I tell people I spent twenty-one years complaining about consulting/specifying engineers, and then I became one. And I was right. After doing the consultant thing for four and a half years, I left my cloth-covered cubicle and went back to the industrial-supplier side. No more eight-hour meetings, no more bid analysis reports, no more specification writing. Instead, I get to do application, design, programming, startup. Field work. Fun stuff.
Well, I just did an upgrade to a system I installed eleven years ago. Startup had to wait on the customer, since my upgrade occurred during a plant shutdown. Startup was to occur Monday morning at about 10:00AM, so I got up at 4AM and pulled out of the driveway at 4:45 to be on site at 7. They were waiting for me when I arrived.
We tested manual control before 9AM, and just had to wait for plant startup to put it in Auto. Remember 10:00AM? Uh, no. They had some problems. I went to lunch at 11:30. They called me a little after Noon and said it looked like it was going to about 7PM. I went back to the plant and they let me on a computer to do some work, but by 4PM it was obvious that 7PM was not going to happen. I got a hotel room and waited for a call. I tried to get some sleep, but failed at that. I went to dinner about 7. They called.
So I was on site at midnight. We finally fired it up about 4:30AM. I’d been up over 24 hours for the first time in a LONG time, but we weren’t done yet. Due to operations considerations, we still couldn’t put the system in Auto. That didn’t happen until 7AM. My hotel room sat empty all night. I finally hit the sack at 9AM. Two hours later, I got a call – the unit was working, but it was a little slow. They told me I could sleep a little more, though. I tried, but didn’t get much success, maybe another half-hour. After a shower and shave, I was back on site at 1:30PM.
And they were down again. We discussed the problem they’d experienced earlier, and I made some adjustments, but they had no idea when they’d be starting up again. I was pretty confident in my changes, so I went home. I pulled into my driveway 36 hours (and two and a half hours of sleep) after I’d left the day before.
Ten hours of sleep later, I was back in my office, preparing for a class I was supposed to teach the next day. I was also waiting to hear about my system upgrade. I sent an inquiring email, and got to work on my class prep. A response came soon: everyone was very happy with the upgrade. I didn’t need to go back for more adjustment. I could continue my class prep.
Then the main office called. There was a problem on another project. Could I help? What about my class prep? This project was more important, the class could be rescheduled. I pulled out about 10:30AM and headed for the new site. Yes,there were problems. Things did not go well. I got home at 11PM with plans to head back to site at 5:30AM. (It’s a 90 minute drive.)
Back on site at 7AM, we flogged on the problem until late afternoon, but finally figured it out. I pulled into my driveway this evening at 7:15PM.
I’ve put in 66 hours in four days this week. I’m taking Friday off.
I left the cushy comfort of consulting engineering to do this for a living again. I think I made the right choice. Making stuff work is rewarding in ways that specification writing is not.