Virtual engineers, automation engineers or robotic engineers design, programme, simulate and test automated machinery and processes in order to complete exact tasks. Automation engineers are responsible for design specifications and other detailed documentation of their creations.
Automation is a field that involves creating and applying technologies that control or monitor production and delivery. There are automation opportunities in both product and service oriented industries.
Two professional associations, the International Society of Automation and the Automation Federation, are involved in promoting and supporting the field of automation.
The duties of an automation engineer include designing, programming, simulating and testing automated machinery or processes that are intended to complete precise tasks — for example, robots used in packaging, food processing or vehicle manufacturing. Automation engineers work with automated machinery from concept to prototype and are responsible for providing detailed documentation including design specifications that enable the production or application of their products.
Roadmap for them
There are few degree programmes in the  US available in automation engineering but not many in India. Therefore, most automation engineers earn their bachelors degrees in mechanical or electrical engineering and then learn the intricacies of automation engineering on the job. Mechanical or electrical engineering courses may include robotics, statistics, fluid dynamics and databases. Some automation engineers pursue masters degrees in related fields.
Because automation engineering requires hands-on instruction, especially in the use of high-tech equipment, online programmes in this field are rare. In a campus-based automation engineering programme, students learn to repair, troubleshoot and maintain automated equipment used in areas such as industrial electronics, process control and electromechanical systems. These programmes can lead to an associate, a bachelors or masters degrees. The skills that increase pay in this job are Selenium Automated Test Tool, Java, Automation Scripting, Distributed Control Systems (DCS) and Quick Test Professional (QTP).
Career prospects
There are lots of job opportunities available in automation and robotics engineering fields. Engineers can work as researchers, robotics system engineers, senior robotics specialists, analysts, trainers, robotics technicians, supervisors and assistance engineers in the design and application of robot systems.
Manufacturing is moving increasingly toward automation and the demand for qualified automation engineers is rising as more manufacturers turn to automation for efficiency, cost savings and increased output.
An automation engineer earns an average salary of Rs3.5 lakh per year. People in this job generally don’t have more than 10 years’ experience.
Experience strongly influences income for this job. The skills that increase pay for this job the most are Java, SCADA, Programmable Logic Controls (PLC), Automation Scripting, Distributed Control Systems (DCS), and Quality testing.
The work spans across building intuitive matchmaking algorithm, information retrieval, large scale system design, mobile apps, messaging platform, machine learning, automation testing and more. As a mobile automation test engineer, one can work independently to design and build automation frameworks and test suites for Android and iOS mobile apps using tools such as Appium, Cucumber or Calabash.
To meet the demand of managing data efficiently due to data deluge, massive storage capability and virtualised services is the need of the hour. Professionals who can build robust automated tests on the web platform are in great demand.
Being well-versed with automation testing technologies, frameworks and best practices and having a deep rooted knowledge of developing robust automated test frameworks and working with manual testing are key skills required for such roles.
Industry demand
From car manufacturing to food processing plants, wherever robots or machines can be used to perform specific functions are open as options. Automation engineers are responsible for design specifications and other detailed documentation of their creations.
According to a survey by Centrum Broking, big five software exporters — TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL and Cognizant together added net 24 per cent fewer employees in 2015 at 77,265, thanks to virtual engineers. Even though each of these companies have their own automation platforms, their focus on this line of business has seen emergence of many independent players offering automation services or virtual engineers. Hence, the outlook for this field is promising.