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6 minutes read
8 August 2017

Is simplistic software killing engineering?

6 minutes read

I’m sure that you know just as well as I do, that engineering software is getting easier and easier to use each year. This is great, but I’m afraid that it might come at an unexpected price. I will try to explain what I mean, using fruits and spaceships!

Apple, apple, banana

I remember times where there was no internet around at all (at least here). I have been using DOS, programmed in Turbo Pascal, and did the first drawings in Paint. My first PC had 40Mb of a hard drive and a few kB of RAM. I can honestly say I have used a lot of different software solutions, and I saw how they developed. Boy, that sounds as if I met Seneca somewhere along the road, but I’m only 33 (!).

Maybe you have started some years earlier or later than me, but I’m sure you will agree that software is easier and easier to use. Not so long ago using FEA required a Ph.D. and serious programming skills. Now a reasonably intelligent teenager would be able to model something and perform an analysis (especially with all present “wizards”). I’m not sure I would believe in the outcomes… but the teenager would!

The software is so simple to use now, that the analogy I often use makes more and more sense.

Imagine that we would produce a keyboard with 3 buttons: apple, strawberry, and banana. Then we could assign the following functions to the buttons:

  • Apple: generate model
  • Strawbery: Create loads and boundary conditions
  • Banana: Print results

In such a case, we would not need engineers, but monkeys. After all, it’s relatively easy to train a monkey to first press the button with an apple, then with a strawberry, and then with a banana.

In the world of “the best software that is always right,” there is only one way to make a mistake… and that is to press apple, apple, banana.

Luckily, things are not as simple (at least not yet!), but I think we can already observe the degradation of engineering skills everywhere.

Untold limitations and assumptions

Everything is getting easier for the end-user… but is it getting easier in general? I would say no, simply because it’s hard to negotiate with physics. Furthermore, we are designing more and more complicated stuff! This means that it is reasonable to assume, that things are getting more complicated not easier.

Think about it this way. When I define nonlinear analysis there are a lot of parameters I have to take into account. I need to choose analysis steering, pick proper parameters, etc. All in all, it takes good 15 minutes, and I draw upon few years of experience to do that.

But if there is a nice shiny button of “do a nonlinear analysis” in your software? Then it is enough to press it, nothing more really. Who then decides on the choices I am making when defining such analysis? It seems the software does… but based on what really? Who made those decisions and in what case?

When you know enough, you can actually look that up in the software manual. You can also try to influence the choices somehow, maybe search for a “manual mode” etc. But what if you don’t know enough? Then you simply acknowledge that the solution is there, and you hope (which in time changes into a belief) that the outcome is correct.

The same problem is present at Universities. It is actually hard to convince someone to learn about the static or strength of materials. Students know that all the knowledge is “hidden” in one “analyze” button, so there is no “real” need to know that in their opinion! Not to mention, that this is tempting for teachers as well… why to explain everything when you can just say “analyze”.

This leads to a situation when we know less and less while believing more and more in the analysis outcomes.

Dangers of self-repairing spaceships

I never was a fan of science-fiction (fantasy for life!), but the world of Warhammer 40k caught my attention. In that “universe”, humanity managed to create incredibly advanced technology. Technology that allowed for the creation of self-repairing spaceships etc. After millennia have passed… no one actually remembers how to do those anymore, but it’s kind of ok since they still have the “old ones”! In that “extreme” future ships are operated by techno-priests who enter the ship to “talk to the spirit of the machine” and perform some rituals. Then the ship carries their people where they wish.

This awesome drawing was made by Zach Wooten (warhammer40k.wikia.com)

This is a very nice picture, but isn’t it also a warning? Are we aiming into a realm, where lucky few techno-priests of engineering will understand what is going on? And the rest will only try not to press apple, apple, and banana out of sequence?

This is, of course, an extreme claim, but even today I see that software “take away” from people the ability to understand things on a deeper level. This has many faces:

  • At universities, we teach less and explain less since students will get answers from software anyway.
  • We don’t try to go deeper into the analysis, blindly believe in the outcomes that we get.
  • Since we can obtain results faster, it is demanded of us. As a result, less and less thought is put in most of the designs to “save time”.

This all pushes us more and more toward the dreaded apple, apple, banana dilemmas. I have witness discussions among professionals about so basic problems that it was disheartening. Of course, nothing will happen in a day, but I’m afraid that process is well underway right now.

