This article is part of CoLab's new State of Engineering Collaboration Series which will interview a diverse mix of mechanical engineering professionals and industry thought leaders with a goal of better understanding the day to day challenges engineers face and to keep a pulse on the trends that will shape the profession in the years ahead.
The following is an interview we recently had with Robert Hurlston, co-founder of Fidelis Engineering Associates
1. Why did you choose mechanical engineering as a profession?
I chose Mechanical Engineering because I was hugely into science, but I wanted to be able to apply my work in a more pragmatic setting.
2. What excites you most about your work as a mechanical engineer?
I love being a Mechanical Engineer because it allows us to follow the entire product development process from inception to manufacture. There are challenges that need to be solved with many different constraints (cost, timing, function etc.) and that presents a great challenge on a daily basis.
3. How have you seen the way engineers collaborate evolve over the past few years?
This is a great question. My company is partnered with and a reseller of Dassault Systemes Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) products and of them, the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform has had by far the biggest impact. It is a business experience platform that allows everything from PLM to design to simulation to be carried out all in the same place and all from a 'single source of truth' model. This means no more 'checking out' and 'checking' in of files, rather a database of files that everybody collaboratively works from.
4. What are the top 3-5 mistakes companies make when it comes to making it easy for their engineers to collaborate?
Siloed departments are the kiss of death for engineering operations. Companies must have win-win philosophies in place to be truly successful. Others are clunky PLM tools and underpowered simulation software (poor timing and reduced trust) also reduce collaboration significantly.
5. What are 5 best practices you'd recommend companies adopt to improve the way their engineers collaborate?
Foster win-win culture, encourage cross-functional teams, provide access to the most up-to-date collaboration technology, encourage huddle type team meetings regularly and work from 'single source of truth' platform.
6. What are the top 3 trends you see shaping the future of mechanical engineering?
The number one biggest trend relates to the platform from which engineers do their work. In the past, we'd have to pass files back and forth between departments, never knowing whether we had the correct one... designers working on different versions than PMs and CAE engineers. A lot of room for error there. With a modern business experience platform, that cannot happen - we are all working from the same data, design updates are automatically reflected in simulations, change management is on point etc. Secondly, simulation in general will be playing a much larger part in the product development process. No longer will it be an afterthought, but rather the main tool, only backed up by physical testing. Finally, the idea of the 'digital twin' will become more important as digital products exist side-by-side with their physical counterparts and allow prediction of problems and failures in advance.
About Robert Hurlston
Rob is the co-founder of Fidelis. Throughout his career, he has worked on and led on a diverse array of projects across a range of industries. This has allowed him to sharpen his analytical proficiency, particularly in the fields of linear and nonlinear stress analysis, dynamics, fatigue, and optimization.
Rob has a strong background in materials, with a specialty in metallurgy and structural integrity engineering. His industrially based doctorate and subsequent post-docs in nuclear materials engineering saw him accumulate over a decade of real-world experience in collaboration with Serco, the University of Manchester (UK), and their partners. Rob has presented much of his work at a number of prestigious international conferences and has also published several journal papers.
Rob holds a first-class master’s degree in materials science and engineering and a postgraduate diploma in enterprise management, along with his doctorate, all of which were completed at the University of Manchester. He is a big soccer fan and an avid golfer. He also enjoys skiing, hiking, and playing the guitar, as well as spending time with his family.