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ISA Northern California Section




Avoiding Obsolescence

ISA's Role in Avoiding Technical Obsolescence

by Stephen Gaertner, PE

(Stephan's letter in reply to Terry Molloy asking for suggestions on the role ISA needs to fulfill)

20 July, 2003

Dear Terry:

In reply to your inquiry about the role of ISA – I have a topic that pre-occupied me for some time, though I do not know what exactly to ask for.

There are today two types of CS engineering tasks: Software based (DCS, PLC, Autocad, c-language, windows NT  etc.) and traditional (instrumentation).  Even the traditional ones work with databases such as ACCESS and Excel. Many of the older engineers have not make the transition and are out of work.

I had made the transition in 1985 when I landed a lead engineer position to design a Westinghouse DCS for a power plant and the company sent me to 2-weeks of training on the system. In Pittsburgh, Pa. Based on its successful completion of the project, I received another DCS assignment , this time FOIX I/A, at Tosco. As a contract engineer, they did not send me to training, but I “hacked “ myself in.

Another DCS FOX I/A job in the Czech Republic followed, with a $ 15,000 budget for my training and FAT (if you include air fare and hotels).  But being too old to be hired permanently by anyone  and sent training on new systems like Delta-V , I am out of the market. That is happening even to younger ones then me.

Now I am receiving inquiries: Can you do a Delta-V project, an Allen-Bradley PLC project with Wonderware HMI, C-programming etc. ??  No, I cannot. I have programmed an A_B PLC some time ago, but not recently .  I looked at A-B PLC classes; There are about 12 of them by A-B, from hardware to programming to communications to SLC 500, Controllogix etc.– each over $ 1,000.

The “Impact Training Service” offers a 3-day comprehensive training class for  $ 1195, but only given at plant sites, not open to individuals.  And even if they let me in – would I get an A-B job to pay for this? Or would the next inquiry be for a Bailey job or Honeywell TDC3000? And even my FOX I/A skills are by now obsolete- these systems are overhauled every 2  years or so.. .

So – where can ISA help here???  Arrange for low cost training for guys like me with these system houses?  Maybe even work with the state labor departments?  Any ideas?




rev. 8/7/03 GJG