June 2010

N.J. Member Writes Electrician's Guide to Control and Monitoring Systems
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"You should write a book." Years ago, says Al Cutter, his fellow members of New Brunswick, N.J., Local 456, suggested that he glean the lessons from years of intense self-education in computers and electronics into a book to help electricians upgrade their skills.

Cutter's co-workers knew that a journeyman electrician with a degree from a technical high school, who taught himself over 30 computer languages, had patented inventions, and worked in China and Germany for New Brunswick's native Johnson and Johnson Inc., could break complicated control systems down to understandable bites, giving them a needed edge to stay marketable in a tough economy.

Cutter's first book, Electricians Guide to Control and Monitoring Systems, was published by McGraw-Hill this spring.

"Thomas Edison said that everything comes to he who hustles while he waits," says Cutter. The grandson of electricians on both sides of his family, Cutter is already working on two more books to help electricians get proficient on alternative and emerging energy applications. He has plans for five more books covering building automation systems and other technologies.

In a forward to Electrician's Guide to Control and Monitoring Systems, Michael Callanan, Executive Director of the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, says that Cutter's book "goes a long way towards helping the next generation of electricians master the latest electrical/electronic systems that control and monitor processes that are critical to so very many industries, including the automotive, pharmaceutical, petro-chemical and engineering community."

"My books are by and for electricians," says Cutter, who progressed from relays to card lock (programmable boards) to programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and ended up teaching college-level courses at his county's community college and at Lehigh University, years after first being introduced to electronics on scoreboards at Rutgers University and data systems in nursing homes.

While most textbooks are written by engineers, "I'm looking through the eyes of an electrician who wants to know the performance and function of a circuit," says Cutter, who was trained by Allen-Bradley in PLCs, by RCA as a video technician and Bogan Sound Systems as an audio technician. His book takes completed drawings and breaks them down line by line.

Unlike when he entered the trade, now "electricians can't just do one thing—you need to have a breadth of knowledge," says Cutter, who spent three years in China building a financial accounting system that tied together seven Asian nations. Knowledge pays off. Some computer data centers now have IBEW-trained personnel maintaining them, he says.

Single copies of Electrician's Guide to Control and Monitoring Systems: Installation, Troubleshooting and Maintenance can be ordered from Amazon.com. Bulk copies for training centers can be ordered from McGraw-Hill.

Author Al Cutter

‘My book is by and for electricians,' the New Brunswick, N.J., Local 456, member says.