Military veterans in industrial automation

By Renee Bassett, InTech Chief Editor

OCT 2nd ed AWS Img

As Chief Editor of InTech magazine and also Automation.com, a subsidiary of ISA, I go to a lot of conferences. I get to meet ISA members and potential members, users of ISA standards, and other professionals active in the art, science, and challenge of industrial automation.

Whether it's an "I'll never retire!" systems integrator on his fourth or fifth industrial-adjacent career or a new graduate of a control engineering program looking to find his place, I love talking to people about how they got into automation. That's because industrial automation professionals are a rare breed-part architect or auto mechanic, part physics professor or lab rat, part electrician and computer scientist.

They often seem to have come out of nowhere and landed in a profession that fits. I always wonder how that happens, because it's not like kids are being taught at a young age how to close a control loop. Even with encouragement toward science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, you don't see kids dressing up as instrumentation technicians for Halloween.

Many of the people I've talked to found their way to chemical plants or manufacturing facilities after childhood, and often after time in the military. It seems years of mastering the systems on a Navy ship can make PID loops and multivariate control charts seem like an easy next step. I was reminded of this recently by Chad Storlie, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer, author, and adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota - Carlson School of Management.

Storlie was talking to me about National Hire a Veteran Day (25 July) and about his website, CombatToCorporate.com. His message is that when organizations and individuals translate and apply military skills to businesses of any kind, they immediately produce results and are cost effective. Here are three of his 10 reasons why military veterans might find success in industrial automation:

  1. The ability to work 24-7-365 in all weather with great results. The world of logistics, retail, food service, hospitality, manufacturing, and finance are now 24-7-365. Military veterans inherently understand the importance of working to high standards with a dual focus on quality and safety at any day and hour.
  2. They understand they must work their way up. Every military veteran started his or her military career at the bottom. When military personnel transfer into a new military unit and duty station, they must relearn the ropes, learn the culture, and learn how the new team operates. Veterans understand they must come into a new organization, learn the ropes, and demonstrate their proficiency for a new position. This understanding, that starting at the bottom does not mean that you remain at the bottom, is what makes veterans great entry-level employees.
  3. They will pick up the trash. One of the first things military organizations do in the day is walk their area of responsibility and pick up trash. Picking up trash gives everyone a level of pride in their organization. Also, as Navy carrier operations demonstrate, making everyone walk the carrier deck looking for objects that could damage aircraft creates a safer, more effective, and higher operational unit.

These and other reasons make military veterans excellent industrial automation employees. Are you one? I want to know more about your experience. Talk to me about being a military veteran in industrial automation, or working with one, or hiring one. You can reach me at rbassett@automation.com, rbassett@isa.org, or www.linkedIn.com/in/rrbassett.

About the Author

Association News fig 1Renee Bassett is chief editor for InTech magazine and Automation.com, and publications contributing editor for ISA. Bassett is an experienced writer, editor, and consultant for industrial automation, engineering, information technology, and infrastructure topics. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and English from Indiana University, Bloomington, and is based in Nashville.

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