The digital revolution is clearly here to stay. The ubiquity of digital applications and digitally connected devices might make it seem like the digital ecosystem is self-replicating. But every one of those applications and devices requires human design. This is where digital engineering comes into play.
Digital engineering is what drives companies’ ability to meet consumer needs through emergent technologies. With more and more business moving online, digital engineering is more impactful and in-demand than ever before. In this article, we’ll walk you through what digital engineering is, exactly. We’ll also look at some digital engineering examples. Next, we’ll look at the digital engineering skills requirements for aspiring digital engineers, and we’ll finish with a close look at the job functions of a digital engineering consultant.
What Is Digital Engineering?
First let’s allow ourselves to ask the obvious question: what is digital engineering?
Simply put, the digital engineering definition involves the design, production, and delivery of digital applications. Some digital engineering focuses exclusively on software designed to work with pre-built devices and operating systems, while other forms of digital engineering are designed to suit specific devices.
Digital engineering also involves building digital models that represent a complex production system. These systems create data and connectivity that improves the design, development, implementation, and delivery of the product. In this usage, digital engineering serves as an advance beyond the traditional systems engineering framework.
This use of digital engineering requires a fully committed buy-in from all stakeholders, including internal and external developers, distributors, end users, and executives. All parties must adhere to the model enough that its accuracy is maximized. This enables a fully cohesive system of data that optimizes every stage of the product’s lifecycle. The name often used for this authoritative and cohesive digitally represented system is the “Single Source of Truth.”
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Digital Engineering Examples
Now let’s take a look at some digital engineering examples, so you can get a better picture of digital engineering at work.
Digital engineering is increasingly used in the development and operation of so-called “smart” infrastructure, which includes energy networks and transportation systems. These systems are built with digitized sensors, controls, and analytic capacities that enable better data generation and optimal maintenance.
The blockchain is a more complex example of digital engineering. Blockchain-related technologies, like cryptocurrency, offer the power to fully digitize the operation of our financial systems.
Digital engineering is also used in the design and development of physical products through tools like CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing).
Digital Engineering Skills Requirements
Next, let’s examine some of the most common and important digital engineering skills requirements, in case you’re interested in getting involved in the digital engineering field.
This is probably the most obvious digital engineering skill. Digital engineers must possess a sophisticated expertise in computer science, since creating computer-based models of physical processes is at the heart of digital engineering.
Though perhaps less obvious than computer science, mechanical engineering is another important digital engineering skill. Digital engineering is often used to create digitized representations of mechanical, industrial, and manufacturing processes. Skilled digital engineers must have sufficient knowledge of mechanical processes to integrate systems that help monitor and control those processes.
Mathematics and Data Science
Mathematics is another foundational digital engineering skill. Not only is mathematics central to computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and other related skills. Mathematics is also at the heart of advanced data analytics, which are a crucial component of successful digital engineering. One of the most important benefits of digital engineering is its ability to produce larger and more accurate data sets, with greater efficiency, compared to traditional systems engineering. Possessing the mathematical acumen necessary to make full use of these data sets is essential to fully harnessing the power of digital engineering.
Communication is perhaps the least obvious digital engineering skill. When we think of digital engineering, we intuitively sense the need for mathematical skills, computer science skills, mechanical engineering skills, and expertise in other hard science fields. But as we highlight above, in order for digital engineering to work, it requires buy-in from every relevant stakeholder. Securing this commitment requires communication skills in order to translate sufficient understanding of the product or procedure.
Digital Engineering Consultant & Salary
The role of digital engineering consultant is becoming increasingly prominent in the consulting landscape. A digital engineering consultant will typically begin a project by meeting with a client to determine their overall needs and desires. The consultant will then study the relevant products, services, and operations, which might include meeting with various other stakeholders to understand every stage of the life cycle. Following that, the digital engineering consultant will work with their team to either design or optimize the relevant areas of the company’s operations. This might include installing sensors and monitoring devices, running the operations through digital models, performing advanced analytics, and designing the relevant software.
Being a digital engineering consultant can be a highly lucrative career path. According to past employees, the average Digital Engineering Manager salary for 2023 in the US is $210,000.
To see more salary data, check out our current consulting salary report, with hundreds of firms!
Digital engineering offers many benefits to all kinds of companies. By creating digital models of the entire lifecycle of their products and services, companies can exert greater control over their operations, yielding superior efficiency, reliability, quality control, and data. If you’re interested in helping companies take their operations to the next level, you should consider a career in digital engineering today.
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