Enterfea against buttons with fruits!

I’m all for software development, but the way engineers start to treat software worries me. More and more we are getting into the “buttons with fruits” zone. To fight this trend I have launched this blog. I wish to show everyone the complex beauty of engineering!

Here I will not only share my knowledge but also help you gain more skills and advance your career. I also want to help you draw more satisfaction from your job at the same time! I strongly feel that when you understand more, you can do more, and also you feel more fulfilled with your job. Engineers now have a lot of problems with this I think!

Let’s try not to reduce ourselves to monkeys while changing engineering into a religion govern by selected few priests of engineering! If you want to join the crusade, spread the word – this will mean a lot to me 🙂

Also, I would love to know if you feel the same way about this matter. Just leave your comment below.

Tired of not understanding?

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Author: Łukasz Skotny Ph.D.

I have over 10 years of practical FEA experience (I'm running my own Engineering Consultancy), and I've been an academic teacher for a decade. Here, I gladly share my engineering knowledge through courses, and on the blog!

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Comments (33)

Corey - 2021-02-20 21:20:32

Lukasz,
I've been a mechanical design engineer for 19 years. At my first engineering job, I was forbidden from using FEA even though it was available. It was frustrating at first, but in the end it made me lean on classical hand calculations heavily and develop a unique expertise.
That expertise has allowed me to truly understand what the loads in the material were doing and be able to evaluate concepts very fast. In short, not having the option to do FEA made me a much better engineer.
At my next job, I had a clear technical advantage over my peers for this reason.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2021-02-22 09:54:21

I can relate to your experience a bit Corey! While my first company was "mine" (well I had partners back then, but you know what I mean)... I still wasn't able to use FEA, simply because we were not able to afford a license at the beginning (!!!). But I do agree that knowing how to calculate stuff by hand is a really super useful thing that also helps you to understand stuff better!

All the best!
Ł

Reply
Federico - 2021-02-13 13:44:17

Excelent article!!!

I completely agree.

Best regards.

Federico.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2021-02-16 11:16:19

Thank you Federico!

I'm really glad to hear that :)

All the best!
Ł

Reply
Milan Stojanović - 2021-01-02 16:00:47

Hello Łukasz,

This text should be translated to all languages! For some reason, while I was reading this text, I had in mind one software that is very popular this days, it is for the analysis of connections in steel structures based on FEA - often when I see how engineers do it in this software, I think monkey did it. Very very dangerous... sadly, it is our reality.

Maybe there should be some rules for software producers how can they advertise their software. One software company in Italy had to pay a fine for misleading advertising back in 2014, since they had an ad that said "Seismic engineering for all"... Maybe it should be regular practice...

Also, permanent education have to be established, but for real, not for collecting points to keep the license. Young people at universities, they get some knowledge about FEA analysis, not great, but they know the basics and theory behind it. I think real danger are old engineers that are trying to use modern software without any knowledge about FEA. When I say old, I think 40+, in my country they didn't have any course about FEA nor software usage on faculty back in time, and after that they didn't have any courses organised by Engineering Chamber, and they all use FEA software in their everyday work... And all I hear is how we, young engineers, should learn from them... I am sick every time when I have to explain why we shouldn't connect surface element with line element in one node etc...

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2021-01-03 16:55:11

Hey Milan,

I'm glad that you like the text :)

There is a LOT you point out, and those are all valid problems. I'm not sure if I would agree on solutions, but in such short messages it's hard to dive deep into argumentation, so who knows maybe we would agree on a course of action in the end :)

Also, I admit I haven't heard about this Italian company and its fine - an interesting situation for sure!

I think that governing advertisements is a super complicated process. It would be pretty impossible to write the rules that are "tight", and people will be exceptionally good at working "around those rules". I would rather educate engineers so they know how hard this is, so they could spot when someone is "lying to them" in the ad. However, my approach is overly idealistic, and getting there may simply be impossible.

As for young and old engineers - everybody has their knowledge. I for one, based on my own experience do not overvalue FEA education at University. So while I do agree that young people "have seen" the FEA models at Uni, I'm not so sure how this translates into the ability to use FEA properly, to be honest. On another hand, the "old" engineers are perhaps more clueless when it comes to new software, etc. but they should have the knowledge and experience to spot, that the outcomes are plain stupid. And I think this is the "strength" of experience here. Not necessarily doing something super well and very fast in FEA, but rather seeing that the outcomes are just wrong (which by itself is a super cool thing to have!).

