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So, You Want to Be an Industrial Automation Engineer

Are you considering or aspiring to a career as an Industrial Automation Engineer or Controls Engineer? Awesome choice. Below, I’ll talk about what employers are looking for in an Industrial Controls Engineer. Additionally, I’ll cover what a typical workday is like and some pros and cons of automation industry jobs. Lastly, we’ll look at what a career in the automation industry might pay, and where and how to look for jobs! Keep reading for a glimpse inside the life of an Industrial Automation Engineer!

ย A sample of ladder logic, a PLC programming language that uses electrical symbols on "ladder rungs." Industrial automation engineers frequently perform PLC programming using ladder logic.
“Ladder logic,” a common PLC programming language.  PLC’s are microprocessors (computers) that are used to control manufacturing equipment.  Image credit.

Controls Engineer Position Entry Requirements

For a bit of background, I work for Ford Motor Company as an Automation Engineer. Officially, my job title is Engineering Specialist, Controls. My Bachelor’s is actually in Information Technology, with a concentration in Software Development. Luckily, I had industry experience as an Automation Technician that helped me to get in to my current job. ย 

Much of my job focus is on developing and debugging Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) logic and robot programs. Because PLC’s and robots are just fancy computers, I’m often able to use the programming techniques, algorithmic thinking, and knowledge of networks that I learned in my degree program. Virtually all equipment at the plant where I work is on an Ethernet/IP network. For this reason, having an understanding of TCP/IP networks is very helpful when troubleshooting communication issues.

Despite my degree choice, if you’re interested in becoming an Industrial Automation Engineer, typical Bachelor’s degrees to pursue might include Electrical Engineering, Industrial Automation, or Mechatronics. Employers often cite a Bachelor’s in a field of study related to industrial automation engineering as a minimum hiring requirement.

Of course, hiring requirements are what the employer would like in the ideal case. There’s likely some wiggle room if you have the skills to do the job.ย Many technicians or electricians with PLC programming experience are able to become Controls Engineers.

Experience Requirements For Industrial Automation Engineering Jobs

Many employers list experience requirements when posting a job offering for Automation, Controls, or PLC Engineers. Are you worried about or having trouble moving directly into a Controls position out of school? If so, it may be helpful to first build some industry experience as an Industrial Electrician or Automation Technician.

There are also PLC training courses which can be very valuable in terms of gaining a foundation in PLC programming. Relevant training could possibly help you to get a foot in the door if you do not have experience.  In my perception, however, employers would prefer to see one or more years of industry experience programming and debugging PLC’s.

As a side note, I’m using the terms Controls, Controls Engineer, Automation Engineer, and Industrial Automation Engineer interchangeably. Someone in this career field may even be referred to as a “PLC Engineer”.
When looking for jobs, the only thing to be careful of is that the title “Automation Engineer” is now also used in the Software Testing field. Generally, if you see the terms “PLC,” “robot,” or “CNC” mentioned in the job listing, it is an Industrial Automation position and not a Software Test Automation position.

What Does An Automation Engineer Do Every Day?

Of course, the answer to this question depends on the company for which you work and your place in the hierarchy. I can only relate my own experience and that of the other Industrial Automation Engineers that I work with. I’d love to hear any comments from other Automation Controls Engineers. How do your responsibilities differ from my own? I would be happy to add your commentary to this post.

Control and automation engineering is a job of many hats. Most days, you will take on a variety of roles, from project management, to personnel administration, to emergency troubleshooting. In my position, my two primary job functions are breakdown response and Continuous Improvement.

Responding To Breakdowns

A plume of white smoke. If you've "let the smoke" out of your electronics, that's probably not good.
With electronics, you’re supposed to try to keep the smoke inside the equipment. If you see smoke coming out of a circuit board, that’s usually a bad sign.

The name of the game in industrial automation is production – a lot of production. Companies make money by building as many parts as possible during their employees’ regularly-scheduled work day. For this reason, overtime hurts profits. Downtime hurts profits.

