Controls engineers take the various components of the project and make them actually work. A controls engineer may set up a complete system within a production facility from reading the blueprints through to actually starting up the system, testing, making corrections and troubleshooting issues. These systems can include water systems within plants, electrical controls, power controls or any other type of system within the plant or manufacturing facility. Control engineers must be able to work with a variety of different systems as well as have good mechanical and electrical abilities. A natural ability to understand how things work and how to fix things that don’t is a great asset.
Since many of the new plants and manufacturing industries use computer programmed and monitored controls it is now important for a controls engineer to have basic computer knowledge. Those controls engineers that work on the actual programming of the system will require advanced experience working with the various computer control systems. The controls engineer also test controls, verifies their accuracy and effectiveness and performs routine maintenance on the controls in the system.
A controls engineer may be employed full-time by a large plant or production facility or may work on a project-by-project basis. For those control engineers that are self-employed some of their career responsibilities include marketing their services to plant managers and construction companies to obtain future work. Traveling and flexible work hours are part of the job requirements for a control engineer. Working with others, communicating information to managers and plant supervisors is also part of the job.
Common work activities include:
- Meeting with plant managers, contractors and crew managers to obtain work on a project or with a company.
- Reading blueprints, working with labors to install the various systems in the plant according to requirements.
- Programming, testing and correcting problems within the various systems.
- Monitoring controls, verifying accuracy and correct functioning of various controls in the system.
- Adjusting or modifying existing computer programs or programming new systems according to regulations and guidelines.
- Problem solving programming or systems problems with regards to controls or systems issues.