Wood Industry Process Control Analyst

What They Do

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Insider Info

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 them."

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 computers.

"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 David Nordvie.

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.

At a Glance

Keep computer-based operations running smoothly and efficiently

  • Make sure that the machines are programmed to run smoothly and work together
  • Analysts most of their time working with the computer-based machines
  • You'll generally work an eight- to nine-hour day