Without a doubt, we all, as engineers, have to learn all the time. But I find this to be a philosophical need in some sense. I don't believe that a set of rules would make people learn - there is always a workaround. But getting "to people" showing them how fascinating (but also complex and dangerous) the engineering work is... may motivate them so they WANT to learn instead. Am I too idealistic here as well? Most likely I am...

Let me know what you think about it :)
Ł

Reply
Jesús García - 2020-12-25 20:46:13

Hi Lukasz,

I have to agree with you.

After years dealing with structures in the aerospace industry, in the last times more and more I receive almost the same answer when I ask some young engineer "are you sure of these results?": the answer is "sure, that is what the FEM says".

I am a little bit concerned that as the software makes easier and easier to produce a FEM, young engineers are loosing the "phisical concepts" that my elders (engineers) had and tried to pass to me, relying more and more on the results that this software gives.

I think that producing a FEM nowadays is quite easy: you read a geometry, state the element size, click the mesh button and voilà, you have a FEM. But producing a FEM that WORKS is much more difficult, because you need to have at least an idea of how the structure will behave under whatever loads, and have to know which are the more realistaic boundary conditions, and so on... And all these things cannot be done automatically by the software, but it is the enigineer who has to introduce them properly.

As you rightly say, there is a great responsibility on teachers not to fall into the temptation to stay only with the explanation of the software, but to convey to students the importance of basic physical concepts so that they can produce quality (and reliable ) FEMS.

Against buttons with fruits!

All the best for you, and merry xmas!

Jesús

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2020-12-26 16:22:42

Hey Jesus :)

Thank you a lot for sharing your thoughts :)

Indeed, understanding the underlying engineering is super important. What I would add is, that sometimes people change the necessity to understand underlying engineering with understanding underlying mathematics. But I do feel it's the engineering that is important in design. And it's so hard to teach those skills! Let's hope that young engineers will find ways to learn those critical skills!

All the best!
Ł

Reply
Richard - 2020-09-25 14:24:32

Hi Lukasz,

I just wanted to say that I am a big fan of your blog, it has helped me tremendously in clarifying FEA beyond the math. Today I learned that you are also a big fan of Warhammer 40k. It's hard to describe how cool it is when two unrelated things that I enjoy somehow end up in the same place. Thanks so much for creating and continuing this blog.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2020-09-26 17:23:19

Hey Richard!

I'm really glad that you like my work :)

Indeed, I am a fan of Warhammer, but I do admit that for me the "fantasy" version is way closer to my heart. I did play Wh40k RPG once or twice, and I did play the miniature game as well, but Fantasy is way cooler for me (I've spent years playing with friends, and to this day I have an Orc+Goblin army and some other geek stuff that I play with my kids now!).

All the best!
Ł

Reply
Giorgio - 2020-08-08 08:14:16

You really nailed it this time, Lukasz.

There is a constant push to produce smarter, easier to use devices, that would allow for an even greater part of the population to use them. Leaving conspiracy theories aside, I think it has merely to do with the basic concept of increasing the pool of customers.
I like to take phones as examples. We used to have keyboards, then a guy from California invented a device with just one button, which nowadays is not even a mechanical one. Now I hear about teens having troubles in using a PC with a mouse, because the only thing they have been using all their life, is their finger.
The majority of the population is now allowed to do , but fewer and fewer are able to understand .
This applies to the engineering world as well.
My grandfather barely attended primary schools, but was probably better in design mechanical devices than I am, and had a better intuition of their functioning.
More people are basically forced into Colleges to get a degree just in order to be sellable on the job market.
The inevitable consequence is that College courses and programs have to be more 'accessible' to a greater audience. Add to it the explosion of online material and recorded lessons from the best universities in the world, which are available at a click of the mouse, and you get a glimpse of the competition.

