Welcome to our new blog series, where we will be introducing you to the interesting and talented Superior Controls management team. In this first installment, we will meet Bob Patrick, Superior Controls’ Vice President of Engineering.
Bob Patrick was born and raised in Berlin, NH, approximately one mile from the pulp mill where his father worked as a millwright for over 30 years. “I always enjoyed building things as a kid, and math and science were my favorite subjects in school so I was drawn to engineering as a career choice,” said Bob.
Bob attended the University of New Hampshire (UNH), and during his freshman year he had some doubts about whether he made the right choice in pursuing a career in engineering. “My first physics exam score was a 17 out of 100! I quickly realized that I needed to change my whole approach to my studies,” Bob said. Never one to give up, Bob found other students who were living in his dorm to study with. “We would work out problems on the chalkboards in Kingsbury Hall at night, and it was a great way to prepare. I was able to turn my grades around and by the end of the semester I scored a 78 out of 100 on the final exam.”
Bob credits UNH with preparing him for his professional career in a variety of ways, including learning how to use resources wisely, working in a team environment, and gaining the confidence to learn new subjects. Following his UNH graduation, Bob attended Tufts University and pursued a master of science in mechanical engineering, with a thesis in robotics and automation. After finishing his degree at Tufts, Bob and his wife headed west to start their careers in the Denver area.
If you ask Bob Patrick how he first heard about Superior Controls, he will tell you it was from a magazine ad in Control Engineering in 1998. Bob and his wife were looking to move back to New England from Colorado, where the couple had lived for the past two years. Bob contacted Superior Controls and spoke with Mark LaRoche and Rick Pierro, and was hired as a project engineer.
Working at Superior Controls for a total of 16 years to date, Bob has moved up through the ranks and is currently the vice president of engineering. When Bob started as VP, the team was comprised of 35 engineers. With the company’s recent rapid growth, Bob now manages a large department of 80 engineers. As VP of engineering, Bob has a plethora of duties in managing the technical staff, including onboarding and training, employee retention, setting team goals, developing both technical and project management training programs, oversight of customer projects, and management of the company’s quality system. Bob also leads the company’s continuous improvement team, which focuses on the enhancement of SCI training, services, and processes.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have Bob Patrick as VP of Engineering,” says Rick Pierro, co-founder and president of Superior Controls. “With Bob’s project experience, in-depth technical knowledge, and calm, proactive management style, he’s been able to grow his team into New England’s most talented and largest independent automation team by far.”
Through the years, Bob has worked on several interesting projects. What he enjoys most about the control engineering field is the ease of working with a variety of industries. He quips, “You don’t have to be an expert in each process to be a successful controls engineer.” A perfect example is the Malden Mills project he worked on early in his career. He was tasked with providing the balance of plant controls for a cogeneration facility at the Polartec fleece manufacturer. Bob developed the automation system while teaching himself the process and lingo. Bob was responsible for integrating with two 5-megawatt gas turbines each fitted with heat recovery steam generators. Bob recalls, “Mark handed me a set of piping and instrumentation diagrams on my first day on the job. I had never seen a P&ID before then. Most of my experience up to that point was in the machine control industry.”
Another interesting project Bob worked on was for Massachusetts Biological Laboratory. The customer wanted to streamline the vaccine manufacturing workflow by adding wireless communications to movable workstations and using an MES (Manufacturing Execution System). The workstations contained dual screens. One monitor provided the operator with electronic work instructions while the other included real time process data for the plant equipment. Later in his career, Bob enjoyed being the project manager for phases 2 and 3 of the large, bone growth product capital expansion at Stryker Biotech in West Lebanon, NH.
Even more than working on interesting projects, Bob enjoys the warm and collaborative culture at Superior Controls, which he attributes to the examples set by Mark and Rick. “Everyone is really helpful, and there is a lot of information sharing,” he said. “The company was founded and is run by engineers, and that makes a difference. We have all done the work and we understand what it takes to do these projects.” As VP of engineering, Bob often hears feedback from his team and he says employees value the onboarding and training process that Superior Controls has created, the mentoring program, and the company culture that feels like an extended family.
Bob and his wife live in Bedford, NH and have three children: a son who is studying mechanical engineering at UMass Lowell, and two daughters, who are in the 11th and 6th grades. Bob spends his free time coaching and mentoring his kids in various activities including sports, Scouts and VEX robotics. When the family is able to take time away from their busy schedules, they enjoy skiing, travel, attending sporting events, mountain biking, and hiking together.