What is a Commissioning Engineer?

The role of commissioning engineer is needed in almost every sector of the engineering industry. It’s an incredibly valuable position that combines theoretical understanding with practical maintenance and installation and requires strong leadership and interpersonal skills.

In this post, we run through everything you might need to know about commissioning engineering, from typical roles and responsibilities to which skills are most valuable to those in the role.

What does a Commissioning Engineer do?

A commissioning engineer commissions and oversees the installation of equipment, systems, facilities and plants on a client’s site. They are responsible for ensuring that all new machinery and equipment are fitted properly and function at optimum capacity to meet the client’s needs.

If you are a commissioning engineer, your role will require a thorough technical understanding of the equipment or systems that you have commissioned to various clients. As well as having the knowledge and experience to assess when this machinery is working properly and efficiently, you might also make recommendations about where existing systems or procedures can be improved upon.

Commissioning engineers are also responsible for investigating any faults that appear in the equipment they are responsible for, diagnosing these issues and finding solutions. The role may also involve devising and implementing procedures that test this equipment and ensure that it is working properly to avoid serious faults in the future.

Commissioning Engineer Roles and Responsibilities

There are a variety of different commissioning engineer jobs within the wider engineering industry, but the job does have several overarching responsibilities that are expected whatever sector you end up working in.

These include:

  • Scheduling and coordinating commissioning visits with a variety of clients
  • Reviewing the technical documentation of existing client systems and machinery to understand their functions and purpose
  • Creating and proposing test procedures that ensure the proper working of equipment and machinery
  • Providing documentation to inform the suggested test procedures
  • Supervising and carrying out appropriate testing and commissioning of a client’s systems and equipment
  • Compiling data from these tests and producing evidence to prove that equipment passes mandatory assessments and meets regulation requirements
  • Troubleshooting any existing problems or limitations of the existing equipment, machinery and systems that a client has
  • Repairing faults
  • Working with other engineers or site staff to carry out tests and repairs
  • Ensuring safe working conditions for everyone involved in the testing and assessment of site machinery and equipment
  • Providing training for system testing and evaluation where appropriate
  • Travelling to different client sites for specified periods of time to oversee commissioning projects

Numerous specialist commissioning engineer roles will have a variety of different industry-specific responsibilities.

Trainee Commissioning Engineer

A trainee commissioning engineer is often someone right at the start of their career in commissioning. They may be doing an apprenticeship-style course that involves learning alongside practical experience or may have been hired to work underneath a more senior engineer and learn on the job from them.

Typical responsibilities of a trainee commissioning engineer include:

  • Carrying out the work required of you by your employer or manager
  • Completing research or administrative tasks before a commissioning task
  • Assisting other engineers in their work when onsite with a client
  • Compiling data from testing and commissioning procedures
  • Producing reports from the data gathered from equipment tests

Process Commissioning Engineer

A process commissioning engineer is a type of engineer who specialises in advising and testing the devices and machinery that is used in manufacturing processes. Their work will focus on the systems and equipment involved in transforming materials into products.

As well as standard commissioning engineer responsibilities, a process commissioning engineer may also be required to:

  • Carry out prior research so that they fully understand the materials and products involved in each client’s work
  • Establish appropriate health and safety guidelines and tests depending on the kind of materials involved in manufacturing

Electrical Commissioning Engineer

An electrical commissioning engineer carries out all the usual tasks of a general commissioning engineer but works specifically in the electrical industry to support and advise clients in power, automation, instrumentation and computing. They will often be involved in commissioning power plants and the systems and machinery involved in these locations, as well as testing and maintaining more general equipment in other sectors.

Along with the basic responsibilities involved in any commissioning engineering role, electrical commissioning engineer may also:

  • Review P&ID diagrams before planning a commissioning task
  • Carry out required health and safety tests on electrical equipment to ensure it meets appropriate standards
  • Hands-on commissioning of specific electrical equipment

PLC Commissioning Engineer

A PLC commissioning engineer is a very specialist engineer whose role focuses on PLC systems and equipment. They work with PLC programmers to ensure that machines and plants that use PLCs are working properly and to ensure that the systems involved are running as efficiently as possible.

