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Meet the Team: John Downey

1. Describe your job as if you were explaining it to a five-year-old.

I manage projects for various medical and life science clients. My role involves supporting commercial activities, understanding customer requirements, and building a project team and scope to deliver to those requirements.

2. What types of projects are you working on at the moment?

My project areas at the moment would be focused on digital transformation. I am involved in the consultation, design, development, and validation of OT (operational technology) projects or OT systems for use cases such as OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), batch control, paper-to-glass, and statistical process control.

Digital transformation is a priority with all customer organisations I work with. Customers have resources and teams in place to support digital transformation initiatives, where they identify the main pain points that can be solved by digital transformation.

The main drivers for implementing any digital transformation project are increasing compliance, meeting regulatory requirements, and the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of the client organisation.

3. How did you get into the industry?

I came into the life science industry and into SL Controls following 19 years in electronics manufacturing. My first role was a project management opportunity in SL Controls focused on an Industry 4.0 consultancy engagement.

I found the data-driven approach in life sciences was emerging in some respects, whereas the data-driven approach was already prevalent within the high-volume electronics industry. So, I saw big opportunities within the life sciences sector for the integration of systems to provide insights and enhance data-driven decision-making capabilities.

4. What is your proudest moment (work life or personal life)?

Having two kids and seeing them grow, learn, and develop is what I’m most proud of.

5. What’s the best advice you could give to someone thinking of coming into this industry?

Probably the best advice I could give is to use your experience or education. Especially if you are new to the sector or you are transitioning into the sector, don’t forget the experience and education you have.

Ask lots of questions. Leverage the resources that are available to help you grow within the business. Utilise the strong mentor network within SL controls to grow in your career.

And have fun along the way.

6. Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?

Enjoying time with family and getting regular exercise, which is good for mental health, particularly in the hybrid working environment. I also help coach the local under-11 soccer team. That’s very rewarding as well.

7. What’s the best thing about working for life sciences customers (pharma, MedTech, etc)?

I think being able to see the vision of a project being implemented in a healthcare setting and connecting that vision with the benefits at the end of the project. Also, in everyday life when you see the client’s products or services benefiting patients and being able to connect that back to projects that SL Controls has delivered – those are the best things.

8. What is the best thing about being on the SL Controls team?

There’s a great team culture within the organisation. It’s supportive of individual needs and your career path or your career direction.

But probably the best thing is seeing the growth of the teams and individuals within SL Controls along the journey of projects and client engagements.

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Celebrating Cultural Diversity at SL Controls

The 21st May is World Day for Cultural Diversity 2024, an initiative to highlight the richness of the world’s cultures and encourage intercultural dialogue. To celebrate, we asked the SL Controls team to share information and reflections about their country and culture. Watch the video now.

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SL Controls Achieves Premier Integrator Status for Digital Transformation Platform Ignition

SL Controls has been certified as a Premier Integrator for Ignition, the digital transformation platform for industrial automation. Ignition by Inductive Automation features flexible and fully customisable SCADA and MES (manufacturing execution system) functionality with comprehensive integration capabilities.

NNIT Group company SL Controls is one of only three Ignition Premier Integrators in Ireland and the only Premier Integrator with expertise across the life sciences sector, including both the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

Frank Quinn, Digital Transformation Executive at SL Controls, said: “We have been working with the Ignition platform for several years now integrating it into customer facilities in the life sciences sector. It is a digital transformation platform that stands out from the competition because of its broad range of features, unlimited integration capabilities, minimal learning curve for end users, and straightforward, cost-effective pricing model.

“Ignition is also highly customisable, enabling our engineers and systems architects to develop solutions that not only meet the specific needs of our customers but also deliver fast results and tangible returns on investment.

“Those tangible returns on investment come from productivity, efficiency, and OEE improvements. Specific objectives we help our customers achieve include paper-to-glass transitions, automating processes, and making better use of data, as well as performance improvements specific to the life sciences sector, including batch release by exception.”

The Power of Ignition Combined with SL Controls Expertise

Our expertise at SL Controls includes over 20 years of experience delivering system integration and manufacturing process improvement solutions for customers in the life sciences sector. This extensive industry, compliance, and manufacturing process knowledge, combined with the power of the Ignition platform, means we can deliver fast results, measurable performance improvements, and tangible returns on investment for our customers.

The power of the Ignition platform comes from its comprehensive integration capabilities, SCADA functionality, and MES features. It bridges the gap between operational technology systems on the factory floor and enterprise-level platforms such as ERP systems.

The real-world benefits for customers in the life sciences sector include:

  • Faster batch release processes.
  • Seamless paper-to-glass transitions.
  • Productivity gains through automation and process improvement.
  • Streamlined and cost-effective regulatory compliance.
  • Ability to reallocate skilled resources from repetitive tasks to value-adding tasks.
  • OEE improvements across the factory floor.
  • Better integration and collaboration between enterprise-level and operational-level functions.
  • Enhanced oversight and better quality, data-driven decision-making.

Delivering for Life Sciences Sector Customers

Inductive Automation operates a rigorous assessment process when certifying Premier Integrator partners. Only 2 percent of Ignition integrators have Premier status. Chris Fischer, Integrator Program Manager at Inductive Automation, congratulated SL Controls on achieving the certification.

Chris said: “I’m very pleased to welcome SL Controls as a Premier Integrator of Ignition software. SL Controls have distinguished themselves by doing excellent work with leading companies in the life sciences sector, and by expanding the knowledge and expertise of their team. I sincerely look forward to working with SL Controls over the coming years.”

