The changing landscape of engineering

Posted on: 16 October 2018

By Martin Ball, Head of Engineering Inspection

Perceptions of engineering are changing and rightly so. Previously, the word ‘engineer’ possibly conjured up images of men in boiler suits peering at machinery and making observations on notepads. Whilst this still exists, engineering is rapidly becoming a digitalised industry, making use of the latest technologies to undertake inspections, manage supply chains and better visualise and plan construction projects.

Paper notepads are increasingly being replaced by hand-held smart devices as the tool of choice for engineer surveyors. Such gadgets have a variety of benefits, from being able to capture real-time data and images of defective equipment, to providing GPS information where a lone worker may have fallen into difficulty and need rescuing. 

Drones are recognised for being able to assist in both safety inspections and building projects; their particular advantage being that they can check high or impassable structures such as tower cranes, skyscrapers and wind turbines, which would be difficult and costly for humans to navigate. Their cameras can capture photographs with a higher degree of accuracy than traditional aerial photographs and transmit images to computers, to determine a site’s suitability for building upon or for creating 3D models. The future may see drones transporting parts and equipment, helping to reduce delivery lead times.

The potential use of Blockchain in the engineering industry is only just starting to be explored. Blockchain’s primary advantage is that it allows individuals, who may not know each other, to create a decentralised auditable, incorruptible record of transactions. This lends itself well to collaborative processes, such as construction projects. Construction engineers may start to use Blockchain for conducting and recording economic transactions, or for the exchange of smart contracts. By virtue of its transparency, Blockchain can be put to good use for managing supply chains between different parties.

Engineering is also becoming ‘greener’. With renewable energy targets set by the UK government, many see solar power installations, hydro plants and wind farms as offering the perfect solution for alternative sustainable energy.  Engineers are fundamental to both the construction and on-going maintenance of such installations and technology is developing quickly in this area. 

Engineering has been a firmly established industry for hundreds of years but is currently undergoing a period of huge change. Since engineering touches each of our lives every day, it needs to continue to evolve in step with an increasingly digital world, delivering and ensuring the on-going safety of tomorrow’s projects.

 

This article was originally published in Modern Insurance Magazine (Issue 34). It may not be replicated in any other publications.