Manufacturing companies make money when the line is running and when it’s running fast. Jobs Per Hour, or “JPH”, is a key indicator of the health of a factory. There is, of course, some upper limit to how quickly any given process can occur. As a general rule: the more units you can build in a given time (hence, “Jobs Per Hour”), the better.

In such a fast-paced environment, and with equipment moving back and forth dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times per hour, things break! Cables fail, bearings wear out, sensors wiggle out of alignment; Murphy’s Law is active, big time. When things break, factories have a Maintenance Department that is responsible for figuring out what’s wrong and fixing it – as quickly as possible.

Automation And Control Engineer Roles On Breakdowns

Where I work, the Controls Engineer’s role on breakdowns is somewhere between supervision and high-tier tech support.  As a salaried employee, the Controls Engineer is responsible to the company for ensuring that the equipment gets back up and running as quickly as possible.  Sometimes, this means fixing the problem at hand. Sometimes, however, it means finding a creative way to work around the problem.  For this responsibility, you may need to lead and direct maintenance personnel. You will succeed at this task if you:

  • Keep a cool head under pressure
  • Become knowledgeable about your facility’s equipment
  • Direct others so that they are able to think and perform their best

I wouldn’t describe myself as an introvert, but I’m not the most extroverted person in the world, either. To succeed in breakdown response, I strive to become knowledgeable about as many systems as I can. If I know what to do to fix a problem, I can help to guide the team to success.

An animation of Johnny Five, a fictional robot, reading a book extremely quickly.
INPUT. MORE INPUT.  Image credit.

Follow-Up After Breakdowns

It’s also the Control and Automation Engineer’s job to follow up after breakdowns. I think of this role as “harvesting information”. It will be your job to figure out the nitty gritty details of what went wrong. Once you understand the problem, you can communicate it to others. This helps your organization to become faster and more knowledgeable. Many breakdowns consist of the same problems, occurring over and over again.

Once your organization knows the cause of a problem, and how to correct it, you can improve your “MTTR”. MTTR, or “Mean Time To Repair”, is a term that describes how long it takes to recover from an issue on average. Reducing MTTR raises your “availability”. Availability is what percentage of your factory’s productive time is spent actually building units. When you raise availability, you often raise JPH – and that means success for your organization.

Filling Your Organization’s Knowledge Gaps

At times, you may be working with equipment that isn’t commonly used or that does not commonly break. A production line might be down, and there may not be anyone around who is deeply knowledgeable.  In these cases, the Automation Engineer is often asked to follow up on the problem. You may have to contact the equipment’s manufacturer, if necessary. Once you understand the issue, you may be asked to provide technical write-ups and how-to’s for the factory’s maintenance personnel.  Some skill in technical writing can come in handy here.

Another possibility is that you will have to perform a temporary repair to get the line going. In cases like this, you’ll need to come back during scheduled maintenance time to finish the job and restore the equipment to its original state. You will need solid organizational skills to ensure that you are resolving important issues when follow-up is needed.

While breakdowns have the potential to be stressful, they are also sometimes the best teachers. Nothing makes being knowledgeable about a piece of equipment more relevant than when it brings the factory to a halt and no one seems to know how to fix it.

No one begins a career in Controls knowing everything. When you work in automation controls engineering, every day should be an opportunity to learn more about the equipment, network, protocols, and infrastructure with which you’re working. You will greatly sharpen your skills and knowledge as a Controls Engineer by following up on the breakdowns.

Continuous Improvement

Breakdowns are emergent events (they just happen all of a sudden). When the factory stops making parts, it’s “all hands on deck” to get things moving again.  While breakdowns are the “event-driven” part of the job, my “default state” is working on Continuous Improvement projects.

Continuous Improvement is exactly what it sounds like; it is a practice and mindset of continually boosting production capabilities. This is done by working to improve safety, quality, cost, JPH, MTBF, MTTR*, or sometimes just making things easier for the people who supply and repair the automation lines.

