Automation Engineer work - challenges, opportunities and competences
Nowadays, the industry is constantly changing, and with it - the requirements for automation. We talk to Daniel Szeląg, Head of the Automation Section, about the challenges related to working in this position, the key competencies and the scope of responsibility of automation specialists at ISKRA.
What are the main areas of ISKRA's activity? Which industries does it work with?
The scope of our activities is wide. We modernize and renovate industrial machines, and we produce machines and devices for special purposes (production, assembly, control). We also deal with production automation. For many years, we have been cooperating with bearing manufacturers, and suppliers from the automotive industry (tier1 and tier2) as well as with the tire and tool industries.
Where are the touch-points with Siemens technologies in your work?
In our work, we deal with projects of various types. We build special machines and modernize them. These are production lines (rotary tables, stations arranged in lines connected by a conveyor) or individual assemblies or test stations. The equipment we work on usually depends on the customer's specifications. It is largely Siemens equipment - S7 1200 and S7 1500 controllers, as well as servo drives, inverters and low voltage components. We also modernize grinders, usually associated with a complete replacement of the control - we often replace the hydraulics with servo drives - we also equip them with Siemens CNC control. We use the 828D SL and 840D SL controls, as well as the simpler 808D SL system. We deal with start-up, configuration and parameterization of equipment, as well as create technological programs for machines built.
What is the importance of an automation engineer job in your company?
Automation work begins at the very beginning of the project. Together with the mechanical engineer, he participates in the creation of the concept (according to the specification guidelines and the supervisor), prepares the electrical documentation design, and then the PLC, CNC, HMI program design (depending on the needs). The automation engineer specialist also supervises the implementation of the electrical part of the machine (cabinets and wiring) and explains to the client the ambiguities that arise during this time. After mechanical and electrical assembly of the machine (and often already during assembly), the automation engineer starts it and performs "debug" (debugging). After acceptance, it is usually necessary to set up and install the machine at the customer's premises and its final acceptance and preparation of final documentation (operating manual, risk analysis, electrical diagrams).
What are the most interesting projects you have worked on?
When it comes to special machines, each project is interesting in its own way, each one allows you to learn something new. These are large line projects that have a dozen or so servo drives, robots and many measuring sensors - coordinating all of this creates a lot of planning and design but also results in a high level of satisfaction.
I also remember the design of a small machine, a hot marking machine, which was made on a small exotic Japanese controller that I had to master myself.
Every project that needs more thought (analysis) is interesting - those made quickly and without any problems are forgotten just as quickly.
Is automation engineer work complicated?
And yes - and no ... If you know something and have done it several times, it probably doesn't bother you, but if you do something for the first time, it can be difficult. In our company - as we create prototypes - there are many "first times", but fortunately you can almost always use the knowledge from previous projects or the projects of your colleagues. If there is no such knowledge, we organize meetings with specialists or training to eliminate difficulties and clarify doubts. Of course, this does not exempt automation from independently looking for certain solutions - in your head or through research, and this search is sometimes the most difficult.
What are the key competencies that an automation specialist should have?
There is hardly an automation engineer that can do everything. Working in this profession is continuous learning and development. The most important features that should be characterized by an automation engineer specialist are the will to learn, openness to new solutions, the ability to analyze and solve problems. In our company, we have automation specialists who graduated from vocational schools: electrical, IT, construction and general secondary schools. Everyone is better at something else (due to education and interest, as well as the tasks entrusted to him) and during the implementation of projects, we try to systematically supplement the gaps in our knowledge.
What should an automation engineer not know?
This interview was published and prepared in collaboration with Siemens Company.