The year of contentment
InTech Salary Survey: Pay increases look good; satisfaction is up, but so is pressure
By Gregory Hale
At some point during a career, a person needs to understand what job satisfaction is all about. Niraj Kachhadi knows.
The principal consultant for manufacturing IT and automation for Dallas-based Kim Automation Inc. clearly enjoys his career.
“Right now, I would not be willing to change anything about my job. I am satisfied with my job as an MIT (manufacturing IT) consultant, and it is fun,” he said. “I get to use and analyze new technologies for SCM (supply chain management) and MES (manufacturing execution systems).”
Kachhadi isn’t the only one. In the annual InTech/ISA Salary Survey Poll, the results showed when asked about job satisfaction, almost 70% respondents said they were either completely satisfied or satisfied with their position. In the completely satisfied category, 15% responded in the affirmative, while 53% said they were satisfied. On the dissatisfied front, 7% said they were dissatisfied, while only 1% said they were completely dissatisfied, and 23% remained neutral on the question.
Not every day is a walk in the park for Kachhadi, as he finds he often has to marshal the troops together to accomplish the immediate goals.
“The biggest challenge that I face is the co-operation needed between the operations department and the IT department of a client company,” he said. “Since manufacturing IT requires input and expertise from both departments, we always need to work with them. These two departments of any industry that I have worked with are never on good terms with one another, and it takes humungous effort to manage the team consisting of players from both departments. This problem is the root of all other challenges that I might encounter in any project.”
Of those taking the InTech survey: 19% were in management; 54% were engineers; 18% were technicians; and 9% worked in sales and marketing. In addition, 8% held a control systems engineer license, 22% held some other type of professional engineer license, 2% held an ISA Certified Automation Professional certification, and 9% were ISA Certified Control Systems Technicians. The overwhelming majority said they had no certification or professional license.
In terms of the region respondents were located in: 79% said they were in the U.S.; 8% said Canada; 5% said Asia; 4% said Europe; and 2% each for Latin America and South America.
Going back to job satisfaction, one engineer located on the West Coast, who requested anonymity, said he was satisfied with his position, but one of his biggest gripes came from uninformed management.
“Dealing with upper management politics and the fact most have no practical experience when it comes to dealing with engineering issues,” the engineer said. “In a large company, upper management seems to have lots of turnover, especially with managers and directors. The new ones are younger and talk the talk and play the game very well, but when it comes down to it, they don’t understand engineering, but they think they do, which makes it scary at times.”
Whether you are working over a process or in management, in today’s work environment, it is all about increasing productivity, and 62% of survey respondents said they feel increased pressure to improve productivity, 37% said the pressure remained the same from previous years, while only 1% said they felt less pressure to increase productivity.
“The tools I had back (as an engineer) in the late 1970s, the engineer today is an order of magnitude more productive than they were back then,” said Jack Bolick, president of Honeywell Process Solutions. “People panic a little bit when they hear the statistics in 1978—we graduated 78,000 engineers in the lower 48, compared to 45,000 today. You have to remember that 45,000 is probably more productive than the 78,000.”
With an increased level of pressure to hike productivity and making sure all engineers cross their t’s and dot their i’s, engineers dream about the golden days of retirement. The most respondents (27%) said they are 13 to 20 years away, followed by 25% saying they were 21 to 30 years away. Of those respondents in the boomer generation that are getting ready to depart the work force, 4% said they are two years or less away from retirement, while 5% said they were three to four years away, and 11% said they were five to eight years away.
The Baby Boomer generation is getting ready to leave within the next three to five years or so, and that will present a problem for industry leaders.
“It is going to be a challenge as all the knowledge and experience walks out of the industry,” said John Berra, president of Emerson Process Management. “I will also say there was a period of time during the dot com 90s when engineers coming out of school didn’t want to go into process-type jobs. So, I think there is a generation missing in there, but they are now starting to think of this industry as a career.
“It will be a challenge, but meeting the challenge there is technology such as wireless asset optimization, the ability to have mobile workers share and leverage expertise no matter where it happens to be. I also think the industry is being viewed again as a good place to pursue a career. Hopefully, we can attract more people. I know ISA is doing everything it knows how to do to promote the profession, and we are doing it as well within Emerson by working with universities, co-op programs, and donating some of our equipment so engineers have a chance to get to know automation before they get out of school.
“I think we can meet the challenge, but it will create issues for companies as this happens. They may find they have to bring back a few of these folks as consultants.”
Understanding the issue is one thing, but Berra knows there are ways to solve the problem, such as using more software to capture worker’s knowledge. But the other part is just simple on the job training.