To sum it up, it is just the way it goes. There is a push to simplify things that applies to all aspects of our lives.
Most of the people will qualify as monkeys, and will be paid as such; those geeks that see zeroes and ones behind every line of code, those are the ones that would get high-paying jobs. With everything in between.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2020-08-08 16:31:33

Yea... there is definitely the trend to simplify stuff... and sadly, this will also mean that the "understanding" will decline. I think that we can "fight this" by showing how complex stuff really is (and explain this so folks will actually understand what is going on!), and showing that it is not "all the same" what you will choose "by default". It may be an uphill battle as there is good money to be made on "dumbing down stuff" but I think there are enough people willing to think that there is a chance :)

We will find out eventually :)

Reply
Johan - 2018-02-23 21:02:31

Thats right! The computer and software calculate exactly what we tell it to calculate. Wrong input = wrong answer. If the user does not know what a reasonable answer is, the coulorful picture the FEA software shows may be taken for granted. Even if the result is completely wrong.
This is something that I can see for myself doing CFDs. I do not have the theoretical base for these types om analysis, but I can understand some by just common sence. Turbulens that shows up arfter obsticles, sharp corners etc. But the amount of turbulence, is that correct? I don't know. But for some cases my basic knowledge is enough for the job. I am not out for an exact answer when doing CFD analysis, but just want to see the big picture. For stress analysis it it different, but on these I often can do a simplyfied hand calculation and I understand the analysis process much better.

So, in short; it may seems like the fancy software makes everyone an engineer and that everthing is done by itself. But you still have to know what to put in, and understand the results the machine presents.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2018-02-24 04:16:53

Hey Johan!

CFD is a complete mystery to me - I never even tried it!

It's always nice to learn that someone else agrees with this ;)

Have a great day!
Ł

Reply
Darinel Mata - 2018-02-23 05:59:20

Sir,

This is a nice input. But being Engineer is not only based on calculation but on decision making. One project can be executed and interpreted by different Engineers in different ways. Every project has different situation that should be treated differently. Interpretation of the result is another thing that many of us can have different opinion.

So a software for all that can be use by monkey or AI, for me, is not possible. There is no Engineering there at all. FEA can help you decide but at the end you decide to accept or revise.

By the way, Lukas, thank you very much for this website and for giving us in depth knowledge in FEA! Thank you for the e-mail you send me though I cannot response every time. Really appreciate it very much!! Keep up the good work!! Please continue to share your knowledge!!

God bless!!

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2018-02-23 08:48:47

Hey Darinel!

Thank you very much for the kind words! I'm really happy that you like the blog and what I do :)

Have a great day!
Ł

Reply
Vince Adams - 2017-10-15 22:12:06

Well said Bill!

Reply
Z - 2017-10-05 18:43:50

It is nice to have and use gadgets and conveniences of all kind available today (one of which FEA software), but I don't see a reason that anybody not far beyond being simply a user of those without basic understanding should be called an engineer.

Sorry, but I don't accept that availability of the pocket calculator, read - phone, is an excuse to not know in your head that 7 X 8 is 56.
An engineer who not only cannot explain Mohr's circle but don't even remember hearing about it???
Unfortunately, disciplines affected are broad, not only applied physics.

Sometimes ago you had to take on certain level of Statics, Kinematics, Dynamics, Structural Mechanics, Mechanics of Fluids, Thermodynamics, etc. and you had to pass or you would not be a Mechanical Engineer.
You could not take Life of Bugs instead, or similar. (No offence to biologists, they might have same issue as we do at hand).

I agree with your, Lukatz, point that the level of the profession is constantly degrading and it looks being justified by "same output results". And it is scary.

The blame is not on individuals, or "gadget" makers, or education system, or employers.
It is on the whole system of go-with-the-flow; and we know that flows go downhill if there's no effort otherwise.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2017-10-05 19:40:19

Hey, Z!

Thank you for the comment!

There is a lot of truth in what you wrote. Luckily in Poland, you cannot take "Life of Bugs" at Uni - there is still a program you need to follow. There are choices to be made, but those are restricted to the discipline you are studying. Of course, there are few "off topics" you can choose, but there are only a few and far between (and they are needed as well... I will stop here or I will begin to rant about engineers and so-called "soft skills").

All the best!
Ł

Reply
Zoran - 2020-04-17 20:54:23

I fully agree for your statements above, many engineers now days are using the softwares blindly without fully understanding even the basics. This is why I suggest that your courses be sheared with I little bit less prices as you have stated earlier. In this way you will attract more and more young engineers to learn and follow your experience and knowledge. By end of the day we all need to share our previous knowledge in order not to be forgotten. My humble opinion.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2020-04-18 09:24:39

Hey Z!

