Mechatronics engineering is currently one of the most important fields of engineering in terms of Industry 4.0 and the ongoing technological advances this latest industrial revolution is bringing. Mechatronics engineers are pushing boundaries, enhancing productivity, and driving efficiency savings in a range of industries and sectors.
This includes the life sciences and technology manufacturing sectors. What exactly is mechatronics engineering, however, why is it so important, and how do you become a mechatronics engineer?
What is Mechatronics Engineering?
Mechatronics engineering involves the integration of electrical, mechanical, and software components to develop products, systems, and solutions. In other words, it is an interdisciplinary field of engineering.
Previously, you would have had mechanical engineers who would work on mechanical components and products, electrical engineers who would do all the electrical elements, and computer engineers who would look after the computer hardware and software aspects.
Modern solutions require much deeper integration of these engineering fields, creating the need for engineers with mechatronics skills.
It isn’t just electrical, mechanical, and software engineering, however, as mechatronics engineers also need expertise in a wide range of other technologies and specialisms. This will vary from company to company and project to project, but examples of the other technologies and specialisms that are commonly part of mechatronics engineering include systems engineering, robotics, controls engineering, data science, and software engineering.
Why Mechatronics Engineering is Important in Industry 4.0
There are many reasons why mechatronics engineering is important in Industry 4.0. Six of the most relevant are highlighted below.
Moving Towards the Smart Factory
Mechatronics engineering is essential for advancing automation in manufacturing and making factories smarter and more efficient. It also helps to optimise workflows and processes on production lines, improve OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), and deliver a range of other production and business benefits to manufacturing organisations.
Mechatronics is a field of engineering that advances and innovates on a daily basis. In the past, for example, automation might have involved automating and improving single production lines or parts of a production line. Today, however, automation technologies can involve a much wider range of business areas and processes. This includes automating decision-making and enhancing integration through all parts of the business, in addition to integrating operational technologies.
Mechatronics engineering is also important in Industry 4.0 because it is multidisciplinary. In the factories and industrial facilities of today, modern challenges require engineers with a broad range of skills. The field of mechatronics engineering provides companies with the engineering skills they need.
Reducing Labour Challenges
Mechatronics engineering is also helping to solve labour shortages in various industries. It is doing this by helping companies automate, reducing the need for staff to carry out repetitive tasks. This results in efficiency savings, but it also solves recruitment problems where companies struggle to hire and retain the staff they need.
Focus on Adding Value
This point follows on from the above point. Traditionally, manufacturers would employ staff to carry out manual and repetitive tasks. These tasks were essential, but they were not about adding value to the business or driving the business forward.
Solutions developed by mechatronics engineers allow staff to move away from these repetitive and manual tasks to instead work on tasks that are value-adding.
The field of mechatronics engineering helps companies remain competitive in a world where technologies are making it possible to do more with less, faster than before, and in a more personalised way.
For example, smart technologies exist that allow the integration of factories across multiple sites, as well as technologies that maximise output, flexibility, and reliability. This is the competitive environment faced by manufacturers across most industries, highlighting the need for continuous modernisation and improvement. The field of mechatronics engineering makes this continuous push to modernise and improve possible.
Becoming a Mechatronics Engineer
The starting point for becoming a mechatronics engineer is to get the right qualifications. An example is a mechatronics engineering bachelor’s degree. Another common route into the field is to get a mechanical engineering or electrical engineering degree first before moving into mechatronics. This could be through on-the-job training and experience or through further studies, including studying for a master’s in mechatronics.
You then need to gain as much experience as possible. Employers value experience as it demonstrates you have the multidisciplinary skills that are essential in the field of mechatronics engineering.
Finally, you need to commit to continuous professional development. Most engineering fields develop and change over time, but none more so than mechatronics engineering. So, constantly broadening and improving your skills is essential.