David Gabriel is responsible for maintenance and troubleshooting of measurement and control technology at the hot rolling mill on the voestalpine Stahl GmbH site in Linz. Every fault is new. And if it’s not new, then he has to come up with a new solution.
“In the technical world there is so much happening, in such a short space of time, that you have to constantly make sure you stay on the ball,” says David Gabriel who has completed a dual apprenticeship in automation and process control at the site in Linz. “Although the top-quality apprenticeship at voestalpine remains the basis for my career, that’s no longer sufficient these days. You have to stay up-to-date with regular training. The company also understands this, because otherwise I couldn’t perform as well as required.” Innovations, particularly in automation, can sometimes drive you forward, explains Gabriel, but it becomes interesting when you scrutinize things yourself: “Some innovations come from outside, and you just simply apply them. But if faults occur more regularly, then you have to think about how you can do things better, and come up with new strategies.”
"For me the demands fit perfectly. I don’t feel overwhelmed, but nor am I insufficiently challenged. That’s probably just the balance you need to find."
Developed from scratch
That’s why there is no such thing as a typical day in plant maintenance. The challenge depends upon the fault in question, and is different every day. Even so. Linz is a plant with a long history, and we constantly repair, improve, and modify where possible. “As a youngster you naturally have the advantage of always having someone you can turn to when you have a problem. There is always a line manager, someone who knows the answer, and a warehouse where you can pick up what you need.” That sounds positive, but David Gabriel wants to say also something else, because in 2016 he was working for the Group at voestalpine Texas LLC, at the direct reduction plant built on a new site in Corpus Christi. Everything was new, nothing worn: “It was certainly fascinating building something new from the ground up. I was responsible for the electrical engineering on an ancillary plant there, and checked all the signals. And there it was up to me alone to make the decisions. That was something different for a change, namely invaluable experiences.”
"I want to see what I can improve, how I can improve it, and occasionally also try out something new. That’s in my job profile."
Trying something new
So David Gabriel clearly doesn’t want to miss out on new experiences, new problems, and new solutions. “I want to be out there at the plant, at least every other day. I also want to get dirty – as long as I can shower in the evening, I don’t mind the dirt,” he laughs. “I want to see what I can improve myself, how I can improve it, and to have the chance to try out new things. That’s my job profile.” He couldn’t imagine doing a purely administrative job, at least at the moment. But he would welcome new challenges, such as those he enjoyed during his time in Texas: “We’ve just been merged with cold-rolled strip operations at the site, and even here that means different plants and different ways of working. That’s why in principle I never say ‘no’ to something I haven’t already at least looked at.”