*JPH, MTBF, and MTTR are metrics that summarize the productivity of equipment in an automated factory.  JPH, or “Jobs Per Hour,” is simply how many units you are building per hour.  As a general rule, the more, the better!  Mean Time Between Failure is how often, on average, you are able to use a piece of equipment before it breaks down. Mean Time To Repair, explained above, is how long, on average, it takes you to get the equipment back up and running when it does break.

Factories come in all shapes and sizes, but for me at Ford’s Super Duty Body shop, the factory is enormous. There are dozens of lines of automation just on my side of the shop, with each unit travelling more than a mile in its journey to become a truck! Continuous Improvement is all of the little changes and improvements made throughout the entire shop. These changes contribute to a gradual betterment of production, repair, and ease of use.

As an industrial automation engineer, Continuous Improvement is a focal point of my job. Luckily for me, this is a part of my job that I very much enjoy. As I’ll describe below, Continuous Improvement is a chance to develop solutions to my organization’s problems – and then make those solutions come to life.

A picture of a Ford Super Duty body; just the metal cab, unpainted with no trim installed. As an industrial automation engineer, you may have the opportunity to be part of some really cool processes.
This is what I build; the world’s first aluminum heavy-duty pickup.

How Do You Perform Continuous Improvement?

Continuous Improvement is what I find most rewarding, as the task is essentially this:

  • Identify a problem that, if fixed, would improve production or repair in some way
  • Come up with a way that you think you can fix it
  • Research and purchase the equipment, components, sensors, etc. that you would need to make it happen
  • Wait for the parts to come in and then work with other people in the factory to implement your solution
  • Stand back and marvel at the results!

It’s pretty cool to know that you’ve personally organized improvements that subtly alter the manufacturing process for every Super Duty built in America. Projects come in all shapes and sizes.. I’ve worked on projects that took only a few hours, such as adding lights to show operators when to load parts, and I’ve worked improvements that took coordinated efforts during scheduled downtime over weeks, including a modernization project (upgrading the capabilities of older equipment by adding modern processors and interfaces).  

If you want to become an Industrial Automation Engineer, it will sure be helpful if you enjoy this kind of work. Your organization will have issues that it needs to solve through automation engineering – and you’ll be the one doing the engineering. As I mention above, Continuous Improvement is a part of my job that I love. I get to design and implement solutions, and then see those solutions come to life in front of me.

Continuous Improvement In Industrial Automation Engineering

At the time of this writing, I have a project active to automate the shutdown of my side of the shop at the end of each shift – a task that is currently handled manually on each automation line by Production Supervisors.  If everything goes my way, I’ll be taking a process that currently involves about two dozen people throughout the shop placing holds on their lines at certain times, and consolidating the same functionality into a single interface on which the Production Manager can stop the lines however they like for the next shift.

For this project, I will develop new PLC logic, create new PanelView screens, and work with other smart, engaged people. Together, we’ll implement and debug the solution until it’s working flawlessly. Personally, I love to solve puzzles and figure out how things work. If you are that type of person as well, you were made for this part of the job.

An example Human-Machine Interface, of the type that might be found in an industrial factory. This particular screen shows the status of two pumps overlaid on top of a schematic of the overall system. Industrial automation engineers often design HMI screens and program corresponding PLC logic to drive the screens.
“PanelView” is a brand name for an “HMI,” or Human-Machine Interface. HMI’s, in this context, are rugged, programmable touch-screen displays found throughout a factory. You don’t want people to have to go to the controller logic every time there’s an issue. HMI’s provide a GUI with which operators and maintenance personnel can control the equipment.

Succeeding At Continuous Improvement

Success in executing Continuous Improvement will require many of the same skills that you will need when responding to breakdowns. You’ll need to track your projects and purchases. Further, you’ll need to share your vision with others and organize their efforts in completing the work.

Additionally, you may need to justify your purchases to your manager! You’ll need good judgment for what will help the shop and can be done affordably. You will need to know when to defend your ideas, and when to accept rejection gracefully, if appropriate.

