As the Baby-Boomer generation continues to retire and exit the workforce, a new generation of engineers are starting to take on more and more responsibilities in today’s industrial facilities - and often these new responsibilities are added without a lot of training. While new technologies and techniques have replaced some traditional methods, many of these retiring engineers have valuable experience and practical know-how that can help engineers of every generation be efficient and effective.
So here's a list of tips for those engineers who have recently had this added to their list of responsibilities. These suggestions could be from experienced environmental engineers, technicians, operators and others. If you're in the hot seat now, take a look at these points and consider how they might fit at your facility.
Tip #1 - Do Not Blindly Trust Vendors To Do Your Work For You
Do your homework! If a vendor comes in and offers you a new product or service that seems to have potential, examine it thoroughly before making any decisions. Additionally, when you get bids for a project, never assume that the cheapest is always the best. The "devil is in the details" of the scope in many cases, and you may find yourself owning tasks or missing capability that you assumed were included.
Tip #2 - Take Care of the Little Things to Protect the Big Things
When budgets get tight (and they will) there may be a tendency to slack off on the little things. But little parts make or break industrial systems. You might not feel like installing that moisture trap on the compressed air system but when that excess moisture clogs your baghouse filters, which then chokes off the production line, which then shuts down production you have a much bigger problem and much higher maintenance costs.
Tip #3 - Do Not Ignore That Dust Collector - I Don’t Care How Dirty It Is!
Yes, they are dirty. And yes, we know no one wants to jump in and change filters. Most people completely ignore their dust collectors, even viewing them with contempt…that is until something goes wrong. When dust collector issues arise the entire facility is affected. In many plants these kinds of issues can force shutdowns, spoil products, or cause emissions/safety violations, all of which can cost the plants millions in fines and lost productivity. Even though your time and focus is limited, keep your finger on the pulse of dust collector monitoring and be proactive in maintaining them.
For example, ignoring worn-out diaphragm valves will have a cascading effect on overall performance. Replacing them every few years costs little, but it keeps your system operating better, extends filter life, and prevents backups in the dust collector, thereby preventing production delays and shutdowns.
Tip #4 - Do Not Be Too Proud To Use Outside Experts
Sometimes the best investment you can make is to get an expert opinion from outside the organization. Whether its consulting on compliance reporting or dust collector maintenance/operation training, or system audits, these outside experts often locate areas for improvement or equip your personnel with the expertise to better perform their work. Stay alert for signs of "unknown unknowns" - those areas which nobody even warned you to keep an eye on. Of course, carefully review their credentials and references from real situations. Dig into the ROI and anticipate the business concerns - you want to make a difference, but don't want to stake your reputation on smooth talkers!
Conclusion - Listen, Learn and Improve
Some methods belong in the past - take clipboards for instance! But, the truly wise take the knowledge and experience of the past and use it to improve the future. If you are a rising environmental engineer that has just received responsibility for emissions compliance take these lessons to heart. Rather than dismiss the wisdom of those who came before you, consider what works and build on it. By doing so you will avoid awkward transitions that cause numerous issues while also bringing fresh perspectives and new ideas that will improve things now and onward into the future.
Whether you are a new engineer or veteran - if you have any tips to pass on, share them below. We'll capture those in future posts and give you credit!