Ask most folks what trade they’re in and the answer is likely to be brief: electrical contractor, maintenance technician, HVAC/R tech, process technician.
But dig a bit deeper, as we did in a recent Fluke News Plus reader survey, and techs will tell you what makes their jobs challenging, rewarding…and every one, unique.
“Everything is temporary,” said Billy, an electrical contractor and one of three Canadians responding to our questions. (We also heard from 41 professionals in the US and one from Greece.)
“I specialize in providing temporary power for concerts, festivals, sporting and entertainment events,” he added. “We provide either utility power using mobile substations and transformers or provide generated power and distribution for events. We often manage multiple different voltages on any given site for stages, lighting, audio and video, portable HVAC, kitchen setups, and European equipment touring North America. I personally rely on my Fluke Model 376 clamp meters (3 of them) and during show runs, I use a Fluke 62 Mini IR thermometer to help monitor for hot cams and connectors.”
Reaching a higher stage
Also in Canada, Shannon focuses on a far different stage: outer space.
“Ours is a small and very specialized company,” he said. “We have about 30 engineers and technicians, who design, build, and program small satellites (approximately 1 meter cubed) and reaction wheels (which are used to control where a satellite is pointed). As we have a limited staff, each of us has taken on additional roles.”
So Shannon has learned process documentation, 3D modeling software, inventory and quality controls, electrostatic discharge control processes, and office management. “It is a rewarding career working with a wonderful (though small) group of people,” he said. “We design and build components and equipment to the highest standards, destined for space, and bought internationally by world renowned organizations such as the Canadian and European Space Agencies, and NASA.” And Shannon’s tools are as varied as his job: he uses oscilloscopes, power supplies, rate measurement sensors, multimeters, calipers, and electrostatic grounding and neutralizing equipment.
Always something different
One common condition these techs tackle is change. For Steven, a US maintenance technician in the wholesale and retail distribution sector, “we are involved with all phases of warehouse distribution: overhead bridge cranes, Remstar carousels, forklifts, conveyors, robotics, and AGVs (automated guided vehicles).”
That means Steven, equipped with a Fluke digital multimeter (DMM) and amp probe, has to be ready for just about anything. “One day you will be repairing a gas-powered forklift,” he said, “and the next you could be repairing a robotic palletizer.”
It’s a different industry but a similar challenge for Ron, a maintenance tech in the food and beverage industry. “I do everything from changing light bulbs to programming PLCs,” he said. His Fluke 87 DMM, milliamp meter, and amp probe make it happen.
The HVAC/R world also demands flexibility and a wide range of skills. “I work for a large state university with systems ranging from old stand-alone and pneumatic to state-of-the-art web-based automation, and everything in between,” said Carol, an HVAC/R technician. “We maintain and upgrade the automation systems, as well as respond to end-user needs. My tools include a Fluke 179 DMM and a clamp meter, as well as a laptop.”
Variety is the word as well for Liviu, a communication electrician and contractor in Canada. “I have to troubleshoot everything from simple electrical faults to controls for different systems such as boilers, HVAC, projectors, AV systems, and data/voice/fiber systems,” he said. He uses a dtx tester, amp meter, circuit tracer, rotation meter and amp/voltage log tester to get the jobs done.
The power to save
Saving energy isn’t just a headline issue - it’s also high priority for techs like Guillermo, a US electrical contractor. Using his clamp meters and thermal imager, he said, “I help a lot of customers who need to lower the power bills, such as air handling units, water heaters, pool pumps, improved insulation, and tips to better energy efficiency devices.”
Jonathan, an in-house meter technician installing and servicing electric meters and flowmeters, deals with the same issues of energy waste and conservation. “It is an expanding field,” he said, “as more interest is focused on how much energy a building uses and where it is going.” His Fluke 87 DMM, Fluke 365 Clamp Meter and Fluke 724 Temperature Calibrator help him stay in control.
Just plain nasty
Beyond the complexity, some work environments are downright hostile. John, who works as an in-house electrician in the chemical/petrochemical industry, uses his Fluke 289 DMM and Fluke 125 Oscilloscope to deal with AC motor and control system issues…in an environment laced with chemicals. Ron, maintenance technician dealing with plant communications, medium and high-voltage terminations, and PLC terminations, describes his work as “hot, sweaty, heavy, and dangerous.” But it could be worse.
For Randal, who maintains food service equipment in a major prison, part of the challenge is “working among the worst of the worst criminals in a HIGH SECURITY institutional environment.“ But he has allies. On Randal’s side: “Safe, high quality, reliable, and rugged instruments. Why not the best of the best?”