Specific responsibilities that a PLC commissioning engineer may have include:

  • Ensuring that you have a thorough understanding of the PLC control systems that you work with
  • Suggesting improvements to existing PLC systems and how to smoothly implement these
  • Programming and troubleshooting PLC software

Key Skills for a Commissioning Engineer

A commissioning engineer is a relatively unique role in that it involves a mix of technical knowledge, practical work and collaboration with other engineers and site staff. Whether you are a general commissioning engineer or comission in a certain sector within the engineering industry, several key skills will benefit you greatly in your role.

  • Technical and mathematical skills

If you’re going to succeed in an engineering role that has so much diversity within its requirements, having exceptional technical and mathematical skills is a must. These will differ depending on the industry that you work in and the experience you have, but at a basic level, you’ll need to understand the machinery and systems that you are working with and how to solve the common problems that arise. 

  • Interpersonal skills

As a commissioning engineer, you will be involved in many different aspects of a project. You will likely have to speak with clients, contractors, other engineers, and the staff who work with the machinery and systems you are commissioning, so being able to relate to and communicate to a wide range of people is an essential skill.

  • Written and verbal communication skills

In your role as a commissioning engineer, you will be required to write guidance documents for the testing and commissioning procedures you carry out, along with producing reports that summarise the finding of these tests. Competent written communication skills will be needed for both of these, as your reports will be read by a variety of other people and must be clear and comprehensive.

As stated above, the role also requires a lot of interaction with a range of other people. You will need to explain your plans to people with varying levels of industry knowledge, give training or guidance when carrying out tests, and deliver reports to more senior members of staff or clients when required. Clear and confident communication skills are required for all of these.

  • Leadership skills

A commissioning engineer is often a relatively senior role within a company, and so you will definitely benefit from having leadership skills that help you to take charge and guide others when the role requires. Commissioning engineers are often brought in as expert advisors to help clients ensure that their machinery and systems are running safely and efficiently, so you will need to be comfortable taking charge of situations and leading other staff.

  • Teamworking

As a commissioning engineer, you are often in charge or more senior than many of the other people you work with, but successful teamwork skills are still required to succeed in the role. Whether you’re brainstorming ideas at the start of a project, problem-solving issues that are identified or guiding other engineers through the required testing procedures, you will need the appropriate skills to be able to work well as part of a team.

  • Analytical and problem-solving skills

A key part of the commissioning engineer role is identifying problems and finding solutions within the systems and equipment used by your client. As well as planning and designing appropriate tests for different machinery, you will also need to come up with innovative solutions to any issues that are uncovered by these tests, which requires excellent problem-solving skills and an analytical approach to your work.

  • Management and organisational skills

Finally, a key skill that you will need as a successful commissioning engineer is organisation. You will be in charge of overseeing a whole commission project from start to finish and will need to ensure that everything and everyone stays on track to complete the work on time.

You’ll also need to be able to handle all of the smaller tasks that make up a commissioning project, so being able to keep an eye on larger progress whilst also focusing on smaller pieces of work will help you to keep the whole thing moving forward.

FAQs

What is commissioning in engineering?

In engineering, commissioning refers to the planning, testing, adjusting, recording and maintaining the machinery, systems and equipment of a site to ensure that the facility runs efficiently and to the required standards of the client. It usually involves being involved in a project from start to finish, working with other engineers, managers and contractors to ensure that the machinery and equipment involved in a facility are safe, maintained and carry out their jobs properly.

A commissioning engineer is responsible for overseeing all of these processes and may specialise in a certain area of the industry to provide more expert guidance or advice. 

What does a servicing and commissioning engineer do?

A servicing and commissioning engineer is another title for a commissioning engineer, and the role requirements are the same for both. Within the servicing and commissioning job, you will be required to travel to client’s sites to test and commission their equipment, systems and machinery, provide all of the necessary documentation and reports around this, and supervise other members of staff as they carry out the necessary assessments and maintenance.

Summary

A role as a commissioning engineer is an excellent choice if you’re an engineer who enjoys a mix of practical and theoretical work and wants to work with a range of people in their day to day role. Many commissioning engineers are required to travel around quite a bit as they work on different projects, especially if they’re a specialist in their area, but this is often an ideal way to learn more about the industry from other engineers and gain a wider range of experience in your role.
Whether you’re looking to hire a commissioning engineer for your company or are a candidate seeking a new role in a commissioning position, we’ve got the expert industry experience to help. To find out more about the services we offer, get in touch and speak to a member of our team.