This is a problematic thing I must say. And there are many layers to this.

In short, I would love to spend a bit more time blogging each week/month (as you know I mostly do free stuff here, so everybody can access it). Now, I mostly do FEA and run my company (which is the main source of my income). To spend more time on the blog, I need to earn more money "online"... otherwise, I will have to treat it as a "hobby" and I know now, that with 4 kids... I don't really have the time to have a hobby right now (and at least a couple of coming years)!

So in order for anything to happen on the blog, I need to treat it as a part of my work right now (as I don't get time outside work to do this!), and as such it must bring a certain amount of money for it to "make sense".

I would love to help everybody today - that would be great... But the reality is, that what I do (the teaching) is a process that will take a LONG time to do (and a LOT of my time)... it has to be sustaining itself, otherwise I will have to give up on this dream of mine completely.

But of course, I still intend to do a lot of free content on the Blog as I did in the past, and free courses and all that. But some of it will remain paid, to keep this project developing.

I hope that what I wrote makes sense to you - let me know please what do you think about this!

All the best
Ł

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Bill McEachern - 2017-08-18 20:01:13

I think this is a red herring. Judgments are made by engineers. If they are out of their depth on FEA then they are violating their terms of practice. The responsibility is not with software vendors, it is with the organizations that employ the software. Those organization have systems that ensure a bad analysis never gets relied upon in a way that ignores the risks. Solidworks for one loves this sort of approach. That does not mean as good a result cannot be obtained with Solidworks as it can be with say ABAQUS or MARC or Ansys or any other code assuming it has the capabilities to actually solve the particular problem at hand. I too find that their are a lot of practitioners of engineering that don't have a really good grasp of the requisite physics when they wander into continuum mechanics to get further insight. Many people can't even put together a decent report that not only provides an decent answer but also provides the reasons and rationale that provide the confidence that what is being reported is a good approximation of the anticipated reality and to what degree. Frankly, I prefer to use software that is as easy as possible for the task at hand. Many software in continuum mechanics are very poor on the structure of their interfaces. If you doubt that take PATRAN for a rip as a new user. The management at SolidWorks don't even understand the beauty of the interface that SRAC created and now they try to get all their insight on product features from users that don't understand the first thing about analysis. Need less to say you better have your eyes wide open using that and similar products. On the other hand the guys over at Simulia and MSC (Ansys I am a bit out of touch with) the level of complication combined with the documentation is so far from optimal as to be considered lazy, at least by me. ABAQUS thinks guys with PhD's love drudgery. Designing a good interface should allow the easy stuff to be easy and the hard stuff, well, will always be more difficult. But blaming anything on a software interface is to miss the reality of the situation which is that the chair/keyboard interface is what really counts. If people don't want to educate themselves to sit in the chair and understand what they are doing then they deserve what they get. The other thing is that you can't learn how to ski powder unless you get in it. Same goes for this stuff and you need an environment that is conducive to learning it and has the appropriate appreciation and management of risk. For your opening day in powder the top of the Grand Montet is probably not the place to start. Same goes for FEA.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2017-08-18 21:22:07

Hey Bill,

Thank you for the comment! I think I must have poorly stated something in my post. I never said this is the "fault" of the companies that sell or make software. This is kind of beyond point. I completely agree that the users are the ones responsible for the outcomes.

What I was aiming at here was, that with simplistic software it is so much easier for people to ignore learning/teaching and just start "pushing the button". I'm all for simple interfaces and stuff (I have seen some that should be used by their creators as a form of punishment!). But I am also afraid that the simpler the software will get, the fewer people using it will know and understand. And that is an issue I think we agree on :)

Once more, thank you for the comment - it is great to have you onboard :)

Cheers
Ł

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Mahdi - 2017-08-13 11:05:31

hey Łukasz,

I defintly agree with you.

I have also the feeling that modern engineering softwares (espacially in finite element field) are focusing on "simplifying" the process of modelization in a way that makes the engineering skills not necessary! This is in fact a serious problem.