You need to be able to approach things somewhat scientifically. It’s important to strive to understand the behavior of the systems that you’re working with to the greatest extent possible, given your available time, so that you can develop a solution that will function as you expect.

As a final note, Continuous Improvement is another excellent opportunity to acquire new and hone existing skills, as you won’t typically be under the pressure of the breakdown environment. When you’re doing development (writing new logic or developing new screens), it will often be in an offline, scheduled downtime type situation. This means you’ll have some room to breathe and figure out how to make things work the way you need them to work. You can play around with new equipment or software and gain experience and skills. You can then bring your new knowledge to future projects – and can call upon it at future breakdowns.

Pros And Cons Of Being An Automation Engineer

While I love my job, every position has some good and some bad. I want to give you an honest sense of what I see as the pros and cons of a career in Industrial Automation.

Industrial Automation Engineering Pros:

  • Technically Challenging I love learning and striving for mastery of new systems. If you’re like me, it’s awesome to be surrounded every day by a fortress of high-tech equipment. It’s your job to become the expert!
  • Pride My grandfather turned 100 the year that I was hired into my current job. I was incredibly proud to tell him that I would be working for Ford Motor Company as an Automation Engineer
  • Pay Many Controls positions should easily reach six figures. This is particularly true if a lot of travel and overtime are involved
  • Benefits If you’re hiring into a position as an Automation Engineer, chances are that it’s with an established company. You can likely expect a decent insurance and vacation package
  • Being a Part of Something – My work in automation has taken me to three countries (my short time in Germany was awesome). I’ve been to awesome major facilities including Ford and Tesla plants. Become a skilled Controls Engineer, and you could work for some of the biggest, most high-tech manufacturers on Earth

Cons Of Being An Industrial Automation Engineer:

  • Long Hours – I have worked 8’s, 10’s, and 12’s for Ford. I work 12-hour shifts on my current schedule, and have worked 12’s throughout most of my other experience in the industry
  • Rotating Shifts – Depending on the company and its seniority policies, you could be stuck periodically working a shift that you don’t like (night shift, weekends, etc.). In some organizations, you might be stuck on a shift you don’t like until someone leaves their position or the company
  • Travel – Depending on the position, extensive travel may be required. This can be very stressful for families. The flip side to this is that you will often be paid more while travelling. So, travel might be a pro, depending on your personal situation
  • Labor Relations – Speaking as a salaried employee in a union shop, your success may hinge on your ability to elicit the best out of others. If your shop operates under a union contract, you might also need to tread carefully in regards to what work you can and cannot perform on operational equipment
  • Stress – When the line is down, the company is losing money. People will be looking to you to get everything back up and running

Weird Schedules Could Be Good Or Bad

Let me offer another point of view in regards to my schedule: while the 12’s are long days, consider that the average person working a nine-to-five job works 10 days out of every 14. Nine-to-five employees work M-F, then off two days, then M-F, then off two, and so on.

Because I work 12’s, I only work 7 days out of every 14. I’d try to explain my schedule, but it’s much easier to just show you. I work the green days on this calendar:

A calendar showing the days that I work.
I told you it’s a weird schedule

Now, this looks a bit strange and horrible at first, but now consider:

  • I have 4 days off in a row every other week
  • Every other week, I only have a 2-day work week
  • If I take 2 days of vacation on my 2-day work week, I am off of work for 9 days

I’ve only ever seen this schedule implemented at Ford, but my point in mentioning this is that in manufacturing, there may be multiple options for you as far as what shift you work. You may be able to find something that really works well for your family and lifestyle.

Automation Engineer Salary – Let’s Talk Turkey

So, what can you expect in terms of salary as an Industrial Automation Engineer? Controls Engineering (again, I’m using the terms “controls” and “industrial automation” interchangeably) is a demanding field requiring solid technical, organizational, and people skills. Automation Engineers can expect to earn a decent income.

Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have a listing for “Industrial Automation Engineer,” “Controls Engineer,” or “Automation Engineer.” Here are the average salaries listed on various career and industry sites for “Controls Engineer” or “Electrical Controls Engineer” (this information last updated 06 Jun 2019):

Average Controls Engineer Salaries

SiteAverage Salary
Glassdoor$80,961
Indeed$79,263
Payscale.com$75,324
ZipRecruiter$81,816
ControlEng.com$101,450
Salary.com (Engineer I)$70,080
Salary.com (Engineer II)$87,891
Salary.com (Engineer III)$105,619

PLC Engineer Jobs – Where And How To Get One

If you have the right education and/or experience to pursue a position as a Controls Engineer (or Industrial Automation Engineer, or PLC Engineer, or however you want to say it ๐Ÿ™‚ ), where should you start looking? Well, like many jobs, there are a lot of avenues by which you can apply for a position as an Automation Engineer. Overall, here are the angles of attack when trying to get hired on as a Controls Engineer:

  • Apply for jobs directly
  • Don’t do it alone! Reach out to your network
  • Also, see if a technical recruiter can help link you up with a job

Getting A Job As An Automation Engineer By Applying To Companies Directly

In my opinion, there are two steps you need to take before proceeding on any portion of your job search:

  1. First, get your resume in order!
  2. Then, get a set of professional, business-casual attire in order!

Got those taken care of? If so, let’s apply for jobs.

To make a long story short, there are a lot of ways to apply for a position as an Automation Engineer online. I don’t discount the notion of walking into a company wearing a tie (or other appropriate business clothing) and handing out your resume. With that said, more and more companies are posting their openings online, which means they’re receiving more and more applications. It’s my personal opinion that you have to respond in kind. By this, I mean that if you are actively pursuing a career as a PLC engineer, you will need to apply for many, many openings in the hopes of receiving a few calls.

Applying for so many Controls Engineer positions online can be painful and time-consuming. With that said, the good news is that you’ll likely be exposed to a variety of positions. In your search, you might stumble upon a PLC Engineer job or two that really piques your interest. Here are some places you can look online for Automation Engineer careers:

Big Job Boards

Of course, there are the common, big-name job boards. Companies in many different industries are posting positions on these boards. There are a ton of these boards out there. Below, you’ll find just a few of the PLC engineer searches from the big boards:

Technical Recruiting Sites

There are also job postings through technical recruiters. Here are a few of the PLC engineer job searches on boards of this type:

Industry-Specific Job Boards

Have a passion for work in a particular industry? You can try job boards that are industry-specific, such as:

Additional Resources

Some other options might include applying for positions with contract companies, or applying to a company or for a position that you admire directly. There are a lot of places on the Internet to apply for a job. So, get your resume together, and get to it!

Reach Out To Your Network To Get Hired As A PLC Engineer

We all know the old adage, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. While I don’t think this is always the case, it is certainly nice to have someone on the inside who can put in a good word for you. At the very least, it’s a lot easier to get an interview if someone mentions your name to the hiring manager.

  • Are you a student?
    • Your instructors likely know people and companies in the industry
    • See if they know of any job openings or if the school has any intern or co-op opportunities
  • Are you an intern?
    • Talk to people within the company or organization for which you work
    • Ask about what you need to do to align yourself for consideration for a full-time position
  • Go to job fairs and other industry gatherings!
    • Search in your area for job fairs, trade shows, etc. related to your industry
    • Dress professionally, bring some resumes in document protectors, and meet people!

Professional Networking In The Information Age

Not everyone is in a position where they know someone who can help them get an interview. While we aren’t all that lucky, we are all lucky enough to have access to an awesome networking platform – LinkedIn.

If you are searching for jobs, or searching for people to fill jobs, it’s absolutely my opinion that you should have an up-to-date, professional profile on LinkedIn. It’s free, it’s easy, and there are lots of people who are trying to fill the positions you’re applying for. Those people are on LinkedIn looking for people like you.

Talk To A Technical Recruiter About Controls Engineer Openings

As you can imagine, searching for a position as an Automation Engineer is hard work. Why take on all of that responsibility yourself, when you can engage someone else (or even several other people) to help you out?

