Test Engineer

Entering the workforce, changing jobs, or are simply curious, Profiles series is the place to learn more about the career opportunities in the pump industry and the skills needed to be successful.

Hi, I’m a Pump Test Engineer. What do I do?

About me: As a pump test engineer, I’m responsible for designing test arrangements, providing engineering calculations, and certifying that both pumps and package systems meet specification requirements and that the hydraulic characteristics fall within the specified acceptance test grade. In addition to designing test arrangements and setups, I also oversee the test to make sure it is carried out safely and within the operational procedures and contractual agreement. A part of my job that is typically not discussed is quality, calibration, and uncertainty of test instrumentation. It is my responsibility to make sure that the instrumentation used to determine total head, power, and capacity fall within the calibration intervals and overall device uncertainty values stated within testing standards in order to accurately determine the performance of the pump. Test technicians work under my direction and are typically involved in the test setup, teardown, and based on experience may perform simple factory pump performance tests. 

What I’m good at: When I was a little kid, I was extremely detail oriented, some would say meticulous, about ensuring that my toys were put back in their correct boxes and in the closet where they belong. My parents were shocked, but very proud of me for this attribute, even if some of my friends ridiculed me for ruining their overall playtime experience. Fortunately, my parents taught me right and now that I’m a test engineer those orderly habits have paid great dividends in my career. I thoroughly check operational procedures, instrumentation, test data, and mechanical fits to make sure that customers get the high-quality, functional pumps they desire. I also like troubleshooting and running analyses to solve problems and to identify corrective actions. When I see that something isn’t right, I work nonstop to fix the issue. I love this job, and because of my past, I have the necessary traits and educational background to succeed. 

What I like: I like working in a production environment and collaborating with different departments in order to understand the “how’s” and “why’s” of the pumps we build and the applications they serve. This way, it’s easier for me to evaluate if a pump or package system is performing as it was intended. I like understanding everything from the raw materials we purchase to the machines used to manufacture our products. I also like to analyze the data resulting from the factory performance tests. This way I can examine pumps individually to figure out the root cause of any test failure or performance irregularity. To do this, I study the pumps my company produces along with their typical hydraulic and mechanical performance. My goal is to make sure that the final products meet safety and quality standards, along with the project specification.

What I’m looking for: I’m looking for the opportunity to demonstrate how astute I am to run quality control systems on pumps and other related system components. I want to have a say on product improvement, so I want to have the opportunity to suggest hydraulic and mechanical modifications to my company’s pumps. Right now, I have the opportunity to design and build an automated test facility to reduce test and setup time, so if I were ever interested in leaving my company, I’ll be looking for a new company that would give me the same opportunity. I’m all into following technical documentation and making sure our products and procedures meet ISO (International Organization for Standardization), HI (Hydraulic Institute), and other standards. I also would want the opportunity to manage multiple projects involving complex designs and components, including oversight of support resources and technical specialists.

If I look for another job, I want a position where I can drive initiatives to standardize methods in production assembly, data collection and storage, and testing, which includes the factory performance testing of pumps worldwide. I also want to develop, maintain, and drive standardization of hydraulic testing protocols and practices and work with a team to help reduce the discrepancies between testing locations, eliminate questions regarding data validity and improve response time to troubleshoot issues. I’m really not looking for a new job right now, but, like I said, if I ever do, I really want to be instrumental in developing a global test database of recorded data.

My education: I have a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, but you may also be considered for a pump test engineer position with a degree in industrial engineering. Certification in quality assurance is also a big plus for some companies that are hiring test engineers. Familiarity with rotating machinery and various testing techniques and standards is also a plus, as is hands-on experience with a Quality Management System. Personally, I also have knowledge of mechanical design, including fluid dynamics, mechanics of materials, and modern manufacturing techniques.

But my education is not only formal, I have 15 years of practical industry experience, and this puts me in a real advantage against other test engineers with less experience. I have deep knowledge of centrifugal pump design and experience troubleshooting and solving production level non-conformance issues. Of my 15-year industry experience, 10 of them have been spent in laboratory testing of turbomachinery. I also have experience with large centrifugal pumps used in the power, desalination, oil and gas, and chemical market segments. I also understand and have knowledge of 2D CAD design and 3D modeling, and an extensive knowledge of industry standards and test tolerances, industry standard requirements, testing methodology and process as well as production methods, foundry processes, and inspection methods (dimensional and nondestructive examination). Like all of today’s engineers, I must also have relatively good interpersonal skills. The days of engineers being nerdy are over. I need to be as comfortable working alone as I am working in teams and in presenting my results to my direct manager or even upper management.

How much I make: Like most engineering fields, salaries vary due to several factors, including experience, location, responsibilities, and size of company. Test engineers average around $90,000 per year. Personally, I make $110,000 per year but my background and experience are slightly higher than the industry average. Of course, the salary can be a lot higher, or lower depending on multiple factors.

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