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Old January 21st, 2018, 05:07 PM   #1
mandzhalas
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Is your job stressful?

Hi i am mature student graduating in mechanical engineering next year. I am loving my plc programming classes and seriously thinking about long term career in automation. I know its well paid and that sometimes it can be very fast paced, but would you say that automation engineer is a stressful job?
All i want is career that will make me financially stable without major stress...
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Old January 21st, 2018, 05:30 PM   #2
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Since every individual has his own definition of "stressful", it's hard to say.
How will you react to the production manager asking you, "do you know how much downtime costs on this line"? How good are you at improvising a Plan B when Plan A doesn't work out? Is that "stressful"?
The reality of field commissioning is that the controls/automation person is the last person to get to go home. Consequently you will be expected to deal with whatever issues come up with your equipment, regardless of whether or not they have anything to do with your control system. Do you consider that "stressful"?
Do you know enough about physics, chemistry, thermodynamics, strength of materials, etc to be able to hold your own when the boss asks you to "fix it in the PLC code"? Would you consider it "stressful" to be asked to do so?
Read the PLC Laws over at MrPLC.com. The situations described there are based on real-world experience. If you found yourself in any of them would you think it was "stressful"?

Last edited by Steve Bailey; January 21st, 2018 at 05:34 PM.
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Old January 21st, 2018, 05:32 PM   #3
bguinn
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From my end, it can be very stressful. As you will find out soon, it is hard to find qualified people to do the other maintenance mechanical and electrical jobs. So the automation engineer becomes the swiss army knife so to speak. We lead projects, develop specifications, install, commission, troubleshoot, maintain and improve all kinds of equipment. In my position I have to become a process specialist and understand the machine better than anybody else. Not that it is not rewarding and secure, but I have many late nights, early mornings, weekends, holidays and late night calls to maintain that.

I have seen some who seem to be able to turn it off at the end of the day but unfortunately I have not been that lucky.
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Old January 21st, 2018, 05:34 PM   #4
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If you let it, the job can be very stressful. Mostly the bits that don't involve programming. Make sure you regularly make time to reflect on your work, and don't let yourself get into bad habits. Don't take on too much work, and be comfortable telling people what a reasonable amount of work is. Pace yourself so you can do a long steady amount of work, rather than short bursts of 110% effort.
Never stop learning. You may find yourself being the only PLC guy in a company, and if so it is critical that you make friends with a nearby PLC person and compare notes. If you can't find him or her, get one of your suppliers to set something up.
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Old January 21st, 2018, 10:35 PM   #5
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It is very stressful when you get to site - no one and nothing is ready - everyone is running around like a headless chook - you sit around for 3 days waiting for them to get finished and then have to do a 5 day commissioning job in a day and a half! Situation normal - and the builder/client is running around waving the liquidated damages piece of paper because the job is behind schedule - caused by the of course. I always keep sending and keeping emails (a trail) telling the builder/client they are holding me up and by how long. Also warning them that unless everything is ready on time it will be their fault not mine. I am always the last in of course to do the commissioning and sometimes I think it would be easy for me to get hit with liquidated damages as I am always the last doing the commissioning so I keep an email trail to keep my a*** covered!
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Old January 22nd, 2018, 12:01 AM   #6
Aardwizz
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Understand that "stress" is the result of holding two competing and incompatible thoughts in your mind at the same time (c.f. cognitive dissonance).

You think that the program is fine, yet things aren't working as they should. You expect your boss to be understanding, your clients to be organized, and both to have reasonable expectations; instead, they're jerks. You think that you can have a task done in a day (because that's how long the schedule says it will take), but it doesn't. You think you are good and smart, but keep making dumb mistakes.

If you can manage expectations, both your own and other's, you will have a lot less stress in your life. But that's easier said than done.
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Old January 22nd, 2018, 01:50 AM   #7
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An old boss of mine had a saying - 'stress is a state of mind and you have to have a mind first'! Ha ha.
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Old January 22nd, 2018, 02:38 AM   #8
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If done right, the job can be very stress free. I have worked in a large factory, and had to propose my own projects for the year and manage my own workload.
Some of the projects saved the company a lot of money.
Some of the projects made the operator's life easier.
Some of the projects made the maintenance team's life easier.
Everyone was happy, especially me.
One thing I have noticed is if your time is either not costed at all, or even if your extra after hours time is not costed, this can increase stress, as others will come up with ideas like "we don't need a sensor there, we can just write some [elaborate] code." Much easier to say "well, sure that will be 100 hours of development, then maybe 4 hrs of support for the first 10 systems, so maybe £10,000 cost for the software? I also think it will be less reliable and hard to maintain when I leave." Than "I don't have the time."
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Old January 22nd, 2018, 03:42 AM   #9
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That is fine AustralIan - factory - protected environment - Yes planning and all that is fine and can be controlled. Builders and the like cannot - they are not even builders anymore - bean counters and subbies! I work as a subbie and cop the **** that has been going on for months/years at the end of the day - just have to get it done and out. The bean counters and lawyers employed by the builders make sure that all blame is put on to the subbies - it is a whole different world. That is OK - I get the job done fast. Bit of stress because they are not ready - go and tell them they will get an invoice because I am there too early - get paid - NEVER! The joys of working for oneself. Good thing I am quick and focused. The trick is that I get shitty because someone else has stuffed up or not ready - walk out of the site and turn off - no more stress - get a good feed and sleep and go back to do battle the next day. I have managed divisions of multi national companies over the years and you learn! Went back to my trade working for myself - never happier - only one boss - 'she who must be obeyed'. One has to learn how to manage it - that is all.
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Old January 22nd, 2018, 04:17 AM   #10
Ronnie Sullivan
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Someone said it earlier; You are the last to go home.
The management and bosses are getting more and more irate that the job is behind schedule.
People haven't turned up, materials are missing, they have changed their minds on how it should work and you have not even started your bit yet.
Suddenly the floor is clear and everyone has gone - just you and angry management.

