The morphing of the plant engineer continues

It seems amazing that PLANT ENGINEERING magazine is celebrating 60 years of publication this month. This certainly is both a reflection of the quality and timeliness of the publication itself and the vibrancy of marketplace it serves. As impressive as the feat of the publication’s continued growth is, perhaps an even more impressive occurrence is the morphing of the plant engineer himself.

11/15/2007


It seems amazing that PLANT ENGINEERING magazine is celebrating 60 years of publication this month. This certainly is both a reflection of the quality and timeliness of the publication itself and the vibrancy of marketplace it serves. As impressive as the feat of the publication’s continued growth is, perhaps an even more impressive occurrence is the morphing of the plant engineer himself.

When I think back and consider the folks I met and dealt with 35 or 40 years ago who were plant engineers versus the current crop, the differences and changes are truly significant. When I began my career, I dealt with some really clever and “street-wise” plant engineers who, more often than not, were really not engineers in the degreed sense. These gentlemen (and back then it was all men) typically grew into the job through the ranks of the maintenance mechanics. If you think about the tasks facing these men in those days, we would agree that Job 1 was keeping the production machinery running and ensuring that product was coming out of the plant doors.

Admittedly, some of the techniques used to keep 'em running were more a matter of necessity, lack of repair parts and true technical training, than the result of a competent and fully stocked MRO operation. We should give these forbearers the credit they deserve for keeping plants everywhere operating in the face of limited resources and daunting challenges.

Many of these folks were true experts in keeping the production machines up and operational and knew the ins-and-outs of each machine better than they knew their families, since, unfortunately, they may have spent more time with the machines.

Truly there has been a significant metamorphosis of the plant engineer. Today the plant engineer has education, skills and management responsibilities. Many of us have experienced these changes in dealing with the industrial sectors in the last 20 years and have seen this trend accelerate in the last 10 years. Recently, I have been involved in several energy audits for major industrial clients; one being a large, multi-national tier-one automotive supplier and the other a worldwide manufacturing conglomerate. Let me tell you that today’s plant engineers are incredible people.

I have had the pleasure of meeting with and exploring various strategies with plant engineers having impressive resumes. In fact, many of these folks, and more than a few were women, not only were registered professional engineers but had master’s degrees, some folks having more than one. Talk about competent and educated %%MDASSML%% these people were excellent. Not only do these folks understand the machinery, the building envelope and the required maintenance and upgrade procedures, they have responsibility for utility purchasing and energy usage and savings throughout their plants.

So what else is the outcome of this “morphing” of the role of the plant engineer we must ask? The plant engineer is forever embedded as a key part of the management and decision making process of all organizations. If the plant engineer was once an adjunct to the management functions of an organization, I would submit that that individual, in an expanded role, is critical to the success of any corporation.

The assurance of ever increasing energy costs means that today’s plant engineers will need to be even more educated in all aspects of the various utility suppliers and the complexity of new rates and new energy savings opportunities. In Ohio, for example, electrical rates are predicted to jump 40% to 50% beginning Jan. 1, 2009, as a result of rate deregulation. Maryland and Illinois have experienced similar rate shocks recently. The impact on any operation is sure to be significant. Other parts of the country are enmeshed in demand-response electrical rates that require much study and understanding by the plant engineer to test the suitability and application in each of their facilities.

One thing is certain: never has the United States been blessed with better educated and dedicated plant engineers who will remain a critical element in the success or failure of our manufacturing industry. This role is deserved and has been earned by all of you. Congratulations on morphing into your increased responsibilities and just think of what lies ahead in the next 60 years!


Author Information

Timothy B. Janos is a life member of the Association of Energy Engineers and served in 2006 as its international president. Currently semi-retired, he is president of Spectrum Energy Concepts, Inc., an energy-consulting practice.




No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
Safety standards and electrical test instruments; Product of the Year winners; Easy and safe electrical design
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Future of oil and gas projects; Reservoir models; The importance of SCADA to oil and gas
Diagnostic functions for system safety; Specifying industrial enclosures; Effective decision support for a crisis
Transformers; Electrical system design; Selecting and sizing transformers; Grounded and ungrounded system design, Paralleling generator systems
Natural gas for tomorrow's fleets; Colleges and universities moving to CHP; Power and steam and frozen foods

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me