In a previous post I mentioned that I have changed the focus of my company from contracting and integration to various other things. I am working on some software products to aid in machine and system design, contemplating writing a couple of new books, and doing some teaching.
I have been asked to do training before, but having taught electronics during my Air Force career I know how difficult it can be to set up a good curriculum. For PLC programming training this is further complicated by the fact that you need laptops, software licenses and hardware.
I decided to get involved with teaching this past summer. This allows me to bring some income into my company while I am transitioning into these new endeavors. Classes also typically only last a few days or a week also which allows me to manage my time a little better.
I spent some time online looking at various companies that provide training both on site and online and found one that fits well with my plans, the best in my opinion. This past week I taught my first class for them in Raleigh, North Carolina on Allen-Bradley’s SLC500 family of PLCs. Next week I am teaching my second class, on A-B’s ControlLogix platform.
Automation Training (www.automationtraining.ca) is a Canadian company that does on-site, online and video training for Allen-Bradley, Siemens, Mitsubishi, Modicon, Omron, Wonderware and a few other automation platforms. They have instructors located across the US and Canada, mostly drawn from people who have either worked directly for automation manufacturers or have a lot of integration experience. I guess I would fall into the second category.
Teaching the class was a lot of fun. I had six students from various manufacturing plants in the Southeastern US. They all had some PLC experience but no formal training on the SLC platform. Automation Training’s manuals are very detailed and provide a great outline for the three day class. There are various exercises and some nice hardware training kits (shown above). Though the hardware is all SLC 5/05 processors (Ethernet), all of the SLC and Micrologix family is covered in the class.
Next week’s class is on the ControlLogix platform. Raleigh is right at 500 miles from Nashville, and I drove out last Tuesday with all of the class equipment in my SUV. The equipment is contained in shipping cases that barely fit in my vehicle, and it is definitely on the heavy side. I will be returning some of it via UPS Monday, so my return trip will be a bit lighter. The class is 4 days long so I will be returning home next Friday.
If I had ever contemplated including PLC classes as part of my company’s offerings I think this experience has cured it. The president of Automation Training spends a lot of time working out the logistics of holding classes all over North America and getting the hardware to the right places at the right time. This was one of the reasons I got out of the machine-building industry in 2006; I spent more time dealing with hardware, logistics and personnel issues than I did doing what I enjoy; designing, programming and teaching.
I have mentioned before that I like the idea of teaching some non-brand-specific programming classes in the future. I have an idea for a software package that will simulate the major brands of PLCs as well as a possible advanced programming book, but all of that takes a lot of energy and a long time to put together. Before that I may set up a general automation course based on my book Industrial Automation: Hands On. Until then, I plan to get some good experience teaching classes for Automation Training. They are also looking for instructors on their website, so if you have experience on some of the platforms they offer, give them a call! Also if you need training on Allen-Bradley or Siemens PLCs or any of their other advertised courses contact Steve Woodhouse at Automation Training, 1-866-LearnAT (532-7628). Who knows, you might end up with me as your instructor!