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Career Story: Mechanical Engineer At An Industrial Supply Firm

Mechanical Engineer At An Industrial Supply Firm

Job Title: Mechanical Engineer

Type of Company: The company is primarily a sales distributor and service organization for industrial air and gas compression systems.

Education: BS, Mechanical Engineering, Northeastern University

Previous Experience: After graduating from high school I went into the U.S. Coast Guard. Afterwards I worked at a large metal fabrication and machine shop, working up to machine shop foreman. During this time I earned my engineering degree at night school. My first engineering job was at a now-closed shipyard. From there I moved into my current position.

Job Tasks: My job is engineering support for the company. I go out into the field to perform assessments of the customers' compressed air or gas systems. The smallest compressor system I've worked on is probably about five horsepower (picture a compressor at Home Depot), the largest system over 15,000 horsepower. The assessments include energy usage and savings, process improvements, piping system calculations, controls improvements, re-application of older equipment, and application of the newest energy efficient equipment to the customer's needs.

My responsibilities also involve coordination between and reporting of results to my company's, customers' and outside engineering consultants' personnel. Most of these assessments lead to "green" solutions that yield serious energy and cost savings for the customer as well as environmental improvements at the customers' facilities.

I am also involved with the design, installation and commissioning of new plants and their systems. Much of this design is to implement "green" strategies and solutions into what is considered a mature industry.

I have also been involved with the investigation and failure analysis of equipment after major malfunctions both in the immediate region and as far away as Alaska and south America.

My typical day involves a visit to a facility to install metering equipment and to perform a "walk-through" to baseline the compression system's operations. Back at the office I will perform an analysis of the metered data and generate a report offering improvements to the system with the backup calculations of energy savings. I might have to go out to the inspection area to check a part made by the machine shop for a repair job. Later I might have to speak with a customer's engineer to explain the results of my calculations.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of this job are: Autonomy in that I am the "Engineering Department" that supports our regional sales and service efforts. Within reason I am able to set my own schedule of site visits, prioritize work and the reporting back with the results of my work both internally and to customers.

Facility visits where I get out of the office into the field to look into problems at the customers' facilities. Every facility is different whether it be a bio-tech firm, a paper mill, a 150 year old foundry, a high tech circuit board manufacturer, or maybe a power plant. You get to see how our compressed air or gas systems support the manufacturing processes at the facility.

Interactions with the customers and other engineers. You get a feeling of accomplishment when your site work and calculations lead to ideas that are accepted by the customer and other engineers, implemented, and produce or exceed the predicted performance.

The worst parts of this job: The basic analysis and calculations for most of the facilities follow the same pattern, so that they can get a bit monotonous if you have to spend a long block of days in the office.

When on occasion artificial deadlines are set by others that you don't have control over, you are very pressured to do the job to your own satisfaction.

Job Tips:
1. Get into the field. Look at the work being done at the customers' facilities so that you understand the practical nature of things and not just the theoretical. Book smart is good, but understanding how to apply the theory is irreplaceable.

2. Many opportunities for specific training are available in most fields. Take all that you can to become the expert or "go-to guy" in your chosen field.

3. Get involved and assimilate a broad base of knowledge because every place you work at is different. You will be able to communicate to customers in terms that are applicable to their facilities and processes.

4. Do everything asked of you even if you don't think it is completely applicable or it is beneath you. Any experience will stand you in good stead.

5. You will be surprised at how much those who have many years of experience actually know. Listen to them and apply current practices to better your results. A shortcut to 30 years of experience is to truly listen to and to think about what knowledge is passed to you from those with the experience.

6. Help everyone as best you can and they will try to help you.

Additional Thoughts: Look, listen, think and apply.

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