Beyond the "monkey mode" encouraged by new simulation softwares where analysts are pushed to work faster and faster, I witnessed an other related problem: the correctess of input data in those softwares. I am a PhD in numerical simulation (used to take sufficient time to check and cross-check all the stuff I do when setting up a computational model), but in industial context, I do not have this freedom, I must work in "monkey mode" because there is a time line to respect.

I face this delemma for the work I do by myself, and also for the validation/checking of the work done by my team. As a team leader, I am responsible for the validity and the correctness of the calculations performed by 3 ou 4 analysts. It is impossible to correctly review the team work before sending results to costumer.

To overcome this situation, I have a simple idea: developp an independent software who can read the whole model setup and perform validity checks.

What to you think about this kind of solution?

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2017-08-13 17:42:27

Hey, Mahdi!

I agree that deadlines are scary now. The lack of time may be also responsible for the "engineering troubles" we are in right now. I'm also responsible not only for my work but also that of my small team, and I know how hard it is to cope in validating stuff. So far, I manage to do it, simply by offering reasonable deadlines. I know that I lose some contracts because I demand more time than they are willing to wait, but on another hand all of my customers are happy, and we even have time to make some corrections along the way when customers change input data. All in all, I think it is possible, but difficult to fight for such position... especially since I'm the owner of Enterfea so I make the calls. If I would be a team leader in someone else company that would be so much more difficult!

About the software checking stuff... I'm not sure if that is the good direction. After all, it is "fighting fire with fire". Your software would make assumptions based on what you were thinking... so people won't know what the assumptions were, and if they apply to their job... and we are back to the beginning, as it would be best to write a second software that checks if the first soft was applied correctly...

I would say that investing in people is far better in the long term, not to mention the satisfaction.

All the best
Ł

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Przemysław Socha - 2017-08-10 06:26:05

Hello Łukasz.

Your article is great. I have agree and disagree opinion about this issue.
I agree that a lot of engineers nowadays lose connection with engineering and start acting like monkeys. Unfortunately, in most cases, it is exactly what is required of them. Many engineers work with work packages that have deadlines, work description and total hours estimated by somebody else. Since time is money they are required to finish work as fast as possible. That leads to not putting thought into what they are doing - and using as many simplification that software delivered as possible.

Then there is a case of knowingly simplifying out work by ourselves. Is it bad if I use calculation software to perform recurring calculations for me? I used to perform all my calculations on paper. One day when I started a new project I took my notebook, pen, and started planning. I would have to perform calculations in at least three iterations, probably five. I would have to use the best handwriting I can (and I have a terrible handwriting). I would have to double check signs in every line to avoid mistakes, etc. Then I realized I was sitting in front of my laptop with calculation software installed. When I used this tool I was able to finish project faster and better. Since then I am always using computers to perform calculations for me.

And last but not the least. Is it bad if I use software to perform or simplify recurring tasks that are easy to do, but take time, in my area of a project? Let's say I have a sheet metal part to design. But area that part is in the machine is not jet set. I can put some thought into my part at first, than have it quickly change with certain software features, or I can update every dimension "by hand" every time something changes. Simplifying tasks like that gives us ability to focus on more complex things ... and improve by that.

Even though we, as engineers, perform some tasks like monkeys we have more time and energy to do more advanced things and this is what pushes us forward. When calculators were introduced people feared that we will lose ability to calculate. Maybe I cannot multiply four digit numbers in my head - I have my calculator to do this for me. I do not remember phone numbers to all my colleagues. I have my phone do this for me. I do not have to use mnemotechnics to remember my day plan; I have google calendar do this for me. I do not have to calculate pressure and flow loses in hydraulic system every time, I can have an excel sheet do this for me. Thanks to that I have time to improve my system a bit more.

Is it bad if some of engineers become engineering priests and other engineering monkeys? Some people want to have an easy life with no stress or responsibility at work, and that means doing automated tasks without putting too much thought into it. At the same time other can accept certain responsibility and stress that comes with it, and improve.

Regards, Przemek.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2017-08-10 09:26:01

Hey Mate!

Thank for writing - a lot of very interesting points!

This is so true that a lot of us works in "factories of engineering". Someone sets a time and you race to the finish line. I completely understand that deadlines are very important and occasionally I work at nights, but only to help out others when they are in need (i.e. when something is failing and someone needs to act fast). On a general level, I believe that such working environment is really bad. I did some training in one of the companies that perfected such approach. Everyone was working on the clock, and they had to describe in great details how much time was spent on what action. Usually, there are no slots marked "thinking" or "analyzing the problem"... there is no time to "think" because you need to "act". This is a completely different topic, and I will definitely write something about it in future. I believe this is an issue of its own.