You’re in luck. Technical recruiters will take on some of this workload for you. What’s more, you don’t pay a technical recruiter. The hiring company pays them. In fact, you’re doing them a bit of a favor by reaching out to them. You’ve saved them the time of finding you, the qualified candidate. So, for free, you basically get an agent who will try to link you and your resume with job openings in your area. That’s not a bad deal, if you ask me.

How To Connect With A Technical Recruiter

Linking up with a technical recruiter is easy:

  1. First, open your web browser
  2. Next, type “technical recruiting” in Google
  3. Then, click the Maps option
  4. Lastly, call a recruiter

If you do this, I bet you an ice cream cone that there will be several technical recruiting firms in the city closest to you. With those easy steps, you’ll be on the phone with a technical recruiter.

So, make sure your resume’s up-to-date and call a couple of these folks up. Let them know what education and experience you can bring to the table as a future Controls Engineer. In my experience, there will be several people who are sitting by their phone right now, hoping that someone like you will call. Well, assuming it’s during working hours on a business day, anyway.

Is A Controls Job Right For You?

To me, the biggest question you have to ask yourself is whether you like solving problems and learning about new equipment. ย 

  • Do your interests include electronics and programming?
  • Are you the type of person who has to read and tinker until you understand what you’re doing?

If so, then you might do well as an Automation Engineer. If you’re in it for the money, you could probably fake it till you make it even if your interests aren’t well-aligned. With that said, the engineers I know who are very successful are people who gobble up as much knowledge as they can at every turn, and are regarded as world-class experts in their specialties.

Are you currently applying for a position as an Automation Engineer? Are you still in college, considering possible career paths for your future? Wherever you are in your journey, let me know in the comments below. I’d be happy to provide any insight that I can, and I’d love to hear from other engineers in regards to their own experiences.

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Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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12 Comments

  1. Hello,

    I am about to start my senior year of an electrical engineering degree and have had two co-ops/internships exposing me to PLCs and HMIs. I think I want to become an Industrial Automation Engineer but I am torn because I believe it would be valuable to take power systems related classes to be more well rounded than just taking controls and embedded systems classes. Do you have any advice on what direction would suit me best in your experience?

    Please feel free to email me!

    1. Hi Daniel ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the great question.

      I suppose it depends on your interests and what type of work you would like to be your focus. There may be a number of engineering and supervisory positions at a given company, and the responsibilities of each position may blur together to some extent.

      For example, a Facilities Engineer may work to plan, implement, and repair electrical, pneumatic, and other support systems to provide a plant’s infrastructure. In this regard, I mean that a Facilities Engineer would be likely to be responsible for implementing a new plant air system or a new substation to provide electrical supply for an automation line that is being built. A Facilities Engineer may not do very much work on the PLC, but would need to have a robust understanding of electrical systems across a wide range of voltages to perform his or her job. Having some understanding of PLC programming would be of benefit to the Facilities Engineer, but PLC programming is not likely to be their #1 focus. (At least where I work).

      As an Automation Engineer, I typically plan, implement, and repair automation solutions; that may include modifying existing PLC or robot programming, developing entirely new logic for the PLC or robot, or adding physical assets such as new enclosures, conveyance, robotics, sensors, etc. and writing and debugging the logic to support the new equipment.

      Having some knowledge of power systems certainly helps, and for some tasks, it’s crucial, but electrical design is not the #1 focus of my position.

      To boil down a more concrete answer for you, if you believe that your primary interest is in PLC programming and the development of automation solutions (such as implementing or improving robot and PLC programming, sensor systems, conveyance, actuated motion, etc.), I would want to leave college with a strong familiarity with writing ladder logic on a recognized PLC platform. If you feel that you are already strong in that department, I’d say that taking some courses to broaden your electrical knowledge would be beneficial. If you end up working with Industrial Electricians, you won’t want to come across as though you have no electrical knowledge at all. Further, if you end up working in a large plant, knowledge of substation and other high voltage distribution may be very valuable.

