Mechanical engineers use engineering principles to provide efficient solutions to the development of processes and products, ranging from small component designs to extremely large plant, machinery or vehicles. They can work on all stages of a product, from research and development to design and manufacture, through to installation and final commissioning.
Most industries rely on mechanical systems and mechanical engineering is thought to be one of the most diverse of all engineering disciplines, with employment opportunities available in a wide range of sectors, such as the manufacturing, power, construction and medical industries.
Mechanical engineers can also be involved in the management of people and resources, as well as the development and use of new materials and technologies.
Typical work activities
Mechanical engineers work on a project from the initial brief, through the design and development stage, to the testing of one or more prototypes, right through to final manufacture and implementation.
Projects can vary significantly, from researching and developing medical products (such as mechanical hearts) to improving production processes in large oil refineries or designing services within buildings.
Typical work activities include:
- Designing and implementing cost-effective equipment modifications to help improve safety, reliability and throughput;
- Developing a project specification with colleagues, often including those from other engineering disciplines;
- Developing, testing and evaluating theoretical designs;
- Discussing and solving complex problems with manufacturing departments, sub-contractors, suppliers and customers;
- Making sure a product can be made again reliably and will perform consistently in specified operating environments;
- Managing projects using engineering principles and techniques;
- Planning and designing new production processes;
- Producing details of specifications and outline designs;
- Recommending modifications following prototype test results;
- Using research, analytical, conceptual and planning skills, particularly mathematical modelling and computer-aided design;
- Considering the implications of issues such as cost, safety and time constraints;
- Working with other professionals, within and outside the engineering specialism;
- Monitoring and commissioning plant systems.