Chris Fancy is constantly trying to make old things new again. At the sawmill
where he is the process analyst, his job is to make sure that the old equipment
works with the new machines. As more and more computers come in, most computer
experts don't know how to configure them to a machine that's 25 years old.
"It's a very technical job, but you also get to work on special projects,
which makes things interesting," says Fancy.
For example, one of his duties is to "optimize" the logs. That means he
figures out the best way to get the most material out of the log made into
lumber, chips and other items.
"It's really exciting. I get paid money to play."
Wood fiber comes from the forests around us. It is transformed from rough,
round logs into versatile pieces of lumber at sawmills.
Sawmills are full of whirring blades and dangerous moving parts. In order
for a log to get from its rough state to a pristine piece of lumber, it passes
through many machines. A process control analyst makes sure all of these machines
are in proper working order.
This doesn't mean tightening up a loose screw. Mills use state-of-the-art
machines that are often run by computers.
"This person is in the factory looking after the computer-controlled machines,"
says wood science professor Tom Maness. "They have to know how to configure
Configuring a computer that runs a word processor is much different from
configuring a computer in a sawmill. Computers in the sawmill are called real-time
"These are the computers that control a machine," says Maness. "They do
the work sawing or they run the conveyor belt."
On top of making sure each machine is programmed to run smoothly, the process
control analyst makes sure they are working together to ensure maximum productivity.
Process control analysts spend much of their time making changes to and writing
programs for the mill's computer systems.
Mills and manufacturing plants are always bringing in new equipment. It's
the process control analyst's job to make sure new machines fit in with the
mill's existing technology.
Process control analysts spend most of their time working with the computer-based
machines; however, they also make presentations to senior management when
they want to propose a change in the system.
The duties of a process control analyst include working with marketing
and sales directors to make sure they have good inventory control and make
on-time deliveries of their products.
A process control analyst generally works an eight- to nine-hour day, Monday
through Friday. However, if an important piece of equipment breaks, they have
to be there to fix it.
"We have to be ready any time of the day or night to fix them," says analyst
A process control analyst spends much of their time working with computers,
which isn't physically demanding. However, there is also hands-on work, and
analysts need to be able to move around the mill or factory floor.
If you're interested in process control, you should have a knack with numbers.
An interest in computers is a must. As mills become more technologically
advanced, process operators will spend much of their time writing programs
and repairing computer systems.