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Noobe technician: Which company to target?
Recent Mechatronics "graduate" thinking of applying to ABB, Rockwell Automation, etc. Which would be best and why?

I recently completed a new program in Florida but I want to move. I've discovered Automation companies on the east side of Cleveland. I've also heard about German firms that will send me all over (in the food & bev). I'm intrigued by process control, like chemicals, but not sure what I'd be setting myself up for.

I need a company that will train me more thoroughly in electricity as my prof's skimped on that. (New to teaching.) Could anyone recommend companies that would be interested in offering more training right away? I've seen some intern type programs but I don't know how long that would entail.

I've had a heck of a time getting any feedback online re: specific companies so I've hesitated in applying for anything yet. I know I don't want to do 'reference work' or maintenance. Or assembling parts. I've been told I'd be good at project integration (eventually).

I was top of my class, have new certs, have a Bachelors, very mechanical, background in IT, etc. Interested in PLCs, so far Allen-Bradley vs. Siemens.

Wondering about company culture. Not interested in 12 hour shifts as a rule but could be a road warrior for a while. Would like to eventually work internationally so I'm interested in the big firms and long term.

I can visualize huge possibilities but reddit is the closest I've come to getting any answers really. Would REALLY appreciate some pointers.

Lots of defense over in Melbourne, FL as well as other metros. I've explored some industries but think I'd be missing a great opportunity if I don't go for Automation.

If you were in my shoes, and know now what I might not learn for 5 years, where might you aim? Personally I'm not all about $$, I need balance. I'm most interested in companies that would not burn me out but would invest in lots of training.

Hope that's not too much but I'm in need of a breakthrough and hopefully Control.com is the site I've been panning for.

Thanks for any feedback,
Mac

2 out of 3 members thought this post was helpful...

Mac,

The large companies you mention usually sell their hardware/software through companies, many of which are what's called 'system integrators.' These system integrators do the footwork of finding applications for the programmable logic controllers and often incorporate many other manufacturer's components to build systems to meet Customer's requirements. System integrators employ people with programming skills, as well as people with mechanical and process skills.

It's all about processes--whatever you do. I have seen some extremely intelligent programming skills and methods but which didn't work properly for the application, and I've seen some very kludgey programming that, while it worked very well, was extremely difficult to understand or troubleshoot.

Those who understand processes, be it in the food industry, or the sugar cane industry, or the paper industry, or the power generation industry, or the chemical industry, or the packaging industry, or the warehousing/fulfillment industry, or the automobile industry, or the oil refining industry, are the most successful at using their skills for process- and productivity improvement, putting together their knowledge of equipment with the Customer's requirements for their process(es) and using programmable logic controllers (or sometimes called programmable action controllers) from the likes of Allen-Bradley, Siemens, Mitsubishi and others.

Don't overlook power generation. The need for skilled technical people in the power generation field is huge; lots of skilled people are retiring, and there is a large turn-over now in the business--and it's world-wide. Working on power generation equipment (turbines, generators, and auxiliaries) can be a very satisfying experience, and it can take you all over the world. (Unfortunately, it can lead to burn-out, too, but that's up to you to manage. Many companies use contractors and you can sign contracts for a certain number of hours per year (1200 or 1400) and find you've fulfilled your contract in the first six or seven months, with time on your hands to travel or relax with friends and family.

You might want to check out Governor Control Systems, which I believe is located in Florida. And TTS (Turbine Technology Services), which is also headquarted in Florida. Both have some good people to work alongside and learn from--which is how most people learn their craft, by working alongside others and building their network of contacts as they build their experience and knowledge.

Don't let your unfamiliarity with power generation hold you back--a LOT of technicians I have recently worked with (around the world) start with very little experience. Just learn to think critically--especially when you hear "tribal knowledge" on the job. You don't have to question it verbally, but you need to think over what you hear and see in light of what you know, and learn how to ask questions to clarify your understanding.

The worst answer you can be given is, "Because we've always done it that way." When you hear that, it should set off a siren in your head--not necessarily that what you hear/see is incorrect, but to put more time in later to build your understanding. It will be time well spent--regardless of what industry you choose to work in. Learn to read and understand P&IDs (Process & Instrumentation Diagrams)--it will also be time very well spent; no process can be understood, even if you're just trying to operate the equipment, unless you understand the P&IDs for the process. Many processes have multiple P&IDs (for the various systems, like compressed air, or hydraulic supply, or lubricating oil, or cooling water, etc.), and just like in an automobile engine all these systems work together (the crankshaft and pistons, and camshaft and valves, and lube oil, and fuel system and electrical system).

Many of the larger automation equipment manufacturers will hire the best and brightest of the people they meet working for systems integrators. So, eventually, if you want to settle down, and do some system support, that could eventually be an option, too. But, earn your credentials in the field, think critically--always!, and learn to listen to the Customer (who may not always be right; sometimes they have incorrect perceptions about the way something should or shouldn't work--and you need to be able to help them get to the proper understanding). When designing systems for a process, the Customer's requirements are extremely important. And, if they have incorrect expectations the project can be doomed.

Go forth and conquer!

CSA:

Thanks! Sorry it's taken me a while to respond, I'm up in NY on some family business.

Appreciate your feedback.

Thank you again,
Mac