Why was this course launched and why is it needed?
The course was launched based on the in-house expertise and development in this area, on the back of developing and delivering key elements for the European-funded Skillman project in 2017. There is an increasing demand for multi-skilled maintenance engineers in industry and, with the increasing automation and robotics footprint in a lot of production centres, it is becoming apparent that maintainers must develop the skills necessary to provide effective support for their respective employers.
The EAL Level 3 Automation and Robotics course will help to fill the current skills gap by giving delegates a much better, broader understanding of a wide range of robotic and automation-related subject areas (see box for module details). Though this course will deliver a comprehensive skillset and knowledge based on principles, not product, it should produce a well-rounded and competent maintenance engineer. There is no doubt that robotics and automation will require a different skillset, but that should not be too difficult for those with aspirations to become a maintainer in this field.
Who is the course aimed at?
The course is aimed at technicians and engineers who wish to enhance their skills, those who wish to learn about robotics and automation engineering, as well as employees with existing knowledge in manufacturing. The reason this course is aimed at these three groups in particular is that these areas are where the development of key skills and expertise would potentially have the greatest benefit to managers and employers.
Remember, this course covers the principles, not specific products, which means that any attendees should be able to effectively apply their new knowledge and skills back into their own workplace and in any future employment.
Delegates on the EAL Level 3 Robotics and Automation course will need to have had some limited exposure to robots and automated systems to benefit fully from the course content and delivery, and then be able to apply the diverse skillsets and knowledge effectively and efficiently in the workplace. We are also developing some generic courses to accommodate those with less experience, so they can better understand the basic operations, simple maintenance and low-level fault finding to suit their levels of responsibility and authority.
What facilities does your site offer to delegates?
Here at the Technology Hub, we not only have the state-of-the-art robotics and automation cell and separate robot room, we also have first-class training rooms and equipment, such as dedicated PLC programming, fault finding and diagnostics workshops, mechanical and fluid power training rigs, and electrical workshops.
Make UK’s aim is to support manufacturing industry and be at the cutting edge of training support and development. This particular training and qualification offering gives organisations the best opportunity to have trained, skilled and competent maintenance staff, who can best support their current and future robotics and automation needs to keep pace with ongoing development, technology and the marketplace.
How has course take up been since launching in September?
Sadly, there has not been the expected take up for the course, partly due to the prevailing political and financial climate, but we are running one group on the full qualification programme who are impressed with the course content, delivery methods, and equipment, and are leaving some good and valuable feedback.
What plans do you have for the future?
There are plans to run more of these courses in the future, hopefully as a rolling programme. However, the programme currently runs in the best, most logical sequence to build the learning and skillsets module-on-module, as delegates progress through the qualification. It would prove difficult to administer and track individuals over a protracted period and they would not get the greatest benefit from doing the programme out of sequence.
The modules have been created to fit a week-long block and we are currently working on versions of each outcome to provide additional ‘stand-alone’ training units for those that require them. We are currently developing a simplified version of the robot processes and function module for production line operators, and a higher-level specialised version of the PLC module for maintainers for one of our larger customers. These courses, once complete and tested, could be made available to other interested parties.
The complete EAL Level 3 qualification programme costs £7,200 + VAT (for Make UK members), though it is possible to complete individual units on an ad hoc basis. Anyone interested in learning more, or wanting to arrange a visit to the site, can make contact directly with Mark Farrant by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOX OUT: COURSE MODULES IN DEPTH
The course consists of nine units with an optional 10th unit to achieve the full EAL Level 3 Certificate in Robotics and Automation. They specifically target the broader range of skills that a typical maintenance engineers would require to provide a thorough and comprehensive range of support to an employer with an automated robotics production facility. Despite their numbering, the weekly modules are listed in what is said to be the ideal sequence for the programme (with an example of timings available at www.is.gd/pegoso):
ROB3-04 Robot Processes and Functions & ROB3-07 Robot Programming: These combined units enable learners to understand how to use and operate a robot, and understand industrial robot processes and functions. Learners will need to show they can safely operate, manipulate and program an industrial robot.
ROB3-01 Programmable Logic Controllers: This unit enables learners to consolidate and extend their knowledge and understanding of robotic programmable logic control. They will be able to understand PLC systems and associated communication methodology to edit and create PL programmes in Ladder Logic format.
ROB3-03 Fault Finding and Diagnosis for Automation and Robotics and ROB03-05 Automated Control Systems: These units enable learners to understand industrial control systems and the procedures involved with diagnosing faults on industrial automation and robots. They will demonstrate an understanding of the elements of control systems, the application of control theory and carry out fault-finding techniques on an automated industrial system.
ROB3-02A Mechanical Maintenance of Automation and ROB3-02C Maintenance Support Activities for Automation: These units enable learners to understand the procedures involved with the safe mechanical maintenance and the procedures involved with maintenance support activities on industrial automation systems. They will also be able to carry out safe mechanical maintenance activities and develop a simple PPM schedule for given criteria on an industrial automated system. The learner will understand and carry out safe mechanical maintenance on industrial automation systems.
ROB3-02B Electrical Maintenance of Automation: This unit will enable learners to understand the procedures involved with the safe electrical maintenance on industrial automated systems. They will need to carry out safe electrical maintenance.
ROB3-06 Machine Software Design Principles: This unit aims to help understand software design to create a program to correctly perform a specific function. The learner will be able to understand software design methodologies and create a program to correctly perform a specific task.
ROB3-08 Introduction to Simulation Engineering: This unit enables learners to understand and appreciate simulation engineering in relation to automated systems and robotics. They will need to model a production process using typical industrial simulation software.
ROB3-09 Process Optimisation and ROB3-10 Innovation in Automation (optional unit): Course delegates will understand process optimisation in relation to industrial robotics systems and understand the considerations that influence the decision whether to automate or not. They will need to be able to apply optimisation techniques to industrial robotic systems and justify and influence decisions to automate a process.