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Instrumentation Engineering: A Vast Field Thatâs Growing
Today the environment, be it in any field, is fast-changing. Had it not been for Instrumentation engineers, we might have remained in the 'Dark Age' of electronics. Because without the instruments we have today to verify things, we would have been stuck with imperfect communication technology. Let us find out the scope for a career in Instrumentation in India.
Instrumentation engineering is loosely defined because the required tasks are very domain-dependent. For instance, a biomedical instrumentation expert has very different concerns from a rocket instrumentation expert, though both might have some common concerns such as selection of sensors based on various parameters.
âInstrumentation has been the fundamental engine for catalysing R&D in India. Segments like communication, aerospace and defense, industrial, computers and semiconductors, education and academia, and general-purpose electronics also use instrumentation to validate their devices, designs and deployment,â informs Jyotsna Kukreti Dobriyal, HR operations, Agilent Technologies India.
âNew concepts of instrument-aware systems have opened this domain even further. Engineers at any level, whether it is design, validation or software development, need proper knowledge of test methods. This domain is growing in India,â she adds.
Hemant Kamat, chief technology officer, Shalaka Technologies, too believes that instrumentation is a very important aspect of manufacturing industry. âInstrumentation is applied in R&D, process, manufacturing and quality departments of manufacturing organisations. It is also important in building management systemsâa market that is growing significantly in India,â he shares.
Scope, roles and responsibilities
Unlike services vertical, instrumentation industry is not manpower-intensive. However, it requires talented individuals that have specific skills in measurement science and engineering, believes Jyotsna. âThose who are sound in fundamentals and have specific knowledge of measurement systems will find multiple career options within this industry,â she says.
With the increasing demand for electrical power and developments in audio and video communication systems and the automation industry, electrical/instrumentation engineers have become vital to the society today.
âIndustries such as textile, pharmaceutical, paper, metallurgy, automotive, marine, locomotive and aerospace also require instrumentation engineers,â says Kamat.
Instrumentation engineering comprises design and development of more efficient electrical machinery, control equipment and power systems for generation, transmission and distribution of electrical energy, and telecommunication. Instrumentation technicians perform operations like commissioning, installation, calibration, maintenance and repair of complex measurement and control systems used in a variety of process control operations. Those willing to make a career in this field should have a sound knowledge of measurement and control principles of pneumatic and electronic instruments theoretically as well as practically. Tasks and responsibilities of instrumentation engineers vary from company to company (please see the box).
A BE or B.Tech degree is desirable. However, a diploma course in instrumentation engineering after passing 10th standard will be sufficient for becoming a junior engineer. Even 10+2 passouts in science stream with physics, chemistry and mathematics as main subjects are hired. If research interests you, enroll in a Ph.D programme after completing your post-graduation. Besides basic sciences and regular engineering subjects, microwave communication, radar and television engineering, microelectronics, computers, and communication and control systems are taught at graduation level.
âInstrumentation engineers can be science graduates in physics, chemistry and geology, engineering diploma holders or graduates in electronics, instrumentation and electrical engineering. Mechanical and chemical engineers with exposure to electronics can also qualify for the job,â says Kamat.
Other areas where aspirants could look to develop their skills are intelligent controls, sensor network, speech processing, monitor control and digital signal processing to name a few.
Nature of the job
âThere are many entry-level roles in the field of instrumentation engineering. Prominent among them are sales engineer, application engineer, service engineer and marketing engineer,â informs Jyotsna.
Jyotsna explains, âSales engineers identify customer requirements and position the right product and solution from their portfolio to best align with the customerâs measurement needs. They also manage and grow customer base for the company. An application engineer has in-depth knowledge of measurement techniques and products, and is responsible for demonstrating and applying solutions, mostly on-site at the customerâs place. This enables sales and increases customersâ confidence in the company and its capabilities.â
âMarketing engineers execute all marketing-related initiatives to enhance sales activities. They are responsible for introduction of new products and technology in the marketplace and constantly assessing customer needs. Service engineers provide post-sales repair and calibration support to the end-users and help maintain their product uptime and precision,â she adds.
Other opportunities are in the areas of automation and control, plant maintenance, instrumentation design, sales and marketing, service engineering and R&D (DRDO, ISRO and DAE).
âInstrumentation engineers may be required to travel extensively and frequently to remote areas for equipment installation or maintenance of already installed equipment,â informs Kamat. âR&D and design requires a deep insight into analogue electronics, which is a rare skill these days in fresh graduates from Indian universities,â he adds.
Skills & training
âApart from a training in electronics (digital and analogue), instrumentation engineering aspirants should undergo training in handling, calibration and field diagnostics of instruments in various domains,â informs Kamat. Generally, this training is provided by the employers to graduate trainees.
âInstrumentation engineers need to be strong in analytical and logical skills apart from being competent in their core area of academic training,â Kamat says.
Talking about the training provided at his company, Kamat says, âBeing an embedded systems service provider, my company imparts training in fundamental concepts of embedded systems, microcontrollers and digital signal processors and design of embedded systems for instrumentation. We have a comprehensive assimilation programme for experienced newly hired as well as freshers.â
Talking about the training at Agilent, Jyotsna shares, âPost the initial company- and business-related orientation, the programme is customised to the new hired. Freshers go through a three to six months long programme where they get trained in measurement science principles, products, technology and processes by subject matter experts. In addition, they get an opportunity to shadow a senior at work for a set period of time so that they can get first-hand experience of the job.â
Typically, the pay package depends on various parameters such as the size and origin of the company, criticality of the job profile and location. However, a fresh graduate may expect anywhere from Rs 20,000 to Rs 24,000 per month, informs Kamat.
âAs with any other industry, pay packages are competitive, and in line with the candidateâs qualifications and previous experience,â shares
The author is a tech correspondent at EFY Bengaluru
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