What is an automation engineer?
Automation engineers are experts in simplifying processes. An automation engineer can improve the efficiency of various manufacturing or computer processes or systems by automating parts of them or the entire process or system to do work on their own. They may also design entirely new technology to automate a system or process.
Automation engineers are also referred to as test automation engineers and process automation engineers since testing and process improvement play such big roles in their work. Those who work specifically in industrial environments, like manufacturing plants, are known as industrial automation engineers.
What does an automation engineer do?
In this profession, automation engineers are responsible for understanding manual processes currently used in a business and assess the areas where automation can improve efficiency. Based on the analysis, automation engineers design and develop automated systems that can perform tasks such as data collection, monitoring, and decision-making, which would otherwise be performed manually.
Before deployment, automation engineers test and validate the automated systems to ensure that they are functioning correctly and meet the business requirements. Automation engineers work closely with software developers, quality assurance professionals, project managers, and other stakeholders to ensure that the automation system meets the business requirements and integrates well with other systems. After deployment, automation engineers monitor and maintain the automated systems to ensure that they continue to work as expected.
In addition, automation engineers need to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies to improve and optimize their automated systems continually. They must document their work and report on the status of the automated systems to stakeholders and management.
Overall, automation engineers play a critical role in modernizing and optimizing businesses by automating their processes, improving efficiency, and reducing manual labor. Automation engineers have been used in the manufacturing industry for decades, but it’s relatively new to the business, healthcare, and finance industries. Today, automation engineers can work in a variety of sectors, including pharmaceutical and medical devices, (bio)chemical, oil and gas, food processing, mining, waste and water treatment, software engineering and eCommerce warehousing, among others.
Common automation engineer responsibilities
An automation engineer is responsible for automating systems and processes, and more specific responsibilities may include:
- Designing and developing automation solutions to streamline manual processes and improve efficiency;
- Ensuring that the automation system works as expected by testing and troubleshooting any issues that may arise;
- Collaborating with cross-functional teams, such as software developers, quality assurance teams, and project managers to ensure that the automation system meets business requirements;
- Implementing and maintaining automation systems to run smoothly;
- Conducting feasibility studies and developing recommendations based on their findings;
- Performing system upgrades to keep up to date with technology advancements;
- Documenting and reporting on automation work to stakeholders and management;
- Training end-users on the new automated system to ensure proper use of the technology;
- Improving processes and automate new areas to streamline operations;
- Gathering customer or user requirements to develop suitable automation solutions.
Qualifications for automation engineers
Automation engineers should have at least a Bachelor's degree in Automation Engineering, Computer Science, or a related field. In some cases, a Master's degree or higher may be required for more advanced positions. In addition to a degree, automation engineers may need to be licensed in order to practice. Licensing requirements vary by country.
Additional supporting skills and experience include:
- 2-5+ years of automation engineering experience;
- Excellent technical skills, including experience in software development, automation tools, and programming languages;
- Strong problem-solving skills and able to troubleshoot and resolve issues quickly;
- Ability to work well in teams and collaborate with cross-functional teams;
- Excellent communication skills to convey complex technical information to non-technical stakeholders;
- Being detail-oriented and able to identify potential issues and areas for improvement;
- Thinking creatively and developing innovative solutions to automate processes.