This guide is brought to you by Zen Flowchart, the simplest flowchart maker.

--

Flowchart is a form of graphical representation that displays an organization's steps or procedures. It is a type of diagram which represents the sequence, sometimes branching logic, and individual decision points.

Flowcharts can be used in engineering for many reasons. They are often used for troubleshooting, but they may also be used to design a process or document the steps needed to complete a task. Flowcharts are helpful because they collect all of the necessary information into one place and make it easier to understand this information.

Flowcharts are widely used in the field of software engineering to help document and analyze various aspects of programs, including requirements, models, coding and testing. Learn more about flowchart in programming here.

What Is An Engineering Flowchart?

Definition

An engineering flowchart is a visual demonstration of the steps in a real-world design project of an engine, machines, building, roads, and other engineered objects. 

It consists of a series of shapes connected by arrows. Those arrows indicate the flow of the chart, which is the order to carry out the project.

Flowchart In Engineering
An engineering flowchart example

The feature that makes this tool so useful is the visualizing method. Thanks to it, the chart can effectively transfer information to readers through short texts and simple symbols.

Symbols And Their Meanings 

There is a set of standardized shapes to help beginners get familiar with them and learn how to place them properly. Below are the most common tools.

Terminal

  • Circles or round rectangles: usually represent the start or end of the business processes. These two symbols are often placed at the very left or top and the very right or end. They contain the trigger in text such as “Buzzer activates”, “Flip switches”, or “Process ends”.

Inside The Process

  • Rectangle: is the most popular element in an electrical engineering flowchart. It indicates the sub-processes where the changes take place.
  • Diamond: shows where a decision is made. It offers two options, each of which will lead in a new direction depending on users' choices. In software engineering, a diamond often contains a Yes/No question.
A diagram in software engineering
A diagram in software engineering
  • Rectangle with a curved edge: represents necessary documentation at a certain point. The documentation varies in function, which can be an instruction on how to operate the equipment. It can also lead users to the place storing all the needed machines,
  • Cylinder: tell users that a magnetic disc or a flash disc is involved in the steps.
  • Parallelogram: input and output data, generally seen in processing applications.
  • Rectangle with two vertical lines: refers that a predefined process is already in place. They can also be used to refer to another flowchart.

Connectors

  • Line/Arrow: gives the direction that the process follows. It connects tasks that come after one another or groups documents and ideas together.

Why Should You Use Flowcharts In Engineering?

Engineering often consists of complex processes, which often appear incomprehensible to many people. This will not happen when engineers use a diagram because it takes advantage of the visual programming language. A person who does not meet the academic requirements can still digest the project objectives.

In the process of conducting industrial engineering, the enterprise team will need a variety of machines and tools. One of the common issues in that situation is difficulties in locating and operating the machines.  With an engineering flowchart, users can look it up in rectangles with a curved edge.

engineering flowchart symbols
This tool has many useful symbols

Due to the complexity of a project in this field, a great number of people will take part in the process. Arrows with the correct direction will lead them to work on the right path. Therefore, this diagram can prevent the team from straying from the project goals.

How To Make Flowcharts in Engineering?

Rules 

Before working on a new diagram, users need to keep in mind several following rules.

  • There must be arrows between all boxes to connect them.
  • Normally a chart will flow from top to bottom. In an upward flow, make sure it does not exceed three symbols.
  • Connectors are used to connect breaks in the flowchart. The common examples of this usage are: from one page to another, from a page’s bottom to top, an upward flow with more than three elements.
  • Users need to draw independent diagrams for Subroutines and Interrupt programs.
  • A flowchart must end with a contentious loop or a terminal.

Preparation

Do Research

A good diagram starts with a good source of information. Therefore, users need to collect details about who does what in the department. 

Build The Outline Of The Chart

The flowchart’s outline can be built based on the information collected. For example, the member’s name can title the labels on a swimlane diagram. Every task they have to carry out will be the sub-process of the diagram.

Breaking Down 

This is the step of engineering analysis. The smaller details will offer helpful insight into the plan. A detailed flowchart not only improves its owner’s understanding but also benefits the chart itself since it can reveal flaws and shortcomings. 

Steps

Define The Goal

The first thing to do before making the chart is to know what to achieve. A clear goal will help users choose the right one from various types of flowcharts and tackle the right issues.

Put The Step In The Right Order

The steps should follow one another in chronological order. Engineers need to carry out the process in preparation carefully to categorize the tasks quickly, which involves communicating with the participants and observing documents.

Sticky notes or a piece of paper is useful in this case because users might want to jot down some important points.

Draw The Chart

Place the sub-process and contemporary management decision in the correct symbols and connect them with arrows.

Review And Refine

Take a final look at the chart. Engineering major students can consider questions like: Are there any unnecessary steps? Are there any processes that cost too much? Then find the remaining bottlenecks and perfect the final result.

Example

Let’s see a simple version of how these common diagrams apply in mechanical engineering.

Suppose that a lamp in the house does not work when the switch is on. The residents should check whether it is plugged in or not. From here, there are two possibilities.

engineering flowchart
An example of engineering flowchart in real life

If there is no electricity, they can just plug the wire into the socket. In case the lamp stops working when there is still electricity, check the bulb. There are two ways to go from this step.

In case the bulb has burned out, replace it, and the problem is solved. In the other situation where there is no problem with the bulb, the residents will have to repair the entire lamp.