The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
Based on a series of interviews carried out in 2018 with experienced European engineers and a workshop with Product development experts from over twenty leading Swedish company and academics researching and teaching product development, trends and their expected impact on engineering design can be identified. While engineering design practise in 2040 will in many ways be like today, several clear trends for the next 20 years are already visible and are likely to grow stronger.
Over the next 20 years:
Modelling and simulation will become common throughout the development process and enable companies to simulate individual-use cases and product life cycles. This will be supported through analysis of user performance data. With rising computer power, simulations will become instantaneous. This leads to a gamification of product development where designers can try out options and build up product intuition through rapid feedback. This will bring about a new logic in product development, where product behaviour can be placed at the centre of the process. Instead of a process of transforming requirements through design and evaluation to produce verified products, desired behaviour can be explored with users, and created by combining existing solutions with novel technologies. Through simulation in combination with intelligent data processing, emerging solutions are formed and ultimately validated in its use context. Rapid evaluation cycles allow discovery of new applications and evolving designs.
To achieve this, engineers will need to work in tightly-coupled interdisciplinary teams which bring together people from different backgrounds, including generalists and highly specialised experts. Engineering teams will also include data scientists and mathematicians. They will become more diverse in gender and ethnicity, with many freelance experts working with closely-integrated core teams at the OEMs. As fewer engineers are looking at lifetime careers in one company, they will have to take ownership over developing their own skills.