By Richard Greeson, Industrial Skills Instructor, Peak Performance Inc.
As Industry 4.0 shapes the ever-changing technology driven solutions in the manufacturing industry, how do businesses ensure that they have the right-skilled team members.
Manufacturing and processing facilities are continually looking for ways to keep operating costs to a minimum. Staying competitive in a global market takes innovation and a skilled workforce. Technology and automation are tools in one of the best paths forward, but it does come at a price. Equipment is expensive, so is the labor. It’s difficult controlling cost in such an environment therefore, having a highly skilled staff means you are better prepared to meet these challenges. Your return for investing in your staff insures you have the best mix of equipment and controls, balanced by internal priorities.
Technology changes at a rapid rate. What does a company need to upgrade? What is acceptable and can last for a few more years? What is the best cost value for different alternatives? These questions a trained and skilled worker could provide or help develop. Their day to day activities interacting through increasing complexity with the PLC and associated control system will lead to their greater detailed knowledge of your process. This pays dividends in many indirect ways.
Things happen. Parts wear out, equipment malfunctions. Sometimes they overheat, and things sometimes just break. Its why you have a maintenance department. How long and how extensive the disruption is to your business depends on what breaks, when it breaks and how long the repair takes. The variables in this equation can change quickly. Having internal personnel at-the-ready will reduce downtime and could ensure your production has around the clock support. Internal personnel will have the expertise for your specific system and knowledge of your facility, including policies and procedures, that no outside contractor will have.
Having the know-how to repair your own equipment internally gives you more control over labor costs, costs of replacement parts and saves on repairs and improvements. Having the in-house ability to modifying the PLC program to change a switch, a pushbutton or a motor saves time and money as well. Every time you bring in an outside contractor your give up control of your fate, pun intended.
Computer security and automation system security has become an important priority in today’s business environment. Security breaches can cripple companies and cost millions to undo. An in-house PLC-trained staff can effectively limit the inherent security risk posed by outside sources.
In the end, training your internal personnel allows you to stay competitive by maintaining control of proprietary information and keeping it confidential. This is one of the main advantages to keep your control system engineering in-house while safeguarding sensitive information.