Welcome to this comprehensive guide where we delve into the exciting and dynamic world of automation technicians. By the end of this article, you will understand not only what they do but also the skills they possess, the industries they work installation and maintenance companies are in, and the opportunities available in this burgeoning field.
Automation is no longer a wave of the future—it’s the present. In an increasingly digital world, automation technicians play an integral role in developing, maintaining, and optimizing automated systems. But what exactly does that mean? Let’s find out.
What Is An Automation Technician
An automation technician, sometimes referred to as a bench technician or a controls technician, is a professional who specializes in creating, managing, and maintaining automated systems. These systems can range from manufacturing assembly lines to sophisticated robotics. Essentially, wherever there’s a process that has been or can be automated, the expertise of an automation technician is vital.
Role And Responsibilities Of An Automation Technician
The responsibilities of an automation technician are multifaceted and can vary greatly depending on the industry and specific job. However, their primary task is always to ensure that automated systems function efficiently and effectively. They design and install equipment, oversee system maintenance and repair, troubleshoot issues, be production support technician and work on software development and integration. They are the backbone of any automated operation, working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly.
Automation technicians trouble-shoot, service and fix computerized systems and devices that are designed to reduce human interaction, such as robotic assembly devices, PLCs and computer-controlled building air-conditioning systems.
Automation technicians play a pivotal role in various industries, and it’s estimated that 80% of manufacturing companies rely on automation systems for improved efficiency and productivity.
Skills And Qualifications
Being an automation technician requires a unique combination of technical skills, educational qualifications highly specialized skills, and an inherent knack for problem-solving. Here’s a closer look at what that entails.
Technical Skills Required
Automation technicians need a robust understanding of various technical concepts and systems. Familiarity with programmable logic controllers (PLCs), human-machine interfaces (HMIs), robotics, and industrial networks are crucial. They should also be proficient in the use of diagnostic tools and possess a deep understanding of both electrical engineering and electronic principles. Additionally, strong software development skills, particularly in languages like Python, Java, and C++, are a significant advantage.
Educational Background And Certifications
Typically, an automation or maintenance technician would have an associate degree or diploma in fields such as electronics, automation technology, or mechatronics. However, a bachelor’s degree in engineering could further enhance career prospects. Industry-specific certifications, like Certified Control Systems Technician (CCST) or Certified Automation Professional (CAP), provide additional credibility and demonstrate a commitment to staying updated with the latest advancements in the field.
The average lifespan of industrial automation equipment is approximately 15 to 20 years, underscoring the need for skilled automation technicians to maintain, repair, and upgrade these systems over their operational lifetimes.
Daily Tasks Of An Automation Technician
While no two days may be the same for an automation technician, here’s a snapshot of what their daily work life could entail.
1. Equipment Maintenance And Repairs
Automation technicians and maintenance companies are responsible for keeping automated systems up and running. Regular maintenance checks, preventive measures, and timely repairs ensure that the systems perform at their best without any disruption. This could involve everything from regular equipment checks to replacing worn-out components.
2. Troubleshooting And Problem-Solving
When issues arise with automated systems, it’s up to the automation technician to diagnose the problem and find a solution. This often involves analyzing data logs, conducting tests, and using diagnostic tools to pinpoint the issue. Being able to solve problems quickly and efficiently is crucial, as any downtime developing maintenance procedures can lead to significant losses.
Automation technicians often work with Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), and it’s common for a single technician to be responsible for managing and programming multiple PLCs, ranging from 5 to 20 or more, depending on the complexity of the systems.
3. Programming And Software Development
Automation technicians often need to create or modify software programs that control automated processes. This could involve programming PLCs or developing custom software solutions. A flair for coding and a deep understanding of how software interacts with hardware are vital in this aspect of the job.
4. System Integration And Testing
A key part of an automation technician’s role is integrating new equipment or systems into existing infrastructure. This involves ensuring compatibility with repair equipment, setting up network configurations, and testing the integrated systems to ensure they’re functioning as expected.
The field of automation is advancing rapidly, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is becoming integral to automation and systems integration. It’s predicted that by 2025, there will be over 75 billion connected devices in industrial settings, contributing to the complexity of an automation technician’s role.
Industries And Sectors That Employ Automation Technicians
As automation becomes increasingly prevalent across various sectors, the demand for skilled automation technicians has soared. Here are some industries where their expertise in computerized systems is particularly sought after.
1. Manufacturing Industry
From assembly lines to quality control systems, automation is at the heart of modern, manufacturing processes. Automation technicians are essential in this sector, working to optimize production efficiency and maintain machinery.
2. Automotive Industry
The automotive industry relies heavily on automation for vehicle assembly, testing, and quality control. Automation technicians play a crucial role in maintaining these systems and continually improving efficiency and precision.
Downtime in industrial automation can be costly, and studies indicate that unscheduled downtime costs manufacturers an average of $260,000 per hour, emphasizing the critical role of automation technicians in minimizing disruptions.
3. Pharmaceutical Industry
In the pharmaceutical sector, automation is used extensively in drug formulation, packaging, and quality control. Automation technicians ensure these processes run smoothly, adhering to strict standards for accuracy and hygiene.
4. Oil And Gas Industry
In the oil and gas industry, automation is used for drilling, pipeline monitoring, and refining processes. Automation technicians are needed to maintain these systems and ensure safety and efficiency.
Troubleshooting is a key aspect of an automation technician’s responsibilities, and it’s estimated that 60% to 70% of automation technicians design their time is dedicated to diagnosing and resolving issues in automation systems.
Training And Learning Resources For Automation Technicians
For anyone interested in becoming an automation technician, there are plenty of resources available to help you get started on your journey.
Technical Schools And Programs
Many technical schools offer diploma and associate degree programs specifically designed for aspiring automation technicians. These programs provide both theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience, preparing students for the challenges of the job.
The demand for skilled and experienced automation technicians is evident, with a reported 15% increase in job postings for automation technician roles in the last year, highlighting the growing need for professionals with expertise in industrial automation.
The diverse skills of an automation and process control, technician open doors to various roles in numerous sectors. Some job titles you might come across include Control Systems Technician, Automation Engineer, Robotics Technician, and PLC Programmer, among others. With advancements in technology and the ongoing drive towards automation, the future looks bright for those pursuing a career in this field.