EngineerIT Inbox: July 2016

July 18th, 2016, Published in Uncategorised articles


This month’s winning letter is in response to the virtual panel discussion in EngineerIT of June 2016 “Should C&I be recognised as an engineering discipline in South Africa?”.

Winning letter

Dear editor

With reference to the panel discussion on C&I being a separate discipline, there are a couple of things that I would like to highlight:

If we look at industry at the artisan level, there is quite a different focus between an instrumentation mechanician and an electrician when it comes to their trade tests. There is no way that instrumentation personnel will be allowed into high voltage substations – as an example. There is also no way that an electrician will know how to calibrate a gas analyser, choose the correct valve or even where this valve is supposed to be installed in a line. That is not what they are expected to know.

If we look at manufacturers, we find that there is a huge gap between the part of the organisation that manufactures high voltage transformers, high voltage switchgear and that part of the organisation that develops process control equipment like PLCs, flow meters, gas analysers, pressure transmitters, surge control algorithms etc.

So why is it that there is a group in industry today that does not see the need to distinguish between the C&I and electrical? The reason is actually straightforward and understandable. When a company distributes / sells equipment, it does not really have to understand the process as it is not held accountable for the equipment being configured incorrectly for the process in which it is installed. Yes, of course they need to understand equipment and its uses. On the other hand, the person on site that installs the equipment has to know the process characteristics in order to install and tune the equipment to ensure a well controlled, safe plant; for they are the ones that will be accountable for anything that goes wrong due to configuration errors or oversights.

If we now get to tertiary institutions, automation (C&I) has always been a subset of electrical. It is therefore no wonder that the SAIMC was tasked to find out why these institutions are producing automation / C&I individuals that are not productive from day one. For a person to become an effective and efficient automation / C&I individual, takes them a couple of years even though they understand Ohm’s law.

For the automation (C&I) individual, it is more a question of understanding how the process works than to know whether the equipment runs from 220 V or 12 V. Although it is necessary for them to understand the difference between AC and DC, that is not their focus – they have to understand the process they need to measure, analyse and control.

A recent survey was conducted by the SAIMC and the results are available here:

Johan Maartens Pr.Eng.