Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are used to control machinery and is the component that makes decisions based upon a custom program. The majority of machines in the world contain a PLC unit, from assembly lines to amusement parks.
Most of the new factories are going to be fully automated and all machines will be controlled using PLC, which means that having even basic PLC knowledge and skills will not only be relevant but will be mandatory in order to use, maintain and program these machines. This is one of the reasons this technology will play a pivotal part in the 4IR.
What happens if a business doesn’t have the right PLC skills?
Can a business afford to have machines break down? If the PLC goes down the machine stops running and this will create several problems for a business:
- Production is stopped
- Time is wasted waiting for a PLC specialist to come in and fix the machine
- Customer needs are not met
By developing in-house PLC skills and knowledge businesses can save time and money. Not only can in-house skills fault-find quicker, they can also program PLCs to improve their processes: make them faster, more efficient and more cost-effective and this can also add an element of future proofing for the organisation.
Who should learn PLC skills?
Today, and especially in the future, PLC skills are essential, simply because so much machinery and processes depend on PLCs. Maintenance engineers are expected to provide 1st line support for machinery and PLCs , and therefore will need to understand the basics of how PLCs work. Manufacturing and processing engineers also need to also understand how PLCs work, because PLCs are instrumental to what they are trying to achieve in their role.
Those people coming into the industry are also advised to understand the basics of PLCs, especially if they are going into a maintenance environment. Their futures roles will be dominated by PLCs, automation and robotics, so these skills are essential for the future of their careers – and will be of great value to manufacturing organisations as they look to future proof their businesses.
How can PLC skills help advance your career?
Most jobs in manufacturing now ask about PLC experience and it’s a great way of getting your foot in the door. The majority of maintenance jobs now have a PLC requirement, which is mainly centred on fault finding. Being able to trouble shoot and fault find is valuable skill to have when it comes to keep factories and modern manufacturing businesses running.
EEF offers two types of courses. Programming Programmable Logic Controls teaches people how to program PLCs from scratch. The other course is Fault Finding and Diagnostics for PLC, which teaches how to deal with malfunctions and maintenance issues with PLCs.
These skills and knowledge should be the basis for anyone going into manufacturing, as they are the tools with which to control and maintain the building blocks of manufacturing process, especially with the growing reliance on automated machinery that is part of the Industry 4.0.