What is meant by automation engineering?
Switchboard Oct 5
Table of Contents
Automation engineering is the use of technology to design, create, develop and manage machines and systems (e.g. software processes), in sectors such as manufacturing, warehousing, or data processing.
But what type of work do automation engineers perform, and how can you start a career in this field? Let’s take a closer look.
What does an automation engineer do?
Generally speaking, automation means using technology to reduce human intervention in processes. This is achieved by predetermining decisions and relationships between subprocesses. In business, automation means performing repetitive tasks using technology rather than humans, so as to increase efficiency and free up employees for work of higher value.
Automation engineers are the experts who design, develop, and maintain these business automation processes. Their objective is to maximize the speed and scope of the automation process, while minimizing defects and errors in its results. This can be mechanical in nature, such as in car manufacturing, electricity generation, and food production, but is increasingly digital, such as in data processing.
A data automation engineer’s daily job typically includes the following:
- Designing new automation software or processes
- Programming new software or processes
- Testing processes to ensure they function correctly
- Writing and maintaining accurate documentation of the automation process
- Writing reports summarizing proposed processes, test outcomes, and ongoing results.
- Troubleshooting issues as they occur.
Hiring and integrating data automation engineers into your business can be expensive and time-consuming, so companies are increasingly outsourcing this work to data specialists. These partners provide expertise, mature development processes, and economies of scale that can make it faster and cheaper to achieve the results you want.
How to become an automation engineer
To start your journey to becoming an automation engineer, you’ll need a degree in a field like computer science or computer engineering. This should include modules on control systems, AI, robotics, statistics, and databases. It may also be beneficial to complete a master’s degree, as well as gain practical experience with automation and its testing procedures.
All automation engineering jobs require skills in both computing and engineering, but some skills vary according to industry, so the pathway depends on the type of automation you’re looking to work with. For instance, becoming a data automation engineer is very different from becoming a mechanical automation engineer or an industrial automation engineer, since this will require specific mechanical or industrial automation engineering courses.
Don’t forget that automation engineering companies are also looking for crucial non-technical skills. Problem solving is required to find suitable – and often innovative – solutions, as well as to troubleshoot issues. You’ll also need to be organized so you can plan and execute projects, as well as clearly document automation processes. Additionally, communication skills are required to explain processes clearly to management and other team members.
Are automation engineers in demand?
Industrialization, combined with the introduction of digital systems, has inevitably led to an increase in automated processes to enhance efficiency. Once a company introduces automation engineers, not only are they saving costs by reducing manual labor, but these engineers become essential for keeping the business operational.
The pandemic has only accelerated this trend as companies sought to minimize human interaction, as well as the vulnerability of their operations to staff absence. For example, some of Amazon’s warehouses have all but eliminated human intervention.
Another factor that is contributing to demand is AI. As it becomes more powerful, it has more and more use cases within automation. This is due to its ability to reason, i.e., to make predictions and recommendations, learn from mistakes over time, and determine its own pathways to achieve results. In contrast, conventional automation simply executes a series of instructions set by humans.
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