Two questions came together for this blog post. The first was by a young engineer, not too far from a recent engineering degree. He had gained some experience as an instrumentation technician, but had not been able to get a well-paying automation career established. Although automation jobs are plentiful right now, most require quite a bit of experience. They are for projects with tight deadlines or plants with retiring personnel, so on-the-job training is difficult.
The second email I received was from someone who couldn’t download one of the Greg McMillan demo/seminars that we did in 2010 and 2011. Apparently, the site where these recorded video are hosted, is blocked at his facility. This gave me the idea to zip up the videos (in WMV format) and make them downloadable from this blog (see the bottom of post for links.)
I shared my thoughts with the young engineer on ways to learn more about process automation to help when applying for different opportunities. One way is to subscribe to the blogs of people in the industry. There are excellent technical blogs such as Modeling and Control, Control Talk, ISA Interchange, hopefully this one, and many more. As you find them in your Google searches, consider subscribing to keep the content flowing your way.
Next, connect with people involved in automation. There are numerous LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups and pages, company user-specific communities such as the Emerson Exchange 365 community, and process automation professionals and brands in Twitter (I have two lists full: PAuto and PAuto2). Simple searches in these social networks can help you find some groups that are right for you. From there, you can start connecting with people who do have experience and can learn from them as you go forward.
Some of the newer automation-related books have associated websites with interactive learning modules. A great example is Control Loop Foundation – Tools, Techniques, and Applications by Emerson’s Terry Blevins, Mark Nixon, and Willy Wojsznis. Their associated website is Control Loop Foundation.
There are also older books, some available as free, online books.
The point is that you can take matters into your own hands to learn aspects of the profession. If you go to an interview and say you don’t have experience, but can draw the subtleties of feedforward control on a whiteboard that you learned from automation hall of famers, this will help your cause.
Back to Greg McMillan and his demo/seminar (a.k.a. deminar) series. These 12 videos contain years’ worth of wisdom boiled down for you, in roughly hour-long chunks:
- Deminar#1 – PID Enhancement for Sampled Measurements
- Deminar#2 – PID Control of Valve Sticktion and Backlash
- Deminar#3 – PID Control of Slow Valves and Secondary Loops
- Deminar#4 – Online Process Control Lab – Access and Use
- Deminar#5 – PID Tuning for Self-Regulating Processes
- Deminar#6 – PID Tuning for Near-Integrating Processes
- Deminar#7 – PID Control of True Integrating Processes
- Deminar#8 – PID Control of Runaway Processes
- Deminar#9 – Process Control Improvement Primer
- Deminar#10 – PID Deadtime Compensation
- Deminar#11 – Feedforward Control
- Deminar#12 – Split Range Control
I hope you’ll take advantage of some of the opportunities you have to educate yourself to land the position you so richly deserve for all of your hard work!