Darragh McMorrow, Commercial Director at SL Controls, said: “We look forward to continuing to build on our relationship with Inductive Automation, and we are grateful for the support we have received from the team.

“We also look forward to helping more of our customers achieve digital transformation success in their manufacturing operations by implementing and integrating the Ignition platform.”

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Workplace Wellbeing Week 2024 at SL Controls

SL Controls is marking Workplace Wellbeing Week 2024 with a number of initiatives and events, culminating in Workplace Wellbeing Day on Friday 26 April.

Hosted by Ibec, the aim of Workplace Wellbeing Week/Day is to promote social, mental, and physical wellbeing in the workplace.

We have initiatives and events taking place throughout the week:

  • Mindful Monday – sharing mindfulness tips and best practices.
  • Thankful Tuesday – best practices and ideas on gratitude and being thankful.
  • Wellbeing Wednesday – sharing wellbeing tips and best practices. This includes a lunch and learn webinar on nutrition and the launch of the SL Controls June Activity Challenge.
  • Togetherness Thursday – organised as an anchor day where employees are encouraged to work in the office rather than at home. A healthy lunch will be available with other wellbeing events throughout the day.
  • Feel good Friday – a virtual coffee break with colleagues and pets are invited!

Throughout the week, employees are also being encouraged to take a lunchtime walk with those taking part being entered into a raffle to win a prize.

Norma Mulligan, People & Culture Executive at SL Controls said: “Employee wellbeing is a key priority for us at SL Controls and we have well-established initiatives that promote good physical, mental, and social health, including Live Well at SL and Think Well at SL. We are proud to be taking part in National Workplace Wellbeing Week/Day and we look forward to ongoing wellbeing initiatives throughout the year.”

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Meet the Team: Frank Quinn

1. Describe your job as if you were explaining it to a five-year-old.

I think probably the easiest way to describe what I do is I work closely with customers to provide solutions to their needs, such as improving their productivity, reducing their waste, and reducing their costs.

2. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on putting the key pillars in place for the new digital transformation executive role in the new Ignition portfolio. That entails setting up our CRM system, working closely with the technology provider, Inductive Automation, and really just setting up the foundations for that role.

3. How did you get into the industry?

My first experience in this industry was with SL controls, so it was completely new for me coming from the FMCG sector. The culture in SL Controls, along with support from my colleagues, meant I was able to get up to speed quickly even though it definitely was daunting at the start.

You know, you’re still dealing with people at the end of the day, despite it being a different industry. So, I would have carried across decent account management and business development skills.

I think there’s a saying people buy from people, so you still have to build relationships with your customers. So, there were a lot of transferable skills, but it was just getting up to speed on the technical side of things, getting your technical knowledge up to a certain level, and getting to know a bit more about the life sciences industry.

4. What is your proudest moment (work life or personal life)?

Marrying my wife and having children I think is probably the proudest.

5. What’s the best advice you could give to someone thinking of coming into this industry?

I think sometimes when you’re reading the job spec for a role and it’s in a different industry, you might nearly put yourself down thinking you wouldn’t be able to do it. Or because you might not have the experience you won’t be successful. But I do think from being in this role and having the right support structures from SL Controls or any other company for that matter, you shouldn’t let the job specification put you off.

And don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and take a bit of a risk.

You also have to have the attitude to learn and take in new information, especially if you are going into a different industry. This is my third different industry in a sales professional role, so it’s all about learning.

6. Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?

For me, it’s probably the three Fs – family, friends, and football. In terms of a hobby, it’s football pretty much out on its own. Spending time with family and friends would be the other big one.

7. What’s the best thing about working for life sciences customers (pharma, MedTech, etc)?

Although we don’t obviously have the visibility of seeing a physical product, you still know you are working with customers who produce something meaningful for everyone. Their products help people, so it’s rewarding and satisfying to know that you’re contributing to that.

8. What is the best thing about being on the SL Controls team?

There’s a lot of things. Honestly, I’ve never worked in a company where we all get on. I think the culture that’s been created is fantastic and I think everyone is approachable.  I’ve certainly had to lean on a lot of people when I was settling into the role. I’ve never felt that I was putting anyone out, which I am grateful for.

So, it’s the fantastic culture at SL Controls – I think that’s the best thing over many other things.

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Read Frank’s latest blogs on Digital Transformation in the manufacturing sector:

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SL Controls Speaking at Northwest’s Robotics and Digitalisation Event

SL Controls engineers Derek Loughlin and Conor Davey will be speaking at the Northwest’s Robotics & Digitalisation Event this week. The event is open to companies who want to embrace and learn more about implementing digitalisation technologies. It will feature experts from the digitalisation field, including SL Controls.

The Northwest’s Robotics and Digitalisation Event will take place at the AIM Centre in Sligo on 18 April. AIM is an organisation focused on helping businesses take advantage of new technologies that can improve and automate manufacturing processes and enhance supply chain management and reliability. The AIM Centre in Sligo is funded by Enterprise Ireland, the Atlantic Technology University (ATU), Sligo County Council, and Leitrim County Council.

The event on Thursday is being organised by Data2Sustain. Data2Sustain is a European Digital Innovation Hub based in the Northwest of Ireland. It focuses on supporting businesses as they develop and implement digitalisation and data innovation strategies and initiatives.

SL Controls engineers Derek Loughlin and Conor Davey will be speