industrial engineers.
New Product Development and Product Engineering
This field requires you to hone your engineering brain in order to develop and release products from conception to birth. If you intend to go into the tech start-up market then this is the field that you will need to brush up on if you want to succeed.
Project management skills need to be developed alongside engineering problem-solving skills in order to successfully develop and release a product. You will also need to understand market trends and learn the ins and outs of Design For Manufacturability processes. Design For Manufacturability is a sub field that is concerned with the way in which engineering projects are completed so that they are efficient and simple to produce. A good design is only as good as the process to manufacture it is simple!
New Product Development and Product Engineering really require you to be a jack of all trades. You need to have good interpersonal management skills, knowledge of market trends, engineering solutions and business acumen. If you are planning on joining a smaller organization at the cutting edge of business and tech, this approach will be a great friend to you.