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Guiding the future of programming

‘It’s impossible to predict how the world of programming will change in the next five-to-ten years,’ says TMC Employeneur Lefranc Loupias – ‘but there’s one thing I’m absolutely certain of: we’ll have to find alternatives to the methods we’re currently using. There are better and more efficient ways of programming, more suited to the way a younger generation of professionals thinks. I’m convinced modelbased engineering can be the answer to many of the problems that companies face these days.’

Lefranc joined TMC in July 2014. Three months ago, he started working at ASML as a Designer for Safety and Mains distribution. ‘It’s a very versatile role. I’m not tied to one specific project, or even one specific discipline. Put simply, I’m responsible for one machine – making sure it’s always running safely and smoothly.’

Besides his work at ASML, Lefranc has another mission: he is a firm advocate for modelbased engineering – a new approach to programming and controlling machines. ‘With modelbased engineering, the engineering phase is completely independent of the platform,’ Lefranc explains. ‘You start by defining and describing the system on the highest abstraction level. You describe the tasks the machine has to perform under any circumstances, then you start digging deeper and you fill in the more specific tasks.’

There are a lot of advantages to this new approach, Lefranc says: ‘For one thing, modelbased engineering is much more accessible, much easier to understand for people not working in programming, or even for people in programming who are not familiar with a certain kind of model. Modelbased engineering is all about a systematic, functional breakdown of the machine. Suddenly, it’s that much easier to explain to your supervisor (or to your wife and kids!) exactly what you’ve been working on, without having to resort to obscure, highly specific code.’ 

And another benefit is that since the engineering phase isn’t tied to one specific platform, it’s relatively easy to apply the model to different programming platforms. ‘You just have to make a few slight changes to account for the different details, and you’re there,’ Lefranc says. ‘For the same reason, making adjustments and updating your code is much more straightforward too.’

Perhaps even more importantly, modelbased engineering is better equipped to satisfy the demands of today’s market – and the market of the near future. ‘While there’s virtually no sector that evolves as quickly as high-tech, programming itself is much more conservative. We’re still using the methods we used thirty years ago. The way we work and think could definitely use an update.’

Lefranc is not just discussing modelbased engineering with his fellow Employeneurs – he is also spreading the word to other companies. He has given several presentations on the subject. ‘So far, the response has been great – but for modelbased engineering to truly take hold, there’s still a lot of work to be done.’ Lefrance is confident that this won’t be a problem: ‘I’m positive that soon, not just a few front-running companies, but the whole industry will see the advantages – or rather, the necessity – of modelbased engineering.’

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