Good working definition

I'd like to congratulate the person who wrote this want ad that appeared in a Chicago paper recently: Plant Engineer You will support ongoing operation, troubleshoot, resolve emergencies, implement shutdowns, and support Y2K program.
By Richard L Dunn April 1, 1999

I’d like to congratulate the person who wrote this want ad that appeared in a Chicago paper recently:

Plant Engineer

You will support ongoing operation, troubleshoot, resolve emergencies, implement shutdowns, and support Y2K program. Additional duties include organizing and maintaining information on plant systems/ instruments and improvement programs, as well as implementing plant projects and maintaining proper documentation. Qualifications include 2+ years of experience in a GMP environment as well as knowledge of instruments, PLC-based controls, and P&I diagrams. Experience should include scope, design, specification, procurement, installation, startup, debug, validation, training, and maintenance. The ability to deal effectively with multiple activities, requests, and emergencies essential.

I love this ad, because it’s about as good and concise a definition of plant engineering work as I’ve run across.

Sounds like this person has to be able to do just about anything and everything. And that’s the way it is in plant engineering. From the routine of preventive maintenance to the near-terror of emergencies, from piping to PLCs, from projects to Y2K, plant engineers face a breadth of challenges found in few other industrial functions. They’re at the center of it all, somehow touching just about everything in the plant.

How does this definition compare with your job description? Has yours been updated in the past few years?

I’d be willing to bet that your job has changed. I’ll bet you’re much more involved with computers, electronics, and controls than you used to be. Chances are your required knowledge base is much broader than it was five years ago. And although many plant engineers moan that they don’t have the independence and authority they used to have, my guess is that your sphere of influence — or potential influence — has actually grown.

That’s why when someone asks, “What do plant engineers do?” it can be hard to explain. So I’m going to keep this ad in my wallet for the next time the question comes up.

You might want to have it handy the next time you work on your job description.