Niels Roosenboom started out as an electrical engineer. Eleven years ago, he switched to ICT Group, when he was wanting to develop his skills in automation. "My choice was partly prompted by the diversity of work that ICT Group is known for," says Niels. He started as a PLC CAD engineer and after two years he progressed to MES engineer. Now he is Technical Lead Engineer and acts as the linking pin between the client, the project manager and the MES team that performs the technical implementation.
Maarten Steenbekkers completed his HBO graduation project in industrial automation at ICT Group eight years ago and was able to stay on immediately after his graduation. He also started as a PLC Scada engineer and moved on to MES systems.
Martin's work involves developing, building and testing software. "I like to think in terms of solutions," he laughs. That's why he feels like a fish in water as an MES engineer. "Finding new solutions. A customer usually wants A, but if A is not possible, I show solution B." Proudly, he talks about his project at FrieslandCampina in Leeuwarden. "There is now a fully automated factory there, to which I contributed my bit."
Niels is currently participating in a large AVEVA project to support companies in moving towards a smart factory with optimally automated and paperless workflows. "Normally, the operating room is a physical space. If something goes wrong with a machine, such as a malfunction, you have to look at the problem in the operating room and then go back to the machine to fix the fault," he explains. "With a mobile device, you can see what's wrong on the spot on the device itself and perform the repair right there and then. It goes without saying that this is much more efficient. On site, you can also use a mobile device to make scans if necessary. Moreover, you can access the system directly from anywhere in the factory." Opting for mobile devices complicates the work for software developers, but that is precisely the challenge, Niels believes. "It requires a different way of thinking and analysing. It’s more task-oriented and less symptomatic."
Go-getters and team players
"ICT Group provides us with a lot of room to experiment," Niels explains. "In our team, we don't usually choose the beaten path. We are not afraid to explore out-of-the-box solutions." Maarten: "Character traits that come in handy in our work? You have to enjoy trying something new and you have to be able to keep puzzling until you find a solution. We are go-getters and team players. As MES engineers, we form a closely-knit team. Everyone is there for each other. Can't figure something out? Just give a sign and immediately there’s a couple of colleagues who are ready to think along with you."
Niels and Maarten are looking for several new colleagues. Either with work experience or straight from an education, they don't mind. "Of course, you do need to have a certain basic knowledge of technical computing. Moreover, it’s useful if you have some knowledge of process technology and the manufacturing industry, but that’s also easy to learn on the job," says Niels. Every working day, the MES team starts with a 15-minute consultation, via Teams or physically. "We briefly discuss yesterday's work and then look at the day ahead" he says. Part of the week, the MES engineers work at the office in Breda, and part of the week they are at a client's premises or work from home. "It’s always very enlightening to visit clients' premises," says Maarten, "and then it’s especially useful to look around the factory to see what the processes and machines actually look like. It makes our work tangible."
The MES engineers work for interesting clients with locations all over the world. "In our work, we deal a lot with international colleagues," Niels explains, "because the software is developed in another country, but also because ICT Group’s internationals are here working in the Netherlands."
They both speak highly of the development opportunities at ICT Group. Maarten: "Take our own ICT Academy, where you can further train in all kinds of areas. And you also learn a lot from your colleagues. We have a lot of in-house expertise. Moreover, it’s also very sociable and fun and interesting activities are organised. That makes you feel at home in no time and you get to know colleagues from all over the country and from all over the world."
Manufacturing Execution System
In the manufacturing industry, the MES (Manufacturing Execution System) connects customer demand to machines and processes, thus ensuring that the right product is made at the right time. Crucial information travels from the office to the factory, but at least as much valuable data takes the opposite route. ICT Group's MES solutions consist of applications that combine visibility and real-time production status. These include traceability and genealogy of manufactured products, performance analysis of production activities to detect trends and weaknesses, paperless management of production processes to reduce overheads and operator instructions. Together, they make the production process transparent and manageable, thus improving continuity, predictability and reliability. Benefits include shorter changeover times, higher quality, less waste and more efficient energy consumption.