Whether a PLC engineer really deserve for his extremely high hourly wages ?

  • Thread starter wilson williams cizhuthanickel
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wilson williams cizhuthanickel

Whatever work a PLC engineer proudly do with the stamp of a PLC/DCS/system engineer can be easily done by a school student if proper guidence and training is given. So do we really deserve for our present hourly wages paid for our PLC/DCS skill.

During my annual vacation I handed over one of my PLC work containing 2700 program lines to my two kids, williams and gabriel paul, studying in seventh and eight standards. I gave them some PLC introduction and working procedure. They handed over me the completed work in a reasonable time with out much mistakes. Then I really understood, whatever work I proudly do with the stamp of a PLC/DCS/system engineer can be easily done by a school student if proper guidence and training is given. So whatever we earn for our PLC/DCS skill, is it really justifiable ?

Paul K. P.E.

I own my own engineering controls company and I have to say that this is the type of attitude that gets me all sorts of work. Sure, Charlie in maintenance or a 13 year old child can write some PLC code, but there is a lot more to control engineering than writing code. I can't count how many jobs I have done to clean up the programming and design messes produced by people who don't know what they were doing.

Where do I start? First, engineers have a basic knowledge of math and physics (at least, they should) that allow them to apply them to real world problems? For example, what is the best way to get a level in a 200F tank of caustic with a flow-through rate of 100 gpm? Pressure? Capacitive proxes? Mechanical float? In this example, a knowledge of physics, chemistry, and electricity is needed to find the best solution.

There is PLC code and then there is PLC code. Anyone taking the PLC class can write code for a machine or system that can work when the machine is working fine, but how does it handle the unxepected? Good PLC programmers take that into account and develop robust, easy to run, easy to debug, and easy to maintain systems.

Finally, there is the final cost. This situation happened to me. I was called in for a service call for a PLC that was working "slow". The company had three of their maintenance men working on it for 2 weeks before they finally gave in and called me. Within five minutes, I had it running great (they did not set the dip switches in the PLC correctly). I charged them a rate of $100/hour. Who had the greater hourly cost? Me, of course. Who was the most expensive in the long run? The maintenance department, not me.

With knowledge and ability, engineers produce results faster, of higher quality, and at lower long-run costs.

Thanks for letting me vent a little.

Curt Wuollet

It's all about getting it done. There is much more to an automation solution than lines of code, or rungs of logic, if you prefer. It's much like electronics in that many can solve the equations if they are handed to them. far fewer can look at an errant circuit or problem to be solved and derive the equations. It is what
separates engineers from mechanics. Many can build the machine from prints fewer can develop the prints before the machine.

But in the end, if your employer or customer doesn't think you are worth the money the situation will correct itself shortly. But there are lots of folks who don't grasp at all what it takes to be good at what you do. They ask questions like how long would it take for the janitor to be able to do your job and make statements like "a trained monkey could do that". These people are the same who complain that they can't find or keep competent help. Others look at how much what you do makes or saves for the company. And they pay based on that. They seldom lack for competent help. I've observed that companies that are really careful about who they hire, and treat them well
are far more successful. It's amazing how much more really good people accomplish and it's worth far more than the premium they pay.

Unfortunately I have to say that you are not doing all you can do for your company.

I spent nearly 80 thousand dollars for college. And have been in the industry for nearly 20 years. I made 86k last year and I earned every bit of it.

I just had my 3 year anniversary with the company I work for. In that time I have reduced the engineering time required for projects 20 percent. I have reduced the startup warranty costs from 8 percent to 3.7 percent. These numbers are directly attributed to my work. Being a controls engineer is not just about programming a plc or some stupid scada front end.

Controls engineering, like all other forms of engineering are about developing new and better mouse traps cheaper, faster and doing it better than your competition. If you are not thinking about cost control and developing a better mouse trap (what ever your mouse trap is) then you can not call your self an engineer and you don’t deserve that “big” salary.
Handing over or training someone to "punch the keys into PLC or HMI software" and designing, hazop, layout, state laws, NEC codes, standards, alarm design and safety and on and on are two completely different things.

I have had a ton of interns work for me and yes I can train them to enter code for me very well, I have even had my bosses say things like "Hand it over to "Pete" he can write code and build graphics. I have a Craftsman who also has been "brought up to speed" and is very very good,
but he constantly tells me that he could not do it from scratch because there are too many details to work out.

I have also had my sons do some of the "keystroking" and they have learned a lot, but I would not turn over the design and layout of a plant for me....not yet anyways.


George G. Robertson, PE, PMP

Two points:

1. What exactly is a PLC/DCS/System engineer? By what body are they licensed? How do they use the title "engineer" legally?

