Our #pAutomator today is Dietmar Saecker, Senior Application Expert-MVB Business Development, Endress+Hauser Wetzer GmbH + Co KG. In this interview, he discusses his experiences of working in the chemical industry and emphasizes the natural use of wireless communication having a long-term effect on measurement technology. Excerpts from the interview…
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How did you start off your career in this industry and how has your experience been so far?
At school, I was very interested in chemistry. Eventually, though, I got bored with learning only theory. So I decided to gain practical experience before starting my studies. I applied for an apprenticeship in a chemical factory in my hometown. They hired me as a trainee for “Measurement and Control Technology.” During this time, I got to know almost every measuring instrument, and installed them in a chemical production plant. This included working under a gas mask or at a height of 40 m on a fluctuating grid stage.
Professionally, I found this combination to be the right choice for me. The optimal operation of a process plant can only succeed with the right measuring instruments. With this knowledge, I chose the ideal course of study for me. This was Chemical Engineering with a focus on measurement and control technology at the University of Dortmund. After graduating, I had the opportunity to start an academic career, but I had a strong desire to experience the world of industry. This path first led me to a large thermal process plant, then I changed to sales and marketing of process measuring technology and calibration services.
What have been the highlights of your career? Can you tell us more about that?
At the International Metrology Congress in Paris in 2011, I was awarded the prize for the best presentation. This surprised me as much as it pleased me. Looking back, I see my current position as the highlight of my career so far. Right now, I’m traveling to global customers who are all excited about the technology of the first self-calibrating temperature sensor. I can still benefit from all my past experience, whether that be the marketing of thermometers and sale of calibration services, or the skills I acquired as a technician in a 24/7 production facility.
You are also connected to the academic side of the field. Do you think new engineers today are industry-ready, or do they lack the required skill set? If so, how can we address this?
In addition to my work at Endress+Hauser, I teach measurement technology at the University of Applied Sciences in Kempten. The students in my classes are already in constant contact with industry partners and thus have insight into today’s business processes. I have seen many applications in different industries, and have worked for a handful of companies. Thus, I try to give them not only a basic transfer of technological knowledge, but also some examples of how my exciting industry works.
What is your take on the disruptive innovation currently hitting the metrology market? According to reports, the industrial metrology market is expected to reach USD 12.97 billion by 2023. What do you think about this?
I do not believe that the young generation of engineers who grew up with digital technologies will continue to accept that approximately 90% of process technology uses analogue transmission technologies. All the world’s information is available anywhere on a smartphone. At the same time, this technology can measure location, currently acting accelerations, and the volume and brightness of an environment. Meanwhile, a conventional thermometer sends exactly one signal on its two wires. However, both devices cost almost the same.
Therefore, I think that the natural use of wireless communication will also have a long-term effect on measurement technology. The creation of additional channels makes it easier to gain more information from the instrument, which can make the monitored processes safer and more efficient.
Can you point out a few challenges you may have faced in regards to temperature measurements?
In general, we pay less attention to temperature measurement technology than we do to other measuring principles. This can be seen, for example, during the portfolio seminars that E+H frequently organizes for our customers. Here, I often present an overview of temperature measurement.At the beginning of my lectures, I always have the impression that many listeners think temperature measurement is simple and boring, because they believe they already know everything. That’s why I’ve developed a training course that reveals a range of possible problems that come from making the wrong choice of device, either out of habit or a wrong thermometer installation. Many experiences from my customer visits have shown this to be the case. With my lecture, I can surprise and convince many listeners of the complexity of this topic, which is hopefully reason enough for them to contact an expert in the future.
Smart revolution has been making the rounds everywhere. How has it evolved the instrumentation industry? Can you give us some examples of this?
More than 15 years ago, I worked in the department of Profibus training. I have held training events around the world to highlight the benefits of Profibus PA. With great effort, all manufacturers of instrumentation devices had developed new devices for digital fieldbus systems. At the time, everyone expected this technology to prevail and dominate the market. But this “revolution” has not taken place with field devices. Most temperature measuring instruments are still operating in analog mode. Purchases continue to be predominantly 4…20 mA. For me, it is understandable that device manufacturers have now become more cautious and wait longer to see whether a communication protocol will prevail.
How could the life of an engineer be more easily or better organized? What applications might be missing that could be developed?
Many of the modern process instruments require special software for their operation, which one must install together with all drivers for the communication hardware. However, a “normal user” has no admin rights, and therefore cannot install or update programs on their business computer. Without the help of the IT department, one cannot integrate product innovation into the process. What is missing, therefore, is a generally valid method of communicating with the measuring devices without having to install software. One promising development is web servers that can address the meter.
Do you have any advice for the next generation of engineers?
Most of my students are looking for a job in development or engineering. They want to work in their field and implement what they have learned. But none of my students have ever mentioned sales and marketing as a career aspiration.
During my career to date, however, I have experienced how exciting, diverse and significant the tasks in marketing are. You get to witness numerous technologies and cultures, and learn something new every day. For engineers who enjoy communication, this certainly provides perspective. It was a stroke of luck for me to get the opportunity to inspire and convince people with my thoughts and experiences every day.