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Supporting capital projects with rotating equipment issues: An interview with Alan Wilson, Mechanical Technology Associate at The Dow Chemical Company

Pump Engineer had the pleasure of speaking with Alan Wilson, a Mechanical Technology Associate who works at The Dow Chemical Company in Houston, Texas.
 


Dow is a global producer of chemicals and plastics that was founded in 1897 by industry pioneer H.H. Dow. Although the company’s headquarters are located in Michigan, USA, there are numerous Dow locations all over the world, including Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, North America and Latin America. Alan offered Pump Engineer an insight into his daily duties, the diversity of the job and the significance of selecting reliable equipment. Additionally, he also spoke about the importance of industry events for young engineers, particularly Pump Summit Americas. Alan is a member of the Pump Summit Americas 2018 Steering Committee. The premier networking event for pump experts will be held alongside the Fugitive Emissions Summit Americas and will take place on June 25th and 26th, 2018 at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Alan graduated from Texas A&M University in 2002 with 
a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. While 
at university, he was given the opportunity to interview 
for a Co-Op program at Dow and was luckily offered 
the position. After spending three different semesters 
working at Dow, he was then offered a full-time position 
at the company which he gladly accepted. Without the 
worry of having to search for a job, Alan was able to 
finish his degree knowing he was walking into fulltime 
employment at the end of it. “I appreciated the 
opportunity,” explains Alan. “I was able to gain some 
practical experience which gave me a good perspective 
on the industry. I finished my remaining classes with 
a better understanding of how engineering concepts 
are applied in the industry.” Following this, Alan went 
back to school part-time so that he could broaden his 
education beyond engineering and be able to better 
apply engineering in a business environment. He 
received his Master of Business Administration from the 
University of Houston in 2007.

As a Mechanical Technology Associate, Alan’s role involves supporting new capital projects with rotating equipment selection, decisions and specifications, as well as supporting existing plants with solving problems with equipment. Additionally, he is a core member of the Pump and Seal Technical Resource Network, and leads the Technical Resource Network for Process Cooling. Both of these global networks are aimed at advancing and maintaining Dow’s global specifications and supporting the Dow community with technical expertise.

Appreciating diversity
On a typical working day Alan works in an office environment that is mainly engineering focused, and he balances his time between capital projects support, responding to requests for support from plants and working on initiatives to advance Dow’s global specifications. However, Alan’s role can also vary as at times he has to travel to equipment supplier shops to have technical design review meetings, or to inspect and observe the testing of equipment. “I also occasionally go out to our plants to observe the installation and commissioning of equipment, and to support the local maintenance team with troubleshooting equipment and identifying improvement opportunities. There is some travel to both the Dow plants and to equipment fabrication shops,” he says.

To add to this, Alan elaborates on his experience when it comes to desk work and field work. While he enjoys being behind the desk, he offers valuable insight into the advantages of having an opportunity to experience both working environments. In order to have an appreciation for what the products (mostly being specifications, data sheets and drawings reviews) that leave his desk do, he says that: “It is helpful to go out to the field and see how these things are installed, operated and maintained. It gives me a good perspective and enables me to perform better at my desk job.”

Working at Dow means Alan has the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects across the company’s portfolio, enabling him to learn about prime mechanical equipment in a broad range of applications. He enjoys working for a global company where much of his time is spent interfacing with colleagues around the US and also abroad. “I have had the opportunity to travel to many different countries, depending on our project workload,” explains Alan. “Lately, we have been building a lot of plants in the US, especially along the Gulf Coast. I have been to many different countries to support projects and we also have global suppliers so I have travelled to supplier shops around the world too. It’s a great experience and great exposure to the engineering community abroad.” However, despite the perks of travelling the world, Alan’s job poses some challenges. When working on complex projects that require many people in many different roles, it can be challenging to ensure that all of the stakeholder input is being appropriately incorporated, while cost and schedule objectives are still being met. “There are a lot of different roles within Dow and we want to try to incorporate input from everybody and make the best decisions for Dow,” says Alan. “Sometimes we have to juggle input from stakeholders with what the supplier’s capabilities are and what our budget and schedule constraints are. There is some thought process behind how we resolve these issues.”

To read the full interview with Alan Wilson, please contact the editor Deirdre Morgan


About the Expert




Alan Wilson, Mechanical Technology Associate
at The Dow Chemical Company in Houston, Texas.
 

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