“Automation from the very beginning cut down on the amount of people needed to run a process plant,” Berra said. “I don’t think all of this knowledge will be transferred into some software. I still think there is a place for on-the-job training and spending some time with people that really know what is going on. There is a place for education and training, I know ISA does a good job in training, and our educational services organization is one of the most popular and fastest-growing businesses we’ve got right now.
“I think it is a combination of using automation to eliminate non-value-ad kinds of things. We talk a lot about ‘enter it once’ kinds of concepts. We are working toward a seamless integration with our engineering contractor friends. With all the data they deal with, it is an enter-it-once kind of concept from the time we figure out what it is, all the way through to whatever (the data) is arriving at the job site as we start it up. Then that database moves forward to the end user as the installed base data. So, some of those things eliminating some of the non-value added ‘clipboardish’ kind of stuff will help with the shortage of engineers,” he said.
But even after they retire, can engineers truly stay away from working? Forty-five percent said yes, they plan to work part-time or will consult after they retire, while 42% said they were not sure. However, 13% remain steadfast in saying no, when they retire, they are done—they’ve gone fishing.
While some are nearing retirement, there are still experienced engineers working day in and day out. So, it is no surprise 27% of respondents said they had 21-30 years of experience. The second largest response (25%) came from those with 13 to 20 years of experience. Those with 9-12 years on the job came in at 14%, while the gray beards with 31 years or more experience responded at a 13% level. It is interesting that 7% of respondents had two years or less on the job. Does that indicate a youth movement?
In most cases, experience goes hand in hand with age, with 64% of respondents saying they were between 36 and 55. Broken down a bit more, 34% said they were between ages 46 and 55, while 30% said they were between 36 and 45. Of those aged 56 and over, 16% responded, while 17% were in the 26 to 35 category. Just around 3% were 25 and younger.
In terms of salary levels, 25% of respondents said they earn between $70,001 and $90,000, while 23% said they earn between $50,001 and $70,000. Twenty percent said they earn between $90,001 and $110,000, and 13% said they earn between $110,001 and $130,000. On the low end of the spectrum, 4% of respondents said they earned $30,000 and below, and 7% said they earned between $30,001 and $50,000. Going up a bit in salary levels, 3% of respondents said they earned $150,001 to $170,000, while 2% said they earned between $130,001 and $150,000. Just a bit over 1% said they earned $210,000 and above. The rate of pay increase had the most people (26%) saying they got a 3% pay hike this year, while 16% said they earned a 4% increase, and 14% said they garnered a 5% jump. Oddly enough, 14% said they got a 10% or higher pay increase this past year.
With a nice paycheck come expectations and pressures.
This year, survey respondents said the pressure to reduce costs continues to increase, with 60% saying they feel the heat, 37% said it is about the same, and 2% said the cost pressures declined.
Focus on network security and concern over regulatory issues both score 53% in the “stayed the same” category, while 44% said they felt increased pressure to focus on network security, and 45% noticed a heightened pressure over regulatory issues.
Finding the right person to work on those issues is often difficult. That is why when it comes to hiring a new staff person, the number one factor cited by survey respondents was years of experience, with 55% responding. The next highest level was college degree (19%).
Another factor engineers cited as a positive sign is how the industry is expanding and becoming a true global environment.
“Now I can hire a person to do small development work in any foreign country and get the project done well within the deadline,” Kachhadi said. “This global work environment makes it easier to realize complex projects at a fraction of the original cost.”
Dean Reams, an I/E specialist at ConocoPhillips, agrees his work environment is going global. “The company I work for is setting up automation councils and field data councils to help draw on expertise from our worldwide facilities and to help standardize our field automation, data capture, and reporting procedures,” he said.
At the end of the day, knowing what they know now, would engineers follow the same path? “No. I would have gone into bio-med engineering instead,” said Marty Putelis, an engineering consultant with Corner-stone Controls, Inc. in Indianapolis, Ind.
Being on call all hours of the day and night is a problem for Reams.
“If I had it to do over again, I probably would not go into the automation field. I enjoy the work, but I know that there are other opportunities that I could have taken that would offer me more control of my time and money.”
“Without any doubt,” Kachhadi said. “I would be an automation engineer all over again and again. No doubt about that, sir.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gregory Hale (email@example.com) is the editor of InTech magazine.
New face of engineering
With baby boomers getting ready to retire, younger engineers are getting ready to take over. But the question remains: Are they ready?
The annual InTech/ISA Salary Survey asked: Are engineers properly prepared to do automation-related work when they join the workforce? Only 23% of respondents said yes, while 77% said no.
In terms of what skills new engineers are missing when they come to the job, with respondents being able to give more than one answer, the top responses were new engineers lacked business acumen and safety awareness. Both received 36% of responses. Networking and communication protocol and enterprise integration were close behind.