Leader Under 40: Jamie Schmidt
Lead Project Engineer, Interstates Control Systems Inc. – BS Electrical Engineering, South Dakota State University
Jamie Schmidt, 38
Lead Project Engineer, Interstates Control Systems Inc., www.interstates.com
Sioux Center, Iowa
BS Electrical Engineering, South Dakota State University
Early in her career with Interstates, Schmidt was responsible for control system engineering and design for a project that went on to win a National Excellence in Construction Award from Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC). This first large project included the controls design and engineering for a system with more than 3,500 I/O points (approximately 1,200 were analog) for a sugar beet processing facility in Moses Lake, Wash. Because of the large number of I/O points and the size of the facility, this project was Interstates’ first implementation of an Allen-Bradley PLC5 using the ControlNet [ODVA] network. Schmidt was responsible for designing and procuring all PLC and networking hardware required for the control system.
Schmidt also served as the control system engineer on a series of biodiesel plant construction projects that began with building a pilot plant in Ralston, Iowa. As the relationship with the client grew, she helped to develop standards used to build other plants. Following a successful launch of that first plant, she worked with the same customer on six additional plants that were either constructed or procured and commissioned. One of these biodiesel plant projects won an ABC Award of Excellence.
Through her work at extraction and biodiesel facilities, Schmidt led an investigation to develop an understanding for intrinsically safe control systems. As she worked with facilities to implement intrinsically safe systems, she became the company’s resident expert on the topic and led the design and implementation of intrinsically safe control systems at Interstates. Schmidt researched and documented best practices for intrinsically safe wiring for use in hazardous areas and developed a design/installation standard for use by the rest of the team. She trains other team members and clients regarding the design, checkout, and troubleshooting of intrinsically safe control systems.
This past year, Schmidt completed the control system engineering and design on an addition to a chemical facility. This facility design used traditional PLC hardware and required extensive control system networking to accomplish the controls. The design involved DeviceNet network design for multiple networks of motors and valves that used Ethernet to DeviceNet bridges, Modbus connections to vendor-supplied equipment, as well as wireless communications. In addition, the project required extensive coordination with the Manufacturing IT department (network designers) to ensure the Ethernet network was designed and documented accurately.
Today, she works with a team of international engineers for a pet food manufacturer in Bangkok, Thailand. She is responsible for reviewing the design and drawings of an engineering team that is based in Southeast Asia. Working with this team of engineers gives Interstates a local presence at the facility and will help provide support for the client once construction and installation is complete.
Schmidt studies Songahm Taekwondo, a form of martial arts. Taekwondo is physical fitness training that combines speed with flexibility, power, and self-control. It is training focused on the mind as well as the body. Learning each Taekwondo form to progress to each new rank (belt) requires focus on a specific form (series of sequential moves including kicks, jumps, and punches), and sparring. “In addition to being a great form of exercise, it is an activity that I can do with my kids that helps teach discipline, courtesy, self-control, self-respect, respect for others, leadership skills, and confidence in themselves.”
For the last three years, Schmidt has hosted high school students as they job shadow. She thinks it is especially important that today’s youth see the types of projects they would design as an engineer. If a small portion of her time and an encouraging word make the difference for a young person considering studying engineering, then Schmidt wants to ensure she answers as many questions as she can for that person.
Schmidt’s interest in control engineering started as a youth. Her uncle has a rare bone disease that caused his bones to break easily and not heal well when he was growing. He spent long periods of time in the hospital and at home. To pass time, he would work with small motors, batteries, and switches to put together inventions. To Schmidt, they were really cool. As she watched him make these things work, she was amazed how he could just create them on his own. She was curious and wanted to be able to do it too. This early curiosity, along with the satisfaction that she has gotten from being an engineer, has taught Schmidt, “If you are interested in doing something, don’t let anyone stop you. Never be intimidated.”
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After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.