What is an Automation Engineer?
An Automation Engineer utilizes technology to improve, streamline and automate a manufacturing process. They are responsible for planning, implementation, and monitoring of such technology.
Let’s take a closer look at the details of automation and the role of an Automation Engineer.
What is Industrial Automation Exactly?
At its most basic level, automation consists of three elements: measurement, control and actuators.
- Measurement – instruments known as sensors take the measurements, then send the readings to the control.
- Control – this acts as the brain of the process, deciding which actions to take and then sending those instructions to the actuators. For industrial or process automation, you need a complex device like a programmable logic controller (PLC).
- Actuators. There are lots of different types such as – pumps, heaters, flow valves, pistons, rotors, robotic arms and so on – and each performs a different action.
So measurement (for example, a thermometer measures the temperature in a liquid) sends a reading to the control, Control (decides the temperature is too high or low) and tells the actuators (heater) to change their actions (heat the liquid). Then the sensor measures the new values and sends them back to the PLC, and the PLC decides what to do and sends commands to the actuators to stop or continue. The whole process repeats in a closed loop.
What Does an Automation Engineer Do?
An Automation Engineer sets up the automation of a manufacturing process. These processes govern the production and delivery of products. The aim is to streamline the manufacturing process and make it as efficient as possible while still maintaining product quality and adhering to internal protocols and external regulations.
The automation engineer must understand the process and its needs to select the appropriate instruments to monitor and control all the necessary variables. This work includes developing and designing the concept, choosing and programming a controller and ensuring the proper communication between the actuators connected to the controller. simulating, installing, testing and managing electrical or mechanical automation and finally monitoring the automation processes on an ongoing basis.
Automation Engineering is a vital part of today’s pharmaceutical and medical device industries as it promotes streamlining of processes, which can lead to a more cost-effective and efficient system.
Check out this video from Visaya on what Automation Engineers do.
The specific skills and knowledge needed will vary widely between roles depending on the manufacturing processes involved and the product being produced. General tasks can include:
- Identification of new opportunities for automation within the manufacturing process
- Management of a project team
- Designing new automation equipment or processes
- Simulating and testing these processes or equipment to ensure they function as desired
- Writing reports for senior colleagues outlining new concepts, testing outcomes, and ongoing efficiency
- Programming new automated components to the manufacturing process
- Developing and maintaining clear and accurate documentation of automation equipment or processes
- Staff training where necessary – typically after implementing new processes or equipment, or making changes to existing ones
- Troubleshooting automated processes or equipment when errors occur
Becoming an Automation Engineer
A Bachelors Degree in automation, process control, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering is the typical entry route into Automation Engineering roles. These programs would typically cover subjects such as process control, mechatronics, digital control systems, control electronics, electromechanics, robotics, fluid dynamics, statistics. computer-aided design (CAD).
There are more specialized qualifications available for individuals within the field or those who are looking to supplement a less relevant base qualification. The bulk of relevant automation engineering training is then gained through hands-on career experience.
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Licensing and Certification for Automation Engineers
A licensing or certification can enhance your prospects for landing a career in automation engineering
A popular certification for automation engineers is Certified Automation Professional which is issued by the International of Automation (ISA). The CAP targets a wider range of automation topics to demonstrate competence in the entire field and is a worldwide program whose importance will vary depending on certain companies or industries.
Another certification in this field is the Control System Engineer License, issued by the National Society of Professional Engineers (PE). This qualification focus on process control. Here is a link to a (CSA) (PE) certification preparation course. The PE is specific to the United States, although many countries around the world offer similar engineering licensure.
What Industries do Automation Engineers Work In?
Automation engineering allows you to explore many fields. Here are some examples of industries where you could work in
- Pharmaceutical manufacturing
- Medical device manufacturing
- Chemical and petrochemical
- Food and beverage
- Oil and gas
- Mining and metal extraction
- Water and wastewater
- Biochemical manufacturing
What Skills Do I Need?
The ideal skill set for someone moving into Automation Engineering roles includes:
- Excellent computer skills – particularly in programming and software development. Many aspects of the role of an Automation Engineer require the use of a computer
- Equipment troubleshooting skills – as you will often need to debug or troubleshoot an existing system
- Communication skills – will need to be able to explain novel and complex ideas to stakeholders of all levels and within multidisciplinary teams. Written communication skills will also be needed for record keeping and documentation, a key part of these regulated industries
- Problem-solving and creative thinking – will be required to troubleshoot problems as they arise and find effective solutions
- Organisational skills – to map out projects, prioritize workload and keep accurate documentation
- Flexibility & Adaptability – has to be able to keep up with latest techniques and technologies as they develop
Automation Engineer Salaries & Job Growth
Check out our salary guide for Automation Engineer salary information local to you.
Automation Engineer Resume Tips
As with all resumes, it’s extremely important that you tailor your Automation Engineer resume to reflect the language used within the job advert. Where you have relevant experience or skills, use the words and phrases that the employer has used to describe them. Do not assume that someone will read similar wording and know what you mean.
Automation Engineer roles will typically be looking for the skills previously outlined:
- Excellent computer skills
- Communication skills
- Problem-solving and creative thinking
- Organisational skills
- Flexibility & Adaptability
Automation Engineer Job Vacancies
For more information on currently available Automation Engineering roles within the pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing industries, head to our jobs boards and select Engineering or Engineering Projects in the “Jobs by Category” menu. We currently have jobs boards for Ireland, the UK, and Philadelphia, USA.
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