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Wilkinson Coutts & Matthews Integrity Training


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WILKINSON COUTTS / MATTHEWS INTEGRITY HUB: an up-to-the-minute information mix designed to help you with your lifework and career development in the asset integrity, inspection and NDE industries.

Matthew Petroleum Notes

THE INTEGRITY ENGINEER JOB ROLE
WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT?

Integrity Engineer

Job roles advertised under the banner of ‘Integrity Engineer’ vary widely in their scope of what you will actually do all day. Some of the various titles you will see are:

  • Plant integrity engineer
  • Asset integrity engineer
  • Integrity assessor/co-ordinator
  • Fitness for purpose assessor
  • Code compliance engineer

What actually are these jobs?

The fact of this industry is that many of the job titles shown above may actually involve precious little technical integrity assessment, as such. Titles involving the words asset integrity and evaluation, alone or in combination, are becoming increasingly common, presumably because people think they sound good. You therefore need to dig a little under the surface of these job titles to expose what it is that the employer actually wants, as opposed to the implications of some impressive-sounding job title designed to bring in lots of enquiries from (hopefully) well-qualified candidates. Let’s look at a way to do this:

For many, the title of integrity engineer represents the top of the ladder in the plant inspection/integrity world. Let’s look at what the job entails;

The technical parts

  • Identifying equipment at high risk of failure
  • Quantifying damage mechanisms(DMs) that will cause the greatest risk
  • Deciding how effective various NDT/inspection activities are (and who to believe)
  • Interpreting inspection reports and deciding if they contain sufficient information
  • Doing fitness for purpose (FFP) studies using post-construction code documents such as ASME B31G and API RP 579

And the administration parts

  • Managing spreadsheet lists of inspection reports, equipment files, evaluation results and repair procedures
  • Organising specialist help from NDT and inspection companies, metallurgists and various one-trick-pony expensive specialists
  • Personnel rotas, responsibilities, procedures and such stuff
  • Sending, answering and ignoring thousands of emails (per week)

To help clear your mind, think of this from the viewpoint of a 70:30 split. If the reality of the job entails more than 70% of your time spent on the first list (the technical parts) then it’s for a real integrity engineer. Less than that and it’s for a technical co-ordinator, or integrity manager, or some other such role hiding subtly behind whatever job title it is presented as.

The real integrity engineer job

If you are really interested in the technical world of inspection, this is the one for you. It involves assessing corroded items against available technical codes, supplemented by subjective application of your own technical knowledge and experience. Every project, and day, will be different and you will get involved with people with top levels of technical knowledge in the industry.

Much of the challenge of the job lies in making correct technical decisions - there is always a balance between keeping risk of failure to a minimum whilst addressing the production needs of the plant owner and the economies of the situation. Whilst much of the real integrity engineer role is office-based there will still be the need to witness tests, inspections, repairs etc yourself to satisfy yourself what is going on.

Skill levels and certification

Integrity and FFP assessment requires a wide spread of technical knowledge, typically of materials, welding, code design, NDT, corrosion, inspection code content (there are lots of them), equipment testing and certification. Overall, the more qualifications and certificates you have in these subjects the better prepared you will be, as long as you are able to put into practice what you have learned rather than just adding certificates to your collection.

Are (real) Integrity Engineer skills transferable?

Yes. They are 100% transferable between employers, industries and countries. Countries’ codes and practices vary a little but the principles are exactly the same. Employers will differ in the reward of the position in the organisational hierarchy that they will award to integrity engineers (compared to those called ‘team leaders’ or ‘project managers’ for instance) but the day-to-day activities of what they do doesn’t change that much.

What’s a typical 20-year career plan?

Be careful; there may not be one. The integrity discipline can be a bit of a one-way street in many organisations. It is an autonomous doing role rather than a pure management one so you can’t rely on it being a guaranteed stepping stone to higher management position in the hierarchy, if that is what you are looking for. If you are a good integrity engineer, the bizarre rules that govern organisations are more likely leave you in that position rather than promote you to a higher position in which you can demonstrate your own managerial incompetence. True high management positions are of course best occupied by those that have less to offer lower down.

