Fostering generations of apprentices in ABB Measurement and Analytics

A strong tradition of knowledge sharing leads to a world of industrial and manufacturing opportunity for ABB Australia’s Measurement & Analytics apprentices.

As Workshop and Projects Manager in ABB Australia’s Measurement & Analytics (M&A) team, Simon Dries is on a mission to design and implement continuous improvement in the group’s operations, and to maintain the great culture of a division that proudly supports the learning and development of many apprentices who go on to play a vital role in critical industries.

Simon started on his own path to dual apprenticeships — in Electrotechnology and Instrumentation & Control — with ABB back in 2009. He feels lucky to have been able to tap into “the knowledge of experienced service technicians who had commenced their apprenticeship with ABB some 50 years previously”.

He says keeping an open mind and listening are the keys to learning during an apprenticeship, which combines study at a registered training organisation with the application of skills in the workplace. Simon’s first role out of apprenticeship was as an M&A Service Technician, carrying out maintenance and troubleshooting on client sites, calibrating the instrumentation used in continuous water analysis and electromagnetic flow, and using gas chromatography to identify the different chemical components of natural gas.

Simon has already been involved in the groundbreaking Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) waste-to-energy plant in Western Australia. The $511 million dollar project converts waste otherwise destined for landfill into energy. As part of the process (burning waste to produce hot flue gas, which produces steam used to drive electricity-generating turbines) HZI is using ABB ACF5000 multi-component gas analyzer system to ensure the operation meets all environmental standards.

ABB M&A apprentices can pursue an almost immeasurable variety of opportunities. Asked what advice he’d give to people setting out to achieve an Instrumentation & Control qualification, Blake Harvey says, “Always have a can-do attitude and a willingness to take all kinds of experience on board, because even tasks that may seem small and annoying provide little lessons that can be applied and built on for bigger tasks.”

Specialist instrumentation and control apprenticeships typically lead to working with industries that require measurement of process conditions such as temperature, flow and humidity, which are vital to the safety of work environments, and the quality of outcomes.

Blake Harvey, PAMA

ABB Service Technician Blake Harvey (pictured above) also applied “hard work and a positive attitude” to achieve dual trade qualifications from his apprenticeship begun in 2014. One of the greatest benefits of learning on the job in the ABB Measurement & Analytics environment, he says, was it built on his natural predisposition to do his best: “Everyone was always pushing me to do more and do better. There’s always room for improvement and I’m always chasing that extra one percent.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Blake now works on the quality assurance and programming of all meters that come through the M&A workshop, as well as attending to service of instrumentation on customer sites.

Service Technician Blake Wallis joined ABB in 2014 as an adult apprentice. He’d previously worked in an office and felt he was lacking a formal qualification. He found his passion in Measurement & Analytics, and says, “The apprenticeship made a big difference to my career.” Learning on the job, he carried out service work, and calibration and repair of process instrumentation. He has since worked on customer sites and on various projects for oil and gas majors such as Arrow Energy, ConocoPhillips, Santos and Woodside.

Blake Wallis, PAMA

He says project and commissioning work can be very demanding, involving 60-hour weeks and steep learning curves, but the satisfaction of successful completion makes it exciting. In the service department, Blake Wallis says technical knowledge and customer relations go hand in hand. He wants ABB customers to experience the highest standards in both technical and people skills, so that the Measurement & Analytics team is always right in claiming to be “the best among our competitors”.

Apprenticeships are, says Blake, a great way to gain a qualification because “there’s no substitute for actually doing the work”. At ABB he says he has always felt surrounded by “a huge amount of knowledge and industry experience”.

Scott Chesworth, for example, commenced his Electrical Engineering trade in 1982 at Kent Instruments which was later acquired by ABB, and worked his way to becoming NSW Service Supervisor. He has a deep understanding of the application of the company’s Moorebank-based flow rig, used to calibrate flow meters essential to monitoring water or product movement in industries such as food processing, mining, farming and pharmaceutical manufacture.

Everyone in Measurement & Analytics, says Blake, “has always been open to sharing what they know with me”. At the same time, he adds, “they gave me the space and time to learn by doing”.

As Australia and the world seek to reduce carbon emissions from every sector, and secure the safety of essential water supplies, the M&A division is set to play a vital role at the cutting edge of emissions and water monitoring, and in new green technologies.

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Linda Kelly

Experienced Marketing and Administrative Assistant with a demonstrated history of working in the electrical and electronic manufacturing industry.
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