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You Call That Training?

September 26, 2014 By: George Bauer

Those are dreaded words you try to avoid after a significant investment of your time and money into technical skills training. There is little argument that technical training for engineering development is a wise investment that can pay dividends, inspire creativity, and improve quality of your products.  I've found some ideas noted below to be very helpful to define training goals and getting the right fit for your technical improvement.

What is the Purpose of Training?

Modern engineering work requires sophisticated skills and training in advanced simulation tools.  The first question would be, what type of design, analysis, or simulation training would fit well and enhance my product development?  What techniques would increase fidelity in my analysis and decrease development time or hasten workflow?  Am I taking on new requirements or part design challenges that need these new skills?  Consider the following key questions to identify appropriate training:

  • What type of simulation will I need?  What is the usage and environment my parts will experience?  Consider the simulation that will help understand part behavior in the aspects of static structural, heat transfer, transient dynamic, highly nonlinear explicit behavior, computational fluid dynamics, and others.
  • Understand the required inputs and current limitations of technology.  What parts will I need to simulate and what other interactions are affecting the performance of my parts?  What electronic data will I need to run this simulation?  Will I need material testing or other test information to supply to my analysis?  Also, check recommended computer hardware to perform the analyses you are expecting to run.
  • When investigating part performance and simulation results, identify the qualitative and quantitative information presented.  Essentially: "What are the results really telling me and how should I interpret the results to improve my part?" Establish criteria and benchmarks to validate both the software performance as well as your part performance!
  • Select the engineering firm providing the training based on their background and peer recommendations.  Ensure they have an extensive background in the skills that you are interested in learning.
  • Does the agenda of the class makes sense, will the instructors address questions in your field? Identify if they will be providing practical, relevant examples in the class.  Is customized training for your company needed?
  • Are the training facility and equipment appropriate, modern, and sufficient for enhanced learning

The Right Balance is Key



My experience advises that providing the right balance of engineering theory and software instruction is key. Training is more effective and valuable when the background knowledge of why you are performing the tasks is understood, rather than following a bouncing ball or mimicking a keyboard monkey! This approach improves understanding of the underlying principles in addition to the software usage.  Also, instructor led demonstrations and hands on workshops are both important for learning.  Now you can more confidently extend these skills to your applications.

This balanced approach is also endorsed by industry leaders and is seeing more implementation to the college level instruction.  At the university where I teach engineering classes, we have an industry advisory board the that provides feedback on the engineering department curriculum.  Industry leaders are requesting that more software training be embedded within classroom learning.  While I believe the theory is more important to learn in the university environment, I have embedded more engineering software use in class to help extend the theory to practical applications.

I highly recommend training to speed up the learning curve and to improve engineering.  Your investment will pay off well with a bit of homework performed up front. Training will not only make you more successful in learning what you need to but also, learning what you didn't know you needed to know!