Graduating student designs training system for System Engineers

Control systems in plant measurement rooms often vary from customer to customer. Our System Engineers must therefore be able to deal with various Programmable Logic Controller systems (PLCs). Bart Hermans designed a training system for Siemens PLCs. A successful graduation project that resulted in a job at Sitech at the Sitech Technology & Innovation Skill Pool.

Suitable graduation assignment found at Sitech
Intern Bart Hermans graduated in measurement and control techniques from the Electromechanical Systems course at UCLL in Diepenbeek. “A broad education that includes programming, pneumatics, drawing, software development,” he explains. “I was looking for a graduation project that suited this.” Colleagues at the Skill Pool Sitech Technology & Innovation came up with such an assignment. Process Control Engineer Rens Verbeek: “The plants on the Chemelot site have different types of PLC systems. Many colleagues do not work with Siemens PLCs on a daily basis, but they do have to deal with them during their standby duty. Therefore, they need to be trained. This cannot be done in the factory environment, as you would disrupt the operations of the plants. Hence, we needed a separate training system. Also useful for testing new software for the factory in an offline situation.”

Photography Marc Schols, MCM productions

From his education, Bart already had experience with Siemens PLCs. He was also familiar with Sitech from a previous work experience placement at the end of last year. So he didn’t have to think twice when he was asked for this challenging assignment. Bart: “The assignment consisted of three parts: the design and construction of a training setup, the design of a practical training course and the writing of an instruction for reference. I had three months to do this.”

Exact copy of PLC in the field
Before designing and building the training setup, Bart first held meetings with Process Control Engineer Riccardo Delvax. Bart: “I used the requirements the system had to meet for my design. After their approval, I purchased the necessary materials and built and wired the board according to the electrical schematics. In doing so, I followed the IP scoping process, including documenting. Afterwards, an Electrical Engineer checked that everything was safe.” Rens: “Displays, relays as outputs, buttons as inputs: everything in this training setup is an exact copy of a real Siemens PLC in the field.”

Useful training and instruction videos
In creating the training, Bart started from the most common bottlenecks during on-call duty. “Based on that, I designed a training document with 8 different tasks. For example, loading a document coming from Open Text, exchanging a PLC or a common bottleneck on call. Each assignment comes with a QR code that after scanning leads to a video with explanation. I applied the same when preparing the instruction on how the PLC works. Handy to consult if you have to solve a malfunction during the on-call shift.”

Good people are hard to find in this tight job market. Working with schools and providing a place for interns helps us with this.”

– Jack Snellen, Skill Pool Manager Process Control

Proud of great achievement
How does Bart view his graduate internship? “I thought it was an interesting assignment, for which I had to find out a lot. In the process, I worked largely independently, which was quite a challenge. But that made me better.” Not only Bart, but the entire Process Control team is happy with the great end result. Rens: “We can now provide training in-house, which means we need less support from Siemens.” So the intern Bart was waved goodbye with praise and appreciation. His farewell did not last long: he returned to Sitech Technology & Innovation with a permanent job.

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