My true engineering professors

It was a bright morning in July 2004. I was standing near a huge machine in a small plant with 2 electricians. An electrical cable had been completely destroyed due to a small mishap and had to be replaced. I was slightly taken aback. Was I expected to learn this?

After graduating from an engineering college, I had joined a copper manufacturing company, which posted me in their refining plant in Silvassa. As part of my induction program, I was asked to spend time with 2 of the plant electricians. I was to learn the aspects of industrial electrical and instrumentation engineering from the bottom up.

They met me near the machine whose cable had got damaged and had to be immediately replaced. They were covered in dirty and sweaty blue overalls and wore safety helmets, goggles and boots. Testers and bits of wire were sticking out of their pockets. Both of them immediately started on this boring task.

At about 7 pm, the night shift electricians took over. The task took 24 hours. The surprising thing was – all of them seemed completely involved. How could you enjoy changing a cable with such heavy safety gear and in such a dirty environment?

On more interaction, I came to know that these electricians worked 12 hours a day and nearly 7 days a week. What was it that they drove them? It couldn’t just be money.

As days passed, I spent more and more time with them, roaming the plant, looking at the machines – the cranes, the electronic drives, the field instruments and the centralized monitoring system, their cables and wiring and their underlying hardware programs. And slowly, the sweat and dirt of the plant seemed to matter less and less.

I started spending long hours just going through programs and wiring diagrams. It amazed me how a simple tweak of code could change the complete functioning of a large machine. We soon started collecting process improvement ideas from the plant operators and got them implemented – modifying the hardware programs, changing the circuitry, re-routing the cables. The thrill of seeing an engineering modification come live was beyond anything I had felt before.

And I then realized – those 2 electricians and the time spent around machines had taught me more about engineering than 4 years of classroom study.

I left that company and the plant 5 years back. But the true thrill of engineering has never left me. Thank you Babu and Surendran. And all the other electricians in the DG room. 🙂

6 thoughts on “My true engineering professors

  1. Excellent article.

    The success of any project is combined effort of lots of people, some of those people are visible while others are not. It is like any individual code in a complex program, insignificant in itself, but can determine success or failure of an equipment or system.


  2. They say engineers make the world. The Babus and Surendrans never make it to the front row till the single day of their retirement on 30 odd years of commendable service. Salutes to the real heroes!


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