Checking Engineering Calculations

Checking engineering calculations is a critical part of engineering design. Failure or insufficient checking are the reasons there are failures in designs. Always remember that the more calculations you do, the easier they become. However, this does not ensure that you are immune to mistakes.

If you do something wrong once and it works, you'll likely make the same mistake again. Sooner or later, your luck will run out. That's why you should never feel ashamed or rushed to double-check your calculations.

1. Master your engineering concepts
Learn and understand the science behind engineering concepts, so you don't have to rely on arithmetic checks alone. This way, you can quickly spot calculation blunders even when the math checks out.
2. Double-check your equations

Make sure you're using the right equations. Your math may be perfect, but the equation is wrong. This happens a lot when engineers don't fully grasp the science behind their work.
3. Always verify your inputs
Always verify your equation inputs for accuracy. If you start with the wrong inputs, your output will be off even if you did everything else right.
4. Create a master file for all calculations
Keep a master record of calculations in one place for all engineers to use. This becomes a fantastic resource for maintaining and transferring knowledge.
Once your calculation is complete and approved, add it to a master folder for other engineers to access as a reference.
5. Check your units of measurement
Always include units with your values. This helps you know if you're using the right equations and if your calculated values make sense in the real world.
6. Be mindful of significant figures
Stay consistent with the number of digits you use in your calculated values. This helps with the accuracy of your calculations.
Usually, in engineering, a lack of significant digits won't lead to failures, thanks to safety factors in designs. But regardless, just be attentive to what you're designing and the level of accuracy required.
7. Embrace your mistakes
We are just human, even 10x engineers make mistakes. The more you rush your work, the more likely you will make a mistake. That's why you shouldn't rush your designs, even with a looming deadline. Your client won't be happy if you hand in a shoddy design even if you beat the deadline.
When planning your work schedule, consider both design and review time. Sometimes, you'll miss deadlines with cutting-edge engineering work. It's normal and, frankly, expected.
8. Format your design notes
Add neatly formatted notes to your calculations, and stick with that format for all your calculations.
This makes your calculations uniform and easy to follow. With uniformly written notes, your eyes always know where to look for clarifications.
9. Know your material
To do top-notch calculations, you need to know your material inside and out. Understand exactly what you're designing and how it'll fit into the real world. In other words, is your design practical?
10. Do not get complacent
It is a reality that some companies do not check engineering calculations. Experienced engineers might go by feel, thinking they know a given design can hold a certain load, so they don't review their work.
No matter how much you think you know, don't get complacent. Build good habits, and you’ll sleep better at night while avoiding engineering failures.
11. Ask questions as a reviewer
As a reviewer, when you spot calculation errors, have a chat with the engineer on record. Then, ask them questions about other parts of their design too.
If any of their answers seem off, dig deeper into their design work. Chances are, you’ll find more issues lurking beneath the surface.
12. Don't blindly follow another engineer's math and logic
As a reviewer, be careful not to blindly follow another engineer’s math. You could end up duplicating their mistakes.
I recommend starting your review with the assumption that the calculation might be wrong. Then, scour their work for errors. And remember, don't rush through your review by just going through the motions.