Control engineers are experts in optimizing processes, equipment, or tools by configuring smart controls to simplify actions and improve productivity. Think about the cruise control driving option in a vehicle or the dishwasher that works with the touch of one or two buttons. A controls engineer was behind those innovations and is responsible for creating many more.
This type of work is referred to as control system engineering. The control engineering discipline actively combines theory, design, and systems development. It requires experience with, and knowledge of, mechanical and electrical engineering, automation, and the latest information technologies. Today, control engineers typically focus on developing or maintaining two types of controls: binary and digital controls.
In this career, controls engineers use their analytical capabilities to troubleshoot issues, examine processes, maintain equipment controls, and find creative solutions to system inefficiencies. Innovative problem-solvers by nature, control engineers must frequently conduct research, experiment, and investigate new systems controls or improvements to achieve smooth operations. They regularly work alongside project control engineers or process control engineers to streamline processes within a project, as planned and on schedule. Control engineers may also be required to teach other engineers and technicians how to use and maintain the system controls.
Popular industries for control engineers include manufacturing, energy, aerospace, automotive, and beyond. As technology continues to evolve, so will control systems engineering. This means, there will be only more opportunities for control engineers!
Common control engineer responsibilities
A control engineer is responsible for performing a range of important engineering tasks. Responsibilities may include:
- Analyzing processes and systems for areas of optimization with controls for continuous improvement;
- Designing, developing, and implementing controls using algorithms and technical tools and approaches;
- Managing and maintaining controls in larger systems and processes to facilitate smooth and safe operations;
- Troubleshooting control system issues to fix them to ensure high productivity;
- Developing software and hardware for controls, guiding installation as needed;
- Implementing solutions using robotic process automation (RPA) as required;
- Drafting technical documentation and reports on control systems;
- Creating technical drawings using computer-aided design (CAD) software;
- Collaborating with customers, engineers, managers, and specialists to develop and deploy the controls in products;
- Tracking progress and delivering control systems engineering results in line with agreed project timelines and budgets;
- Ensuring compliance with relevant requirements, codes, and certifications, and in line with customer needs and demands;
- Leading trainings on system or process controls and equipment as needed;
- Assuring the safety and security of team members.
Qualifications for control engineers
Control engineers should have at least a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical or Electrical Engineering, Automation, Computer Science, or related. In some countries, an engineering license may also be required.
Additional supporting skills and experience include:
- 2-4+ years of engineering experience;
- Solid understanding of construction methods; materials, forces;
- Excellent applied physics, math, and design skills;
- Proficiency in using diverse computer software, including the latest design, modeling, and calculation software like AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Matlab/LabView, or similar;
- Experience in project management;
- Strong verbal and written communication skills to be able to work easily with customers, engineers, technicians, and other team members;