Product Education and Training – The InterConnecting Automation Way
Back when he worked in a foundry, Doug Bell never imagined he would trade in his career as an electrician for becoming a teacher, but that’s in fact what happened. The transition came about more than 20 years ago, while he was attending a product training class, when he formulated an idea on how he could enhance the experience to benefit the person sitting in the classroom, as well as the company paying for the training.
Training is becoming increasingly more important, as the pace of technology quickly changes and as Millennials are increasing their numbers in the workforce. This age group, in particular, looks for ways to learn and grow with their employers, and training is one way to fill that need. Through additional education and training, employees are learning vital information, and feeling connected and engaged, while employers experience retaining a higher percentage of satisfied employees. In addition, proper training helps keep companies compliant and employees up-to-date on how to best use technology.
Bell feels that sense of satisfaction as well. “Teaching, helping people become more proficient in their jobs, is very fulfilling. At InterConnecting Automation, we blend technology with teaching. It allows people to become better at their jobs by understanding the full potential of the products and themselves,” said Bell.
The idea for InterConnecting Automation came to Bell while he attended a training class when the PC-based control industry was in its infancy. “I went to a training class and became so frustrated,” said Bell.
“It was then I realized the opportunity not just for providing training but for good, consistent training on these new technology-based products. People who attend these classes want to learn about how to use the product and not hear a sales pitch.” Bell believes the most beneficial type of technology-based training should come from a user perspective and not from marketing and sales. After discussing his idea with AutomationDirect Founder Tim Hohmann, Bell used his technical background as an electrician and programmer to create classes to help people learn everything they want to know about the PLC – from the basics to advanced knowledge.
Since 1996, Bell has provided the training for PLCs and other AutomationDirect products. Through InterConnecting Automation, he and his staff have trained more than 10,000 people since the beginning and he’s just getting started.“We provide online and onsite training and seminars across the country,” explained Bell.“We added video instruction about five years ago and that’s become increasingly popular.”
InterConnecting Automation PLC Training Courses include:
- Introductory Course for PLC-Based Controls
- Advanced PLC Training Course
- PID Computer-Based Training
- Intro Video DVD PLC Training Course
- Analog I/O Video DVD Training Course
- Online PLC Training
- CLICK PLC Trainer
All InterConnecting Automation’s technical instruction is delivered in a clear and concise method. The company’s videos and tutorials are specific and address points at various levels of training. The tutorials cover time-saving suggestions and advanced programming techniques, as well as showing programming examples that are common on simple automation controls. The company’s mission is for students who complete the courses to feel comfortable with basic through advanced PLC programming.
Bell explains the company’s philosophy: “As the instructor and owner of the company, I strive to offer effective, hands-on training for those who want to be trained. I am not a manufacturer’s representative, nor a distributor but an industry professional sharing my knowledge and expertise through education and training of others who manage industrial automation products. Whether it’s me teaching or one of our four other certified instructors, the goal is the same – sharing knowledge to benefit the student.”
InterConnecting Automation instructors pride themselves on providing a “no hype” type of instruction – just teachers who thoroughly enjoy helping others to learn about these products and taking that knowledge back to their companies and using the PLC products to their fullest advantage. “Many people only use 3 to 5% of the PLC’s power,” said Bell. “With a bit more training, they can use the product to do so much more! Helping their company become more efficient and themselves to be a more valuable resource to their employer.”
Many participants use the online video training to begin with to learn the basics of the products and then move to the more advanced courses. All the completed courses offer Continuing Education Credit to those who finish and pass the course. The most advanced classes attract those students who want to learn more and attend the training in a classroom with hands-on access to the products, including how to program a machine from scratch. This type of real world use is what people are looking for in this type of high-level training so they can use the knowledge in their everyday work day. Bell explains: “We offer most of this type of training on-site at large companies. It’s full of information but you also get play time. What could be more fun than a group of engineer types sitting in a room programming!”
Although the outlook for the training industry is bright, Bell doesn’t envision any drastic changes in the near future. “The only variations I expect to see is more video courses on existing products and new courses offered on innovative products being introduced such as the Productivity Series. We have also seen the larger companies ask for customized classes for their employees which we conduct on site for multiple training sessions,” said Bell.
There is also a continued need for training on existing products. Even though the first PLCs were produced approximately 30 years ago, the product lasts a long time. In fact, the products can last longer than people. Employees change jobs, retire, or leave the company for other reasons but the PLCs keep going and new or different employees need to be trained on how to best use the product.
Bell said: “As companies grow and add products, their need for training grows, that keeps us very busy teaching classes. Corporate America is also realizing that training is vital and you can’t postpone employees’ needs to understand how to use technology-based products. Even after the initial installation, these products need to keep running and new people coming into organizations need to get up to speed quickly.” So, as long as there are PLCs and other such products available, InterConnecting Automation instructors will be found teaching and providing practical knowledge to participants throughout the country.