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The not-so-secret-life of Field Engineers
June 13, 2018
Field Engineers at work.
Opening and closing of valves is just one of the many duties of a field engineer. Valve work difficulties range from “no sweat,” a.k.a. easy-to-open valves, to “valves that would make you give up and cry,” a.k.a. almost immovable valves.
Field En·gi·neer (n.)/fēld ˌenjəˈnir/
Monitors, controls and responds to any and all issues concerning local operations of pertinent plant equipment.
What you thought you knew
Contrary to popular belief, a field engineer’s job is not just “a walk in a park.” FEs possess a wide array of skills and attitude including, but not limited to, hard work, multi-tasking, and a keen eye for abnormalities. To effectively perform their functions, field engineers ensure that they are always physically prepared and mentally alert. In keeping the plant running, every second counts. A minute of inaction or hesitation can result to avoidable loss of the unit.
“Bisag naglakaw lakaw ra mi, dili mi chill kay ga monitor mi, dili lang nag suroy suroy” (We are not just wandering around the plant aimlessly, we monitor [everything].) - Carmelo Lao, Field Engineer
What they actually do
Log sheet Monitoring
Ensures that equipment are operational and in good running condition
Report any abnormalities and problems in the field
Rectify minor problems
Respond to emergencies
Assist during troubleshooting
Supervise contractors doing field activities
Startup and shutdown activities
Execute orders from CREs, supervisors and operations manager.
What sparks their circuits
Knowledge and experiences gained are what the field engineers love most at what they do—the application of their theoretical learning versus what the actual experience teaches them. Lessons learned in the field coupled with a good working environment provided by their colleagues make work stress bearable.
“As a Mechanical Engineer, you’ll get immersed with many equipment—different types of equipment with different conditions, operational parameters and potential problems. Work is not predictable”-John Mark Diel, Field Engineer
Physical and mental exhaustion are not the only challenges that FEs have to face. One of the many difficulties of the job include:
encountering new problems and figuring out how to troubleshoot them
conflicting or overlapping instructions resulting to miscommunications
familiarity of the system
responding to two simultaneous activities at different locations
making critical decisions that could affect the operation of the plant
access to appropriate tools
In addition, staying up all night during night shifts and dealing with its repercussions is not really a piece of cake.
But despite of all these challenges, FEs love and enjoy their job.
“Maabugan mi, mainitan, masakitan, masingtan.” – Rino Barioga, Field EngineerA sense of joy
Getting the tasks done and having a productive day at work give satisfaction to an FE. This, along with properly addressing a problem in a timely manner, identifying and reporting a critical abnormality which might have led to a trip, successful troubleshooting and being able to share knowledge to co-FEs.
The most satisfying part of being an FE is being able to relax after everything is normalized.
In a nutshell
Field engineers are the senses of the power block—they see, feel and hear what is beyond the walls of the control room. They handle equipment that can only be operated in the field (manually) and ensure that these run smoothly, and that all orders and procedures are carried out correctly. They are the first line of defense against emergencies and problems and they report anything unusual to avoid unplanned shutdown. All this, while being exposed to various hazards inside the plant.
Truly, a power plant is never complete without its field engineers.
“Ang among work is maybe not as important as CRE's pero significant gihapon mi kay naay dili maabot, makita, madunggan ug ma feel didto sa control room na kami sa field lang ang makakita.” -Dennis Quitoriano
“If you want to witness how the plant runs from the start—to know every nook and cranny, be an FE.” - Khalil Justin Catacutan