What sort of work does an electrical engineer do?

I don’t have the time, so I’ll tell you what I do.

My 30th year in the industry has been spent mostly with copper mines. In my first 21 years, I worked for a company providing equipment and solutions to almost exclusively mining customers. My specialization is variable speed drive systems, and control systems. The sales team would visit the customers’ sites to ask about their problems and then we would find solutions using the products we had sold.

I was responsible for system design, equipment design and equipment assembly. When necessary, I provided technical support to the sales staff. After nine years of service, I received my Professional Engineer (Electrical), license. I don’t hold an EE degree. I was employed as a P.E. It was hard work.

When that company was bought out by another, I left and spent a few years working for Consulting/Specifying engineering firms. The first company I worked for was hands-on and involved in the implementation of Distributed Control Systems. This was again at customer sites. While the control system was being set up and started on a major subsystem, I spent four months at one mine. Then, once that was completed, I moved to another site and did similar work. Copper went through a slump and the company where I worked decided it didn’t require a branch office. I, along with everyone else, were laid off.

After a lot of migration in the C/S Engineering field, I quit that company and went to work at another Consulting firm. I was appointed Lead Electrical Engineer for a newly designed mine. It had been in the company’s hands since the feasibility study and through detailed engineering (about 5 years). They were still working on the detailed engineering to prepare for groundbreaking and construction, which took another four years. A staff of approximately 3-5 engineers and 2-3 additional engineers did the actual design work. I attended many meetings, read and drafted a lot, reviewed technical submittals from vendors (like me), and attended more meetings. (Yes, that’s redundant. I attended a lot of meetings. After the project was put on hold engineering-wise due to permit issues I decided to leave and get back to work.

Since the age of four-and-a half years, I have been employed by another provider that specializes in variable speed drives. Here are my last two weeks.

Monday, 2/1 – Mandatory annual Surface Metal/Non-metal and Surface Coal refresher training by the Mine Health and Safety Administration. This training is required to work on any mine site.

Tuesday, February 2, 2012 – I attended a presentation to a potential customer about large-horsepower medium voltage (2300/4160V), variable frequency drives for industrial chilleder applications. Then, I traveled to a small community four hours away to get ready for:

Wednesday, February 3, 2007 – Taught an eight-hour course to 17 miners on the care and feeding low voltage (230/460V), variable frequency drives in industrial applications. (Sales support).

Thursday and Friday, February 4th and 5th. – Installed and first commissioned a variable frequency drive system of 20HP on a metal stamping press. The company I work for has many customers beyond mining. I was not informed by anyone that this customer works only half-days on Fridays.

Monday, February 8, 2008 – The stamping press project was successfully commissioned. You can see it running in this video:

Prepared for:

Tuesday, February 9, 2009 – Participated as a vendor/supporter in a Water/Wastewater training seminar. (More Sales Support – The Water/Wastewater sector accounts for about a third to half of our corporate service/sales volume.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 – We were on-site at a mine in order to help during an eight-hour shutdown. This customer received a 20,000A rectifier with 225VDC. It was installed during the fourth quarter of last year. We installed and tested the modifications and upgrades based on the operation of the rectifier during the shutdown. They reduced the time to just six hours. That was 12 hours of travel.

Thursday, February 11, 2011 – I traveled to an orchard in order to diagnose a 300Hp variable frequency driven on a deep well pump. The customer was having problems, and I am still a qualified service technician. 4 hours round trip plus 2 hours on-site. I must return. I need to go back.

Friday, February 12th – Friday was my day. I was to be looking at an industrial extruder’s retrofitted DC to AC drive. In my absence, others handled it. Instead, I was contacted by an emergency team at 4 AM. A mining customer had trouble getting a 3,500Hp medium voltage drive to start. When it isn’t moving material, the conveyor belt costs them around $100k an hour. It typically moves about 8000 tons per hour. They had an issue with another drive while I was there so I also looked at it. There was a lot of waiting around for equipment to be allowed to go into production (a common occurrence at mines). Six hours driving, nine hours at the site. Both drives were in operation when I left.

It’s still better than sitting in meetings.

As an electrical engineer, this is what I do. You may have different mileage.

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