Blog Post

Why Are We Here?

Stephen Reilly, ProSys

In InTech magazine’s September / October 2015 edition, Dr. Peter Martin noted, “Engineers, as a group, tend to be among the most self-critical people I know. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the daily challenges that we forget to take a step back and look at the importance of what we have done and continue to do.” His message though isn’t so much about recognizing what we do, but why we do it in the first place.

While I’m still relatively-young in my career, I have reflected on the quote recently, and there’s been some decent soul-searching conducted in the process. At the start of my career, I had two contractor stints at large firms: the first at a fertilizer plant in Saudi Arabia and the second at a petrochemical refinery here in Louisiana. While both provided some enjoyable memories and introduced me to colleagues I hope to maintain contact with throughout my professional life, I found myself uninspired by the slow pace in which the teamwork was accomplished and the motives by which the work was driven. In those settings, the process control engineer had a great share of responsibility that seemed to go unrecognized and misunderstood by the management there.

The experiences with operations at those larger firms have inspired my perspective though when it comes to the project work I currently handle. When a dynamic alarm management rationalization and implementation project has me review thousands and thousands of alarms on a DCS unit, I am motivated to get it done as proficiently and quickly as possible because I know each day it takes is another enduring shift for the operators hearing incessant, nuisance alarms that disrupt and hinder their performance, leaving a constant ringing in their ears. When a customer needs hundreds of operator graphics updated from the old, black-background-and-neon-colored-text screens of the 1980s to a more modern HMI standard, I know I’m helping to reduce the operators’ eye strain and to more effectively convey how the process works to new trainees. And whenever any process-controls-related service is asked of me, I am always happy to share my insights picked up along the journey of working with the various clients I get the privilege to interact with, knowing it can improve the safety and efficiency of their day-to-day operations.

So, take a step back yourself, my fellow engineer, and may you appreciate what you do as well!