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Question about new hires
4

Question about new hires

Question about new hires

(OP)
I am just starting the last semester of my master's degree in Measurement and Control Engineering at a university in the US. Upon graduating, I would like to be a control engineer in the wood products industry. I am trying to get an idea of what it would be like as a new hire. How do new hires generally start out? I realize this may depend on the company, but what is the training learning curve like?

RE: Question about new hires

Does the wood products industry even use control engineers?
You might need to widen the scope of your search.

Training, today? Maybe a couple hours from HR, covering how to find the toilets, and now not to get in trouble with HR, e.g. by being not perfectly politically correct.



Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Question about new hires

Wood products? You mean paper?

Yes, there are control engineers for the paper industry (I'll shorten this to "paper" in the rest of this post). But most of those jobs are in plants, where a masters degree doesn't really help you....although I highly recommend working in a plant to start. I've worked with so many experienced engineers who are designing things and never set foot in a plant. With plant experience, you will definitely have a step up from some of your peers. There is not much new control going on in Paper, most...if not all... of the advanced control has already been developed. A lot of the industry (not just paper), has gone to using contract engineers as well.

You will want to expand your search to petro-chem (if oil prices rise, there will be a lot of projects), pharma, refining, oil and gas...or even one of the Process Control Integration firms.

Training curve depends on if the company you chose has a mentor or not. I was fortunate to have one. When interviewing, ask them if they have a mentor program available. I just had to re-do 6 months of someone else's work (different company). It was clear that person didn't have a mentor.

______________________________________________________________________________
This is normally the space where people post something insightful.

RE: Question about new hires

There are still sawmills around guys, especially in the northwest. Yes, it is a limited market. However, I just seen an opening yesterday for a control/automation engineer at a sawmill in eastern Washington. If he wants to get include automation in his search, he will find opportunities.

RE: Question about new hires

2

Quote (MikeHalloran)


Does the wood products industry even use control engineers?
Such ignorance and arrogance!!!!
The saw and veneer mills are some of the most sophisticated systems in industrial America. How many wood products companies are in the fortune 500? Think about it. No two logs are the same but they are scanned and their dimensions found within fine tolerances. Then the optimal way of cutting the logs or blocks is determines and hydraulic actuators precisely position the logs or blocks to get the most return by value.

Mechbone, if you want a job in the wood products industry just contact me. I am easy to find.
The two biggest players are USNR in Woodland Washington and Comact in St Georges Quebec CA.
However both these companies have offices in the US or Canada and even abroad,
I also know the smaller companies.
I know this industry well because over 90% of them are my customers.

The only problem I see with the saw and veneer mill industry is that it is a boom or bust industry. You must be good to make the cut when the housing market goes bad.



Peter Nachtwey
Delta Computer Systems
http://www.deltamotion.com
http://forum.deltamotion.com/

RE: Question about new hires

2

Quote (controlnovice)

There is not much new control going on in Paper, most...if not all... of the advanced control has already been developed. A lot of the industry (not just paper), has gone to using contract engineers as well.

Quote (PNachtwey)

The saw and veneer mills are some of the most sophisticated systems in industrial America.

I.e., the control engineering is done, once, when the plant is new, or a particular machine is new.
After that, you might need a skilled tradeperson to fix what breaks, but there's no continuing need for engineering.

Hence, no need for on-site control engineers; you just rent someone like Peter or controlnovice when needed.

I.e., a contract engineer.

But, a contract engineer is expected to arrive ready to be productive immediately; ask for mentoring, and you'll be out before your first coffee break.


Which leaves the chicken/egg problem of how a new grad gets enough experience/ mentoring to even get hired by a contract house as a contract engineer.
I don't know.
In days of yore, large companies built and maintained in-house staffs for most of their needs, promoted from within, and trained/ mentored people into whatever they predicted they'd need, eventually.
Then the World changed.
Now every MBA expects to be able to steal or rent whatever engineering skill is needed for exactly as long as it's needed, and no more, and spend zero dollars training anyone, except of course new MBAs.

Maybe you can find a small old-fashioned company that likes to grow its own talent.
If they have MBAs, forget it.





Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Question about new hires

Has Snorgy hijacked Mike's identity...?

You both make very good points from different perspectives. Most of the time I see the world from the operation & maintenance perspective, much as Mike does. It's rare that the opportunity arises for someone in plant ops to develop specialist knowledge to the level that Peter has working in design.

RE: Question about new hires

The sawmill scanning and optimizing machines are too complex for contract engineers unless they were previously from the company that made the machines.

Quote:


In days of yore, large companies built and maintained in-house staffs for most of their needs, promoted from within, and trained/ mentored people into whatever they predicted they'd need, eventually
Only Sierra Pacific has its own engineering staff now. Weyerhauser had its own engineering staff back in the 1980s but I think they have cut that back a lot. It is hard to compete with USNR and Comact ( the Bid Group ).

A new person can say he is willing to travel. Both USNR and Comact sell around the world. If you don't mind being at some place for a month at a time then offering to travel will be a plus.

Steel mills also take a long time to commission. There are only about 200 control engineers that start up steel mills around the worlds. There are only about 10 still mills being started up max each year. I have been to the remote parts of Turkey and India helping to start up steel mills.


Peter Nachtwey
Delta Computer Systems
http://www.deltamotion.com
http://forum.deltamotion.com/

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