Diversity meets complexity

Automation Engineer Thomas Sørensen shares his NNE experience and outlines the diverse and interesting project work in the world of pharma automation.

What was your first engineering project at NNE?

When I began at NNE five years ago, my very first project involved a mix of different technologies and processes. I designed and implemented a global OEE System, which is used to measure the effectiveness of a piece of production equipment. The customer wanted to use the system to monitor the performance of over 60 finished pharma production lines located at production sites in China, France, Brazil, the US and Denmark. It involved everything from PLC, SCADA, SQL, WEB, MES and custom interfaces so it was a diverse and interesting starting project at NNE.

After working on that project for over three years and implementing the system on site into literally every worldwide production facility that the customer had, I wanted to try something different. I really enjoyed the international element of my work and the interaction with people from different cultures, so when the opportunity came up to relocate to our US office, I had little doubt it was the right thing for me to do.

The first year, I worked from our US headquarters in North Carolina, helping a customer install a new vision system into a cartridge filling line and helping upgrade a legacy PLC platform. After one year, I was relocated to the West Coast to help strengthen our Automation team over here. I am working out of the Bay Area now.

"It is very important to have the soft skills to work as a customer-facing consultant as well as be someone your colleagues enjoy working with. Equally important, I think you must be curious and constantly willing to learn."

Thomas Sørensen

What is it like to work in automation?

As evidenced by my first project with NNE, automation is a very diverse field of work. You get to work with many different subjects such as programming, databases, industrial networking, electrical work and a vast amount of different process types. It’s fun to watch a complex process run and know that you have been part of the team that designed the code for it, and furthermore, you know how every single line of code controlling the system works behind the scenes.

What makes a good automation engineer?

First of all, it is very important to have the soft skills to work as a customer-facing consultant as well as be someone your colleagues enjoy working with. Equally important, I think you must be curious and constantly willing to learn. Customers often present complex problems to us and expect us to propose the right solution, so it’s important that you know all the different tools and best practices available, so that you can guide them in the right direction.

Automation requires such a broad spectrum of knowledge, and there is really no singular education that covers it all. Because of this, I don't think that there is a singularly correct education or specialisation for this job. The main principle is to be willing to learn and consistently improve your competencies – this can support a future in automation.

Bio:

  • Thomas Sørensen has studied electrical engineering and software design
  • Sørensen began in Denmark within the realm of Finished Pharma
  • After three years, he transferred to North Carolina to install a new vision system into a customer’s existing cartridge filling lines and upgraded it to a legacy PLC platform
  • After a year in North Carolina, Sørensen relocated to the West Coast to augment the Automation team. Even after relocating, he continues to work with the North Carolina customer, helping to install the same vision system – this time for a production site in Brazil
  • In the last year, he has primarily worked with Batch and SCADA projects in San Francisco and the greater Los Angeles area