themselves abreast of the latest improvements and technological upgradations that are taking place, instead of narrowly focusing on their departmental concerns.

Money matters

For a fresh engineering graduate, the salary could start from Rs 350,000- 400,000 per annum. It could go well up to Rs 600,000 per annum for graduates from engineering institutes like IITs. However, the scene is not so encouraging for diploma holders.

You could start at a junior level as part of a major project and grow to become a project leader in 10-12 years’ time frame. In most cases, salaries are proportional to the cost of the projects. Notably, the salary is on the higher side for design section.

What’s expected from candidates

Candidates willing to take up a career in automation should have electrical, electronics and communication, instrumentation and control, or computer engineering background. They are expected to have an orientation for fundamentals of automation. It helps if the candidate has done some work in automation lab of his college.

“Courses available in colleges are bachelor’s degree in different areas of technology such as electronics and communication, computers, instrumentation and control engineering, electrical engineering, information technology and mechanical engineering. In addition, there are courses available at the postgraduate level in different specialisations,” informs Dr Alok Prakash Mittal, professor and head, Division of Instrumentation & Control Engineering, Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology.

Recruiters also look for the learning aptitude in candidates. The selected candidates will have to spend initial few years to move around and learn. This is unlike the IT industry where engineers sit in an air-conditioned office in a fancy building. Only those who are willing to fold their sleeves, hop on to a bus and go to plants at far-flung places around the country to learn and deliver are going to make it big.

“Anyone who has to grow in this field must have a field experience. So experience is more important than qualification for higher levels,” says Rathee.

Rockwell Automation does campus selection. “We don’t look for technology prowess, we just want the candidates to be aware of automation fundamentals— like what is automation, what are the tools and components, how are these connected, and how does a programmable logic controller (PLC) or supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) work. We look for people who are agile to the environment and have some curricular engagement. Thus we look for a holistic personality. We prefer candidates who are well-read and aware, and who have opinion on the environment around us—whether it’s technical, political or social,” informs Kidwai.

Once a candidate is selected, “We provide extensive on-job training, coaching and counselling. Apart from that, there is a lot of classroom or hands-on training. Normally, the programme is one-year long—three months in the classroom and nine months on the job,” adds Kidwai.

Fundamentals go a long way

You need to understand automation elements from both the theoretical and practical point of view.

Automation is a step beyond mechanisation. It is the use of control systems (such as numerical control, programmable logic control and other industrial control systems), along with other applications of information technology (such as computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing), to control industrial machinery and processes, thereby reducing the need for human intervention.

Different types of automation tools exist: Artificial neural network, distributed control system, human-machine interface, SCADA, PLC, programmable automation controller, instrumentation, motion control and robotics.

A simple process control loop consists of a measurement system, a controller and a final control element.

Keep abreast of emerging trends

To get an edge over your competitors, learn advanced process control with respect to the underlying theory, implementation studies, the benefits that its applications will bring and projections of future trends.

In particular, the following trends are redefining automation:

Industrial wireless. Wireless connectivity is lowering the consumption of copper cabling, and associated costs of laying cable trenches and securing the safety of networks that cut across hazardous or difficult-to-reach zones. So automation systems can cover more sensory points and relay important information to moving personnel, bringing down the potential response times.

Embedded intelligence and machine- to-machine (M2M) communications. With increasing memory and computing power, embedded intelligence will grow. And so will M2M and M2H (machine-to-human) communications. These will force adoption of interface standards like OMAC. Understanding these nuances is important to redefine productivity and flexibility norms in future factories. With better understanding, engineers will also be able to integrate energy management and environment control strategies with different kinds of recipe management or production cycles.

Web services and applications integration. Maintenance and audit functions can now be conducted without specialists having to fly down to the machine location. They can connect through Web services. If a human intervention (change of parts or in the application software) is needed, the local person can be guided to make the change.

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