Where Does Mechatronics Fit?

I’ve worked for companies that put mechatronics and motion control engineering under electrical engineer management and I’ve worked for a company that put it under mechanical engineering management. So, what’s the right answer?

Well, neither, frankly. Mechatronics is the electrical control of mechanical systems. An electrical engineering manager is unlikely to appreciate the time loss associated with compensating for insufficient torsional stiffness in a compliant coupling. Likewise, a mechanical engineering manager will probably second guess you when you opt for a synchronous motor instead of a cheaper induction motor.

Ideally, mechatronics would be it’s own department within a capital equipment manufacturer. However, given the glacial pace at which companies adopt new ideas, this is not likely to happen soon. But here’s an idea to help you compensate in the meantime: which ever department drives the early stages of your engineering cycle should include your mechatronics group.

This is a quick value adder for your company that might rock the boat, but won’t sink it.

In my personal experience with a company that manufactured capital equipment in excess of $10 million, the motion control group was in the wrong place. As the lead motion control engineer, I reported to an electrical engineering manager but the company was rooted firmly in the “golden ages” of mechanical design. As a result, we once lost almost half a year because a new product design was “completed” without consulting with the motion control group. It was obvious within five minutes that the machine wouldn’t work as designed by the mechanical group.

Not only did we waste mechanical engineering hours, since they had to redesign it anyway, but we had to delay the testing schedule and our product made it to market significantly later.

Oddly, the underlying problem rarely arises in other parts of the company; no one loses sleep over whether Operations should report to Sales or Marketing.

Permalink: https://shawnpitman.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/where-does-mechatronics-fit/


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