Kape007

Starting my career

12 posts in this topic

First of all sorry if this is not the correct place to post this.

let me start by giving some info about myself. I am a 35 year old 12 journeyman electrician and I'm seeking a career as an automation engineer (particularly PLC's). I have troubleshooting experience but no programming training. This has been a growing interest for several years which has now turned into a desire. After seeking employment within the industry I all but gave up on learning by experience. However I am currently working for a reputable company which does do automation. My job within the company will not allow much in the way of instruction into the programming world unfortunately. 

My plan is to work closer to home and attend college for my ascoiates degree in automation engineering. After which seek employment within the industry while furthering my programming education by taking more classes (programming specific). 

I guess the purpose for this post is to consult with the pros in an attempt to limit mistakes and try and fast track (as much as possible) a position within the industry. And to maybe pick up a mentor or two along the way!

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Go to Ebay, buy a low cost AB PLC and get RS Logix 500. Let me know if you need help navigating. do you have a pay pal account? I will help you

Look at youtube videos: Allen Bradley PLC training Rs logix 500

Mike

Edited by consulting-resources

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Never even crossed my mind to do that. What better way to get the hands on training I need then to own the equipment 

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Since it sounds like you're hitting walls (ceilings?) trying to work your way in, the associates degree is a good step. It could make potential employers take you more seriously. But definitely find a program that is specific to automation. If you're going to spend a couple of years learning a new set of skills, make it worth while.

You mentioned switching jobs as part of this transition. Make sure that you are at least in proximity to automation, so that you can continue building your level of experience. It will help in your studies as well, since you'll be able to immediately recognize and perhaps even apply the things you are learning to what you see on the plant floor. This will help in retention and understanding.

And getting demo equipment to play with at home is valuable also. A cheap MicroLogix that works with the free version of RSLogix500 is a good idea, since AB is roughly 50% of the marketplace. But you could also look into some of the other brands, so that you have more breadth. The Click series from Automation Direct is cheap, has free software, and is a good starter PLC for home projects.

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Will do! Thank you for your input! I have been asking people I work along side in the field and none have really taken the time to give me any advice.

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Looking online for mirologic 1000 PLC's. Would you guys advise getting a trainer kit or just the controller? I'm thinking I could build my own I/O setup just wondering if it is cost effective to do that as opposed to buying a kit

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For getting your feet into the automation world, consider the market(s) you will be working in.  In manufacturing and machine design in the US, Allen-Bradley has a large market share.  But there are other large players, also.  Within each automation player they may also have multiple platforms.  Rockwell/Allen-Bradley's platforms started (mostly) with the PLC-5 (AI or ICOM were the software packages), then the SLC-500/MicroLogix 1000 (RSLogix500 software), followed by ControlLogix/CompactLogix (RSLogix5000 which is now Studio5000).  

I note this as each platform needs a correct software package; each platform is suited toward a certain market.  You would not want to invest time and money into learning a platform/software that is not a key player in your market.

To keep costs low, you are probably better off to piece a starter PLC rack together.  

One of the cheapest ways to get your hands on a PLC rack, in my opinion, is to find the guy that drives the scrap recycling truck that services customers scrapping electrical panels.  Most large manufacturing plants bring in new equipment that often replaces old equipment.  Many times electrical panels or a whole machine is scrapped to make way for new.  If you can find the source of the old equipment, find the scrap recycler or truck driver, then negotiate buying the scrap panel or just the rack.  

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Update:

Going on year two for my Automation Engineering degree. I’m really enjoying everything I am learning so far and hope to find employment in the field soon. Still have not purchased a rack to play with at home yet ($$$ constraints). 

The only local work I’m finding is in maintenance reguarding PLC’s. I am not opposed to working maintenance in manufacturing or the aerospace industry, which is the biggest player where I live. There are traveling positions available, but I would like to finish my degree before traveling.

Any suggestions?

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If you can get a job in maintenance while you are working on your degree, it will show your employer and other potential employers you can manage work and school at the same time.  It can also show them you are willing to start in a position that will help you be a better engineer.  It will also give you a great perspective from the maintenance side of things.  Sometimes the biggest challenge is getting your foot in the door.  If you are a dedicated, intelligent, hard working person who is not afraid to take on new things, it will get noticed.  The big thing that could hinder you is if travel is an absolute requirement of the job.  Best of luck to you.

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Posted (edited)

For me, automation is a second career. I started out working offshore. When that company was bought out I had to find another job and ended up working maintenance in a factory. That was my foot in the door. Most of my automation knowledge is from learning as I went. In that first job, all I could do was learn from the other maintenance technicians (we were multi-craft so PLCs were a small part of our daily tasks). I was able to use that experience to get a more automation-specific job that also sent me to 1-week programming classes for AB (SLC500, since that's what they used) and Siemens (S7-300/400 in Simatic Manager). After a number of  years and 2 jobs later, I was able to take another class that helped me transition from SLC500 to the Logix 5000 world (it was a very easy transition).

 

Edited to add:
I think working as a maintenance tech first is a great way to gain practical experience. It will make you a more marketable employee and will help you be a better automation technician.

Edited by Joe E.

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On 8/15/2018 at 8:56 AM, Joe E. said:

I think working as a maintenance tech first is a great way to gain practical experience. It will make you a more marketable employee and will help you be a better automation technician.

Absolutely agreed! I have never worked as a maintenance tech, but my first years doing automation were doing a lot of service calls and troubleshooting. A lot of the same stuff that maintenance techs do, though not as much of the mechanical side. It teaches you valuable troubleshooting skills and how to work under pressure. You also get a chance to dig into programs written by other people to see how different people approach programming problems, and what works (or more often, what doesn't....).

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