How the Digital Age in Engineering Compares to a Treadmill

When going to the gym, there are always those people you see running on the treadmills. One day you overhear one of these people tell their gym buddy, “I have been training for a 10K every day.”  Are they really prepared for that 10K?  Treadmills can only prepare a person to a certain point, they do not consider all elements that are part of running outdoors.  Treadmills allow you to have a faster pace than a road because the belt assist you. Treadmills have more “give” than pavement, which means your body will not be prepared for the impact.  Treadmills are unable to simulate outside elements such as terrain changes and weather.  Treadmills are a great tool, but until you head outside you cannot determine how your body will react.

In the world of engineering the treadmill represents simulations/modeling programs.  New engineers are educated about all the new innovative technology they can use to determine an outcome of products during processing.   Simulations/modeling are being used throughout industries across the globe, but sometimes engineers forget that these digital advancements should be used as a guideline since they are unable to predict all variables that can occur.

Setting up physical experiments will allow you to consider the surrounding environment in your industry.  Let’s evaluate the benefit of using a physical experiment through an example. A young engineer uses a simulation program and discovers the best method of producing good bar product off of a rolling mill.  The engineer informs the project lead of the discovery, and insist on updating the production practice. The project lead decides to run a physical trial before implementing the change.  Before the first bar is placed into the mill the project lead realizes the simulation requires the rolling mill to be set at maximum speed.  The simulation was not able to consider that maximum speed could damage the rolling mill, costing the company a large amount of money.  The simulation also was unable to determine the safety factors of the employees who would be working with the material at the rolling mill.

A second item to consider before using simulations is time and resources.  Currently, simulations/modeling take a large amount of time to input all the data for accurate results.  If your department had a deadline to uphold, it may be faster to setup that physical experiment.  You will always want to take this into account before starting a project; what is your time frame, what resources are available, and which method will be cost effective?

So, simulation/modeling should be treated like a treadmill, they are able to help guide you in the right direction but should not be used as the only dependable source.  Before even starting a project take a step back and ask yourself, “Should I start on a treadmill, or will it be more beneficial to just head outside and hit that pavement?”

Words of Wisdom: Today, try to get away from your desk and go outside.  This will help reduce stress and improve your memory.  Fifteen minutes is all you need!

Author: Natalie Grace Keyser

I am a dedicated Quality/Technology Manager, driven Metallurgical Engineer, Supporter of Future Professional. My professional personality shows in my running, where I will not back down from a challenge or slow down before the finish line is reached.

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