      I hope this is helpful input for you, and this is just my humble suggestion from my own limited experience. ๐Ÿ™‚ Do you have PLC training equipment at your school where you can write and test your own ladder logic?

  2. Hello,
    I recently graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Mechatronics Engineering and I’m thinking of a career in Industrial Automation. Do you have any advice?
    Also, I was thinking of making preparations to get a Master’s degree in Industrial Automation in a university in Canada but I couldn’t find any. I don’t know if you know one or know another alternative. Thank you.

    1. Hi Joshua,

      What type of work interests you? Are you hoping to work for a large company doing PLC programming and debugging? Are you hoping to get into management?

      Let me know and I’ll give you my take.

  3. Long story but making a late career change. I have worked in IT for the past 20 years and before that I was card carrying journeyman electrician working various jobs in the industrial sector for 10 years. I wanted to get into industrial controls years ago but the doors did not open and IT did so went that direction. I do infrastructure support; servers, virtual servers, various enterprise level software but not programming like .Net or SQL. Those disciplines are in other departments. Great skills but most really do not relate to PLC programming directly.

    I know what to study as far as brands and software to learn PLC’s. My question is how do I narrow my focus at the beginning of this transition and learn enough to get hired as a low level PLC field/plant technician. My concern is trying to learn to many different things at one time. Learning all of Rockwell, Omron, Siemens, GE, and other brands, etc.; would be a pretty tall order.

    Do I go on in on one brand and learn all their product lines like Rockwell, Siemens, or something else. If so which line would you choose.

    As far as programming languages which would you learn after ladder logic. Function block, structured text, or something else. Not looking to get into robotics right out of that gate I assume that would negate perl.

    After being out of the industrial sector for 20 years I need to retrench myself in the electromechanical side of the house since my IT skills are current. I am approaching this from a field tech perspective as I think being more of a on site implementer of the technology will be more enjoyable than just sitting behind a desk all day.
    Thanks,
    Justin Morris

    1. Hi Justin,

      It can be tough to get in the door if you don’t have past PLC experience, but I think you have some other great experience that you can leverage if you can at least get an interview.

      Of course, if companies are hiring for a PLC programming position, they hope to get PLC programmers, but as I’m sure you’re well aware, many job posting requirements are “wishlist” items on the part of the hiring company, and a manager may be willing to take a chance on someone about whom they have a good feeling.

      I agree that it’d be a tall order to try to learn multiple platforms simultaneously. I started with some PLC trainers I found online and was able to talk my way into an interview with that knowledge, technician-level debugging experience in the automation field, and some classes I was taking towards my own IT degree that included Robot Programming and Algorithm Analysis.

      I’d suggest Rockwell, but Siemens and Omron are also popular platforms; one idea might be to look at job listings for the types of companies for which you’d like to work and see what experience they’re seeking.

      I would suggest at least a basic familiarity with Function Block, but ladder logic is your go-to; I haven’t worked anywhere that used Structured Text. I would again recommend checking job listings to see what employers are asking for.

      I’d say some good news is that your knowledge of IP networks will surely be of use to you. Virtually everything in the factory in which I work is Ethernet/IP (a CIP protocol that uses IP networks), and so a fair chunk of the troubleshooting I do is network troubleshooting.

      I think your electrician’s license will also be a terrific bargaining chip at the interview table.

      What kind of companies were you hoping to work for?

  4. Hi Skyler,

    Your article on Industrial Automation was very insightful. I am a manufacturing engineering technician student from London, ON. I am interested in becoming a Robotics Technician. So, I would like to know the similarities and differences of a PLC technician and a Robotics technician and what do I need to do to reach my career interest.

    Thanks.

    P.S My background is Mechanical with very little or no knowledge on electrical/plc. I have 3 years of CNC operator/setter work experience.

    1. Hi Eric,

      Thanks for your comment. The response to your question sounds like a great topic for a blog post! I’ll write something up for you soon and post a link for you when it’s ready. ๐Ÿ™‚

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