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PLC workshops given by TMC Industrial Automation

Marco Haasje, director of TMC’s business cell Industrial Automation in the Eindhoven office, likes his Employeneurs to transfer their knowledge. With that idea in mind he asked three of his own Employeneurs to develop PLC workshops. The only thing they still need is a name.

It’s no exaggeration to call Marco Haasjes an enterprising cell director. Apart from the free workshops with partners  like Bosch, Sigmatek, Festo, Beckhoff and Siemens that he hosts at TMC, he has now started an initiative where Employeneurs from his own business cell Industrial Automation develop their own workshops in PLC operations. ‘The  idea to turn our own people into teachers really appeals to me,’ says Marco.

Constructed by students

Marco managed to interest four Employeneurs from his business cell to coordinate the workshops. ‘All four are really great engineers with a tremendous amount of knowledge. If they can share that with others, everyone benefits.’ He also scraped together a budget to finance the test setup for the workshops.

That test setup consist of a one square metre table with a conveyor belt and a robotic arm operated by a PLC. The setup was constructed by the Mosa-RT vocational school in Maaseik, Belgium. It’s the same school that Peter van Gemert, one of the Employeneurs from the workshop team, attended in his youth. Marco: ‘Peter has started a collaboration with one of their teachers, Mr. Greunlinx, which involved the students working on the setup for the entire year. It enabled us to purchase a test setup with a very limited budget that will last for many years.’ 

Simulate errors

The first training is scheduled to start at the end of September and is meant for Employeneurs from the business cell Field Service, that has sponsored a quarter of the project. ‘Field Service engineers spend a lot of time installing machines,’ says Marco. ‘When software errors pop up, they have to be able to analyze and solve them. Our workshops are set up to help them with that.’ The PLC workshops are also supported by the TMC Entrepreneurial Lab , that co-sponsors the project and provides lab space to host the workshops. 

Together with Jasper Aarts, Marco van ‘t Hullenaar and Peter van Gemert, Employeneur Bart van Leuken is one of the four coordinators modelling the workshops. ‘We have created a special box with which we can simulate errors in the test setup, which the participants then have to find and solve. We’re going to teach them to find the errors using the PLC software and also explain to them how to use the diagnostic tools. So the next time they face a software error on their job, they will know how to look it up and solve it in the PLC.’

For Bart playing the role of teacher is a first and something he looks forward to. ‘I’ve supervised interns before and have worked a lot with students. I love to transfer the knowledge I accumulated to others in order to help people develop and grow. When I started out as an intern myself, I received a lot of support from people who helped me out. That’s why today I’m still interested in software. The workshops give me a chance to give back.’

Higher level

Apart from the workshops for the Field Service business cell the Employeneurs are also busy designing a second workshop for junior software developers. If it’s up to Marco there are going to be about four to five PLC workshops a year with varying subjects. ‘Investing in knowledge of automation is one of our top priorities. We invest as much as possible to bring people up to a higher level and keep them tied to and interested in this amazing field. At the same time it enables us to deliver added value to our customers. This is how we keep staying on top of the game.’

The only thing still missing is a good name for the new workshops. Marco: ‘We thought of The PLC Cafe, but it still doesn’t cover it completely.’ Suggestions are welcome.

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