2. Therein lies your answer. If the "engineer" in question is performing engineering work, it can't be done by a student to the standard required. Nor would a student wish to assume the professional liability associated therewith. If, on the other hand, the "engineer" is actually what we used to call a "coder" at Boeing, then it could be done by marginally skilled technicians. The whole issue is whether you are talking about taking completed algorithms, engineered by others, and merely implementing them within the syntax of a given system, or actually solving engineering control problems.

Actually just thought of a third...

Extremely high hourly wages? Are you sure you're not confusing the rate sheet with the actual wages? If referring to yourself, just give more
to charity if it bothers you.

George G. Robertson, PE, PMP
Did your kids choose the most cost effective hardware for the job, understanding the application it is intended for?

Did you children pick the appropriate field sensors and output devices for the job?

Did they establish communication with the inevitable other 'intelligent' devices or network(s)?

When something doesn't work during commissioning, how long will it take your kids to troubleshoot and solve the problem, in your absence, without your experience and help?

Did your kids know which version of the development software matchs the X.YZ firmware in the PLC, and how to determine that?

Can your kids run AutoCad and crank out the drawings in a suitable amount of time?

Were the programming remarks or annotation your kids did intelligible to someone like me, from the outside, who might have to work on the system?

What kind of relationship do your kids have with the production supervisor, the maintenance team, the processs engineering group, the electricians, the pipefitters, the vendors, etc, etc?

Maybe you work in a job where you just crank out code. Most of us don't. Programming PLC's is not like coding at Microsoft

People are paid what they are worth to an employer. Most employers realize that they aren't buying solely code writers. They're buying the services of people who have to deal with an entire spectrum of people, systems, applications, and who bring experience and expertise to the party.


Your question reminds me of a case I encountered. A company that I worked for needed programming tools for the industrial automation systems in the plant. Equipment manufacturer was asked to quote and total cost for software, laptops, cabling and training totalled USD 20,000.00. In presence of the Managing Director, the Engineering Manager made a wild remark that it was too expensive to invest in such expensive items. Obviously, the Managing Director was too glad not to spend on items that the departmental head did not feel necessary. A few weeks later, the accounts department presented to the same Managing Director a quotation for SAP ERP system costing a whopping 2.0 million dollars. They made the MD understand the full value of the SAP system and with little persuasion, he signed the order. People value you based on your own image projection. Often engineers devalue themselves and their services. Do they then expect other people to respect or value them? It is now common to find an office secretary earning more than engineers in the same company. The last time I checked on lawyers charges for endorsing a document (better call it rubber stamping), I found it rather stiff. Does the lawyer take more than a minute with your document? I doubt it.

Engineers, value yourselves first, and everyone else will do the same.

The first poster is correct any muppet can learn to program a plc!!

Theres just one major fact you forgot.. theres a hell of alot of difference between a well written plc program and a plc program written by a muppet. e.g. being able to figure out exacatly what piece of equipment has failed within a few seconds of looking at a hmi ...is a good program.

I have been programming plcs for over 15 years now and in that time i have met alot of people who claim to be plc engineers and i can say about 12 of them i would class as being true plc engineers. There are alot of bluffers out there getting the same rates as me... I say "fair play" to them.. if they can pull the wool over there own eyes and fool themselves and the managers that employ them they deserve every penny they get but at the end of the day when the project begins to die out only the true plc engineers get left on site. ;)
Judging from your grammer; your code is a mess. To be considered a good code writer, you must also understand the process you are controlling. The code must be easy to understand and modify.

Once again we have been given the code for every system in the plant with instructions to fix it.

Electo-Mechanical Engineer

I do PLC's and may get a great? salary. But in one call for example to a broken down PLC I saved the company 400 000 dollars because the OEM could only get a service engineer on site within another 48 hrs. Instead I was asked to help and the PLC was repaired within 10 minutes of my arrival on site.

A good engineer/technician does a great job in a short time. There is much more to PLC's than programming and there is much more to programming than just programming.
I would never tell someone how to buy services from a controls/programming vendor, but would comment that it always costs too much until it doesn't work right.

I've seen custom machine controls from lots of different angles. I've been lucky enough to grow up with machine building as our family business & have built my own controls/programming company. For what its worth, there are 2 things that have been proven time after time- 1. someone who tells you how good they are at controls probably isn't very good with them. 2. Someone who tells you that controls & programming work is easy is a lesson waiting to be learned.

Good luck, I'm sure your kids will have a promising future. I may have a job for them.
like most jobs if you break it down to its smallest components...it turns out not t be rocket science...the complexity of the job is the ability to break it down into its smallest bite size parts this requires clarity of thought and foresight. Foresight is gained from experience it tells us what will work and what won't......I understand the authors comments of control engineer being overpaid.....

I have recently worked for some very large companies and they break the job up into bite size components and all you end up doing is going through the mechanics of a task .....it turns out to be very boring.....but very effective for large organisations....so maybe for the those small tasks I am being overpaid...but hey .....your paying me for what I know not for what I'm doing.