I think that the second issue is not exactly what I meant. I mean it is great to use tools that simplify your work. I use them all the time! Since you were performing hand calculations and you found a software that "does this for you" it already means that you understand what you are doing. In which case I strongly believe that using the best soft that works the fastest makes complete sense! I would be more worried if you would say that "I didn't have time to learn how to do it myself, so I am using a software to do it for me. I'm not sure about how it works or what is important, but at least I get my outcomes quickly".

When it comes to automation I'm all for it. I personally wrote a few scripts to do different things "for me" so I don't have to repeat those tasks over and over again. This is how we can develop as well, because as you said it free our time to do something more important. And again, if you are able to use a simplification because you understand how it works this is great. However I always explain to people how my scripts work before I give them, otherwise, users may not be aware of limitations and that can be potentially harmful.

I think I need to stop here and make a small disclaimer. Even though I have used monkeys in my text to make a point I'm far from calling anyone a monkey. I was rather trying to show that if we go the route of "buttons with fruits" that job will somehow "reduce" us. I think that becoming an engineer takes so much effort. Years of studies and years of gaining experience. I think all of this is worth more than pressing the strawberry all day...

...however, I completely agree that people have different goals in life. I have sacrificed some of my best years learning each evening and night... maybe I should have spent more time with my small kids back then? It is almost certain that there are other people that made the different choice in my place. Who am I to judge them? In the end, we all choose our own way in life, and I don't feel competent enough to judge anyone's choices.

Your last question is a very important one, and I would not judge anyone who makes a conscious thought into investing himself/herself into other areas of life (and I wouldn't call that being a monkey for sure!). As long as you are aware of the choices you make this is great. I'm only afraid that on occasion it may happen that in one company there are no people that decided to invest in engineering... and that may be dangerous. If there is no "engineering priest" around, bad decisions can be made, that can be fatal in consequences. Also in the Linkedin discussion mentors were mentioned as those very important in learning and decision process. Let's hope that they will always be around!

Once more thank you for writing - it was a pleasure to read this all and think about it :)

All the best
Ł

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Antti Lehikoinen - 2017-08-09 15:17:32

Some say that the machine spirits are actually remnants of artificial intelligences, shattered into fragments during the war against the Iron Men (basically terminator apocalypse) in the Dark Age of Technology.

But great post, and a great Warhammer example. As kind of a software developer myself, I definitely agree.

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Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2017-08-09 15:38:31

Hey Mate!

Thank you for stopping by :)

As I said I'm not big on 40k and I was afraid that someone who knows that universe will come here and point out that what I wrote is wrong!

Good to know that you agree!

All the best
Ł

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Pradeep kumar Srinivasan - 2017-08-09 05:20:08

Great one Lukas. You explined clearly about the present FEA softwares. Especially the concurrent ones :) Even though I am in my early career of FEA and i gaimed depth knowledge in the basics if FEA. I do code and do a simple problem for my interest in understanding the numerical methods and concepts behind it. Each day, step by step I am improving my knowledge in it and your blogs are so helpful for it.

Thank you again!

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Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2017-08-09 07:25:15

Hey!

I'm glad that you like it :) Also good luck with your journey into FEA. If you have any questions along the way make sure to send them. Maybe I will be able to help you out :)

All the best
Ł

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Neinundzwanzig - 2017-08-08 06:08:51

Great article, Lukas. I share indeed pretty much the same thoughts with you in this topic.Finite element is difficult tool to use, and you need to learn a lot if you want to use it like a professional.
However, again it is difficult to find a suitable way that will lead the freshman to learn FEA in deep.

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Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2017-08-08 08:14:40

Hey!

It's great to know I'm not alone with this opinion :)

I agree that learning FEA is difficult... it took me many long years and I am still learning! This is why I try to share knowledge here, so people can learn quicker than I had.

I didn't even realize in full how complex FEA is. When I started making "starting with FEA" course I realized that I need to cover around 100 different topics, to explain the basics of FEA. This is such a complex thing!

But I also think that as with everything in life, what comes difficulty is usually well worth it :)

Have a great day!
Ł

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