If you are take a job doing integrity evaluations, then make sure that this is what you like doing i.e. you are taking the job for its own sake, not where it might lead you. The more complicated and academic the assessments you do, the more they will typecast you as a backroom resource to be brought out only as necessary, when people higher up the management chain run out of technical steam. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, just as long as you know what you’re getting into.

Salary levels

Generally, salary levels are comfortably high. Note however that permanent staff positions can lack the attractive working patterns or time-off allowances that may be available to shift workers or self-employed contractors employed lower down the chain.

Most employers would like their integrity leaders to be permanent employees rather than contractors, so the reduction in effective hourly rate is something you may have to live with in return for occupying a permanent position. There are exceptions to this, but as general rule employers will prefer their integrity leaders fully absorbed in the organisation, not threatening to run off to some other company offering a better daily contract rate. Some employers make mistakes by not doing this, and so are always attempting to recruit new people to work as contractors, when the process then repeats itself. Some employers, it has to be said, learn this more quickly than others.

The technical co-ordinator job

If you don’t have a particularly affinity for sitting in a chair looking at spreadsheets for hours on end, you might find this a tough one. Hiding beneath the guise of integrity engineering lies the requirement to plan, commission and record hundreds or thousands of inspections using spreadsheets. Someone has to do it, and it requires a certain level of technical appreciation to know what is going on. Nevertheless, it’s still more of a planning and administration role than a technical one

As a process, it is of course never-ending. Most testing/inspections/evaluations (call them what you will) go perfectly smoothly, with a smaller number requiring actual technical evaluations. It is rare that the technical co-ordinator will actually do these. More commonly they will be contracted out to some technical specialist company at significant expense with the results summarised as perhaps a ‘pass’ or ‘repairs required’ entry into the relevant spreadsheet. This does little to improve or maintain your own technical abilities, which over time will gradually fade away, without you noticing.

Skill levels and certification

You don’t need any particular technical skills to populate and maintain spreadsheets…it’s now as common as reading and writing, and so not in short supply. This brings downward pressure on the price employers are prepared to pay for it. Given that a technical co-ordinator role may still be called ‘Integrity Engineer’ you can see why there may be a large spread of salary or contract rates for this job description. There’s nothing wrong with the technical co-ordinator role (it’s essential) but just don’t confuse it with a job where you have to do real technical evaluations of corroded and damaged components.

Are (Technical Co-ordinator) skills transferable?

Yes. Once again, they are 100% transferable between employers, industries and countries. The job is likely to be much the same wherever you go; you just get to sit in a different chair with a different view out of the window (if you are lucky)

What’s a typical 20-year career plan?

This is an easy question. Being physically present in the office week after week is generally the best route to rise up the management positions in the company, if that is what you are looking for. You have more time to agree with and flatter those people who matter. That is generally what is needed to progress up a company hierarchy, so your 20-year career plan can be a real possibility. Promotion will bring you access to even more wonderful important spreadsheets with which you can continue to demonstrate your prowess. You’ll need to be able to do block graphs and coloured pie charts as well though - to pretty things up a bit.

Just remember PLEASE that with this route your technical knowledge will reduce on a daily basis. This won’t worry you because you won’t notice it and, even if you do, will not consider it important. It all depends what you want.

Here’s the situation again, as a quick summary diagram:

If you want to test yourself on the type of technical questions a ‘real’ Integrity Engineer may have to address, try our FFP quiz set here

 

TEST YOURSELF: Try our typical Integrity evaluator interview questions

We offer a TRIAL TECHNICAL INTERVIEW

If you want to check your knowledge for a specific job role in the integrity industry then try our trial technical interview.  Its purpose is to test you on the technical aspects of the job you are thinking of applying for.  There's no time limit on it but expect it to last at least 20 minutes.  After the discussion we'll give you honest feedback on how you did.  Just let us know the type of position you are going for; we'll do the rest and respond with at time slot for you to call us.

There's no charge, but we will expect you to call us at the allocated time and be ready to answer technical questions.

Remember your trial interview is on a purely technical subjects.  We are not interested in you personality traits, do-gooding activities or any wonderful extra-curricular interests you may have.

Technical Interview

TRIAL TECHNICAL INTERVIEW

CONTACT US Tel: 07746 771592

help@matthewsintegrity.co.uk

Matthews Integrity Training