A day in the life of…

Graduate Process Engineer, Redside Process Technical and Support at South32

Lucy Pluschke studied ​a ​Bachelor of Chemical Engineering (Hons) ​at Curtin University in 2017, and is now a Graduate Process Engineer, Redside Process Technical and Support at South32.

5.00 AM

My alarm goes off. I live with one of the other process engineering graduates in Bunbury. We carpool together to work with another mechanical engineering graduate. It is my turn to drive today, so we leave the house by 5:25am to pick up the other carpool member and make our way towards the refinery. It takes about 40-45 minutes to drive to work-just enough time for a podcast episode.

6.15 AM

We arrive at the refinery carpark. My reverse parking skills have increased 10 fold since starting here in February. Hard hat on, monogoggles on-check, now I can swipe in through the gate and make my way down to my desk.

6.30 AM

My official start time. I like to arrive a few minutes earlier to give myself time to grab a coffee, put my lunch in the fridge, have a chat. I start off the day with some routine monitoring. I open up a software package called Plantscape, which shows all the current conditions across the refinery. I am a part of the Redside Technical and Support team and specifically look at our milling, lime slaking and desilication facilities. After getting an overview of what condition the refinery is at, I look specifically at the areas I am responsible for. I then look over the shift log from the night before to gain more insight into what has occurred over the previous shift and to see what work is coming up for the day. One of our shell and tube heat exchangers is coming offline today for maintenance, I’ll make sure I get down to the area to have a look inside to monitor the health. We also have an excel spreadsheet with 24 hour and 72 hours trends plotted for our Redside facilities. I refresh the spreadsheet for today and look to see if there are any process issues.

7.30 AM

My first meeting of the day kicks off with a daily process review. The room is full of our entire Redside T&S team which includes process, mechanical, process control, electrical and tank engineers!  We start the meeting off with reviewing any safety incidents reported from the previous shift. We are always looking at ways to reduce safety incidents from occurring. We then review any production losses from the previous shift-luckily none are associated with my facilities. Milling and desilication is the start of the Redside process, so I kick off the process review. I give a summary of the start of the facilities and raise any potential threats to production capability or any abnormalities I noticed in the trends that I will investigate further. It looked like one of our flow meters was reading a higher value than normal, so I raised a notification to our shift electrical lead to investigate if it is reading correctly.

I took the thermal camera out to see if I could find some restrictions in our liquor supply to one of the mills-bingo, found it!
8.00 AM

The daily review meeting finishes. I don’t have any immediate follow up actions from the meeting so I make my way up to the Central Control room to talk to our CRO (control room operator) to see what is on the agenda for their day. It’s A crew on shift today (we have 4 shift crews-A,B,C,D) and they are about to do a pump swap, so I sit with the CRO to see how they communicate to their team out in the field to complete the task.

8.30 AM

I am working on a spreadsheet to help monitor the health of our heater banks in desilication. Talking to the CRO made me realise I was missing a few key indicators that would help with this monitoring. So, I dive into looking at this further.

10.30 AM

The maintenance supervisor in the area just gave me a call and said the heater bank they were taking offline is now isolated and opened up for inspection. So, I grab my extra PPE and head on out to the area. I have to call the operator who is looking after that facility and receive a verbal clearance. They point out any safety concerns to be weary of before entering the facility. I head down to the heater bank and take some pictures for future reference. Everything is looking pretty good. It is always nice to get a visual of the heater banks to see if there is any increased wear or blockages in the tubes.

While I am in the area I call in to chat to the supervisor to see if they have any queries or project ideas they want me to explore further. It is always nice to keep a healthy presence in the area and help them out in any way I can; it also means I get to stretch my legs!

12.00 PM

Time for lunch. We have a common crib room in the office where everyone can sit and have their lunch. We do have a food truck on site that you can buy lunch from but I like to bring my lunch with me. Lunch is a great time to chat with people from all different areas. Conversation varies between work, events happening in Bunbury, what Netflix show is good at the moment and who we think is going to win Masterchef.

12.30 PM

I’m back at my desk and I have a new email from a lab technician. The analysis results from some scale I sent in yesterday have come back and they are going to talk me through the results.

2.00 PM

I have a one on one check in with my superintendent. We do this once a fortnight and it’s a great way for him to be able to monitor my development as a graduate and to genuinely see how I am going. I enjoy how much faith he has put in me and allowed me to be the point of contact for multiple facilities. I didn’t expect to be handed this much responsibility as a graduate but I am loving every minute!

2.30 PM

I work on some long term project improvements for the rest of the afternoon. The time travels so quickly when you absorb yourself in the work.

4.00 PM

Time to clock off for the day! Hard hat on, monogoggles on and I make my way to the car. There is a lot more chatter in the car on the way home from work.

5.00 PM

I usually get home by around 5pm. Just enough time to sneak in a quick walk along the beach before the sun goes down.

7.00 PM

Shower, dinner, TV. I like to stick by a pretty strict schedule during the week. We do work long hours so I like to make sure I get some solid rest time in during the evening.

8.30 PM

I feel like a bit of a Grandma heading to bed at this time, a lot different to my university life bedtime! I’ll usually read a book or magazine to start slowing my brain down and will switch the lights off by 09:00. My alarm is set and ready to do it all again tomorrow!

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