James Watts: The experiences of a new employee at Mino Process Control

James joined Mino Process Control in August 2016, as a graduate from Exeter University. To explain how he progressed from “rookie” to become a valuable member of the team James has written a short essay on his introduction and the journey through induction, training and becoming our latest (and youngest) process specialist. We hope you find this inspiring and interesting!

My first 6 months were in the office, where we develop, write and test our process control software. At MPC this was my “boot camp” experience learning the basic tools of the trade - in other words the main processes involved with the Avanti software (our control software), as well as how to use and edit the virtual interfaces for the software diagnostics used in the commissioning process.

In November of the same year I was given the opportunity to attend an active project site in China; a new aluminium rolling mill near Shanghai. This was my first opportunity to visit this amazing and very unique country, and to experience a true Mega City! Working as an assistant to my colleagues, I gained an invaluable understanding of the multi-field work required to make these projects a success. The actual process involved in commissioning a rolling mill is, by nature, complex. It requires a suite of engineering skills: computer software and hardware, mechanical and electrical engineering, and working with state-of-the-art sensors and actuators. All of which are used to design, build and commission the mill to achieve very high production speeds.

Following my induction training I was assigned to work on a new project in China, this time with three copper rolling mills. Due to the size and nature of the project there were Mino engineers from various offices of our group, making a multinational team. Our goal was to supervise the installation and startup of these new rolling mills, and for this my previous experience in China was invaluable. I was soon immersed in the computer hardware checks, software testing and configuration involved in getting the mills to a “first coil” state of production. Starting a new rolling mill is always a key moment in the project, when we get to see the real-time process control in action. Our control system automatically controls the thickness and flatness of the material as it’s rolled - prior to the startup we can simulate the process, but it’s the actual rolling conditions which really tests the control.

This project was quite the learning curve. I was mostly left to my own devices, but thanks to the support of my co-workers (both on-site and back in the office) I felt confident and satisfied that I had gained the essential experience of commissioning a new mill from installation to startup!

My second tour to China for this project was as the lead commissioning engineer. This was where I could put my new-found skills to the test. I was in charge of the software side of commissioning for the second rolling mill to be commissioned. One of the key tasks involved configuring software communications between our control systems and the other plant devices. This software is then proof tested prior to actual startup. No amount of simulation can prepare you for the real experience on site; you can only really learn these skills on the job.

This mill startup was a success - I am very proud of my progress and am looking forward to the next challenge in my career at Mino Process Control.