'How long will it be?' That is a stress inducing question with so many answers you want to say - but don't.
They will tell you it should have been finished on a certain date, many times, with no consideration of the previous delays.
You are the fall guy.

How you handle this is whether you can handle stress or not
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Old January 22nd, 2018, 08:04 AM   #11
John Morris
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STRESS:::"The confusion created when ones mind overrides the body's basic desire to choke the living sh*t out of some a**hole who desperately deserves it"

Plying the trade in a manufacturing environment will be stressful almost all the time because, frankly, it's NEVER ENOUGH. But the more you know and become familiar with the machines and process, the operators and supervisors, the easier it will become. Stress is reduced from "overwhelming to manageable to a nuisance". Like the 2 am wake up calls. I did this for some 27 yrs.

I work for an OEM now. I have been doing it long enough that it's fairly easy to figure out how to meet customers expectations, So not very stressful. The highest level of stress is the first start of a new machine. I have almost enough programming under my belt that it's more of a giddy feeling rather then stress.

The absolute worst though, is after the initial start ( manual controls check ) you push the start button and your machine cycle begins for the first time in auto. You struggle to listen for anything to go wrong, your hand hovers over the e-stop, first cycle done, next, valves shift, 50 hp pumps start then....................BANG..............assembly shop just dropped a 3 inch steel pipe on the floor. You'll spend the next five minutes pulling your stomach out of your throat. Your voice cracks as you blurt out " YOU A**HOLES".

Might as well just go out back and smoke another cigarette.

Wouldn't trade it for the world.
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Last edited by John Morris; January 22nd, 2018 at 08:39 AM.
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Old January 22nd, 2018, 08:40 AM   #12
PLC Pie Guy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Morris View Post
Plying the trade in a manufacturing environment will be stressful almost all the time because, frankly, it's NEVER ENOUGH. But the more you know and become familiar with the machines and process, the operators and supervisors, the easier it will become. Stress is reduced from "overwhelming to manageable to a nuisance". Like the 2 am wake up calls. I did this for some 27 yrs.
I can relate to this. IT IS NEVER enough. Also, the more you know, the more they expect, usually they expect it for nothing!! Stress isn't even the job that expects you to respond to call ins 365 days with 0 compensation as a one man team, stress is the wife angry cause the phone is ringing yet AGAIN at 5:30am on Sunday morning cause you are the only "GUY". Again, "stress"ing the fact that this is expected for nothing!!!! Then once again, for the hundredth, no thousandth time you pull them out of the flames, for free! Only to receive nothing from them for overtime, bonuses or even Xmas, except yet another holiday call! On your own time of course!

Oh, and the phone will ring at every children's concert, holiday, doctor appointment, suppers with friends and every single time you go more than 45 minutes away from town to do just about anything!

Who you work for will greatly determine how much stress you have! MOST of them will feel very entitled and expect everything for nothing. That's my experience anyway. Seems like you have to fight tooth and nail for everything you will get from a greedy employer. You better find the work interesting cause often times, it will be the only reason you are still there!

I have nearly 10 years of this manufacturing call in bull *** in now and I'm sick of it!!!

Some days, I envy the WalMart greeter!
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Old January 22nd, 2018, 08:54 AM   #13
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Probably more depends on the individual. I would say a better question is do you embrace a challenge, because those are definitely a part of it. If you like overcoming challenging puzzle type problems, then you will enjoy yourself.
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Old January 22nd, 2018, 08:55 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Morris View Post
The absolute worst though, is after the initial start ( manual controls check ) you push the start button and your machine cycle begins for the first time in auto. You struggle to listen for anything to go wrong, your hand hovers over the e-stop, first cycle done, next, valves shift, 50 hp pumps start then....................BANG..............assembly shop just dropped a 3 inch steel pipe on the floor. You'll spend the next five minutes pulling your stomach out of your throat. Your voice cracks as you blurt out " YOU A**HOLES".
Me and a colleague of mine started a habit of just before starting something to test say to each other "It's not going to work!" to manage this feeling. Basically you start from a position where you "know" something is wrong, you just need to catch it, but either way it's a positive feeling of accomplishing something or making progress.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronnie Sullivan View Post
Someone said it earlier; You are the last to go home.
I've quit jobs because of this. I accept that I'm the last, I also accept that I need to do the mechanical troubleshooting to get my code working because the problem is always in the control system, what is hard to accept is when companies don't value your time and leave things wide open so that you have to literally do development on the plant floor or not give you enough tools to test as much as possible the system you are going to put in place.
I classify this as unneeded stress, but the bean counters don't care because it's not their time away from home.

Overall I think it's mostly to do with the managing expectations and also being experient enough to hold your own when it comes to the end of the project and people are hovering over trying to get things moving.
Others have given very good advice, I would also add that to avoid stress you should definitely make sure that no production happens without paperwork signed. Plenty of people out there won't accept equipment despite it being "printing" money. Always be in charge and never hand anything over unless it has been officially hand over.
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Old January 22nd, 2018, 11:04 AM   #15
geniusintraining
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronnie Sullivan View Post
Someone said it earlier; You are the last to go home.
And you are the first to be called when something goes wrong
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