Hunter Campbell’s supply chain salary & employment forecast series profiles roles within the Supply Chain job family, including jobs in demand, wages, and employment prospects.
In our next instalment, the role of Automation Engineer is in the spotlight.
What does an Automation Engineer do?
In an industrial setting, an Automation Engineer sets up the automation of manufacturing processes. These processes govern the production and delivery of products. The aim is to streamline the manufacturing process, radically increase productivity, and maximise efficiency, all while maintaining product quality, and adhering to internal processes/procedures and external regulations.
Automation Engineers work across a vast range of sectors such as electricity generation, car manufacturing, food processing, water treatment, pharmaceutical manufacturing, beer making, mining, etc.
An Automation Engineer must understand the process and its needs in order to select the appropriate instruments to monitor and control all necessary variables. This work includes:
- Working with Process Control Engineers to develop an automation system to control the process.
- Choosing and programming a controller and establishing communication between the sensors (inputs), actuators (outputs), and controller.
- Simulating, installing, testing, and managing electrical or mechanical automation.
- Monitoring the automation processes on an ongoing basis.
Key skills required
The specific skills and knowledge needed will vary widely between roles depending on the manufacturing processes involved and the product being produced. General tasks can include:
- Identification of new opportunities for automation within the manufacturing process.
- Management of project teams.
- Designing new automation equipment or processes
- Writing reports for management and colleagues outlining new concepts, testing outcomes, and ongoing efficiency.
- Programming new automated components to the manufacturing process
- Developing and maintaining clear and accurate documentation of automation equipment or processes.
- Staff training where necessary – after implementing new processes or equipment or making changes to existing ones.
- Troubleshooting automated processes or equipment when errors occur.
Generally, employers prefer candidates with a strong background in science when hiring an Automation Engineer. Attending a college or university to secure a degree in science, technology or engineering will put you in a good position. These could include:
Bachelor’s Degree in Automation
Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science
Bachelor’s Degree in Process Control
Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering
Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering
Additionally, consider pursuing an internship with an engineering company while you’re studying to gain hands-on experience to take your classroom studies into a real-world environment.
High-performing Automation Engineers are in high demand. They are an important cog in the manufacturing wheel, and a good one can make a world of difference. I this role, you will collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders, gaining valuable experience working with cross-functional project teams. This means your day is full of variety and offers a career that is extremely fulfilling. Progression can be into lead roles within an engineering or automation team. Depending on the structure of the company there could be the opportunity to move to a director of automation.
We believe the quality of Automation Engineers in New Zealand is good and improving. With our primary industry and manufacturing spread across the country, there are ample opportunities. As companies look to commission new technology the need for good automation engineers is only going to grow.
Salaries of Automation Engineers vary depending on the level of experience and the responsibilities within a role. A Junior Engineer starting out in their career could expect a salary between $70,000-$90,000. Once you gain experience and show your depth of knowledge, looking after the equipment and optimising production, you would then step up into a bigger role paying a salary between $100,000 to $125,000. Senior Automation Engineers looking after single, or multi-site complex production/manufacturing environments would demand up to $150,000 base salary plus.
These salaries will vary depending on the industry, company size and levels of responsibility.