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Time to improve the poisoned chalice

Hands up who wants to be a commissioning engineer? Anyone? Just as I thought, the answer to this question, particularly if you work in the retail sector in the industry, is generally a solid no.

But it wasn’t always the way. In days gone by, there would be a normal progression towards commissioning.

This would take the route of engineer-senior, then engineer-supervisor, and finally commissioning-engineer, and would include a constant learning curve in the process.

But now it seems that nobody wants this particular gig, and when I look around the industry at all the commissioning personnel, it’s beginning to look like Dad’s Army.

I mean, what’s not to like about the role?

The constant pressure of making handover dates, the endless dealings with builders, site sparks, case-fitters and store personnel who don’t have a clue what is involved in commissioning a large store.

Long hours, usually 10-15 hour days, working most weekends.

Turning up onsite and everybody thinks that you are in charge, directing all manner of questions in your direction. So, the appeal could be described as limited.

However, there is another side to the coin. You’re normally the first to work on the newest technology and receive the relevant training.

Normally you get to suit yourself when on site – there’s also the not insignificant factor of being paid well, or you used to be anyway.

And it’s the last point which stops service engineers making the leap, as they can make the same money servicing.

So this is a plea to all companies who use commissioning engineers in the retail sector, start to look to the future and plan ahead. As things stand the breed are very thin on the ground.

Many are self-employed, come with a variety of skill levels, and can ultimately charge a small fortune for their increasingly exclusive skills.

And therefore it’s currently costing the retail sector a fortune to employ sub-contractors, when the margins on jobs are tight.

So my advice to contracting companies is that when the commissioning engineer question is asked again, ensure there’s enough pluses to get a positive response.

Anonymous Fridge Guy works as a contractor in the supermarket refrigeration sector

Readers' comments (1)

  • Why anyone would want to work at the installation sharp-end of things in the retail sector in any role has always been beyond me. Impossible deadlines, and customer's constant pressure are only a couple of the many headaches associated with this type of work. I have never worked in that sector so can't comment on past or present conditions for commissioning engineers there, but I have been a commissioning engineer and I cannot think of a better job. I work in the industrial sector. There, clients want a plant that is reliable with best performance. Although there is always time related pressures, generally they will not rush it because the longer term performance of the plant is more important that the few hours that they can trim off the commissioning stage
    With my rose tinted specs firmly on (safety ones of course) I can say that to my mind, the commissioning engineer's role is still the best in the industry.
    Really good read Mr Anon Fridge Guy. Thanks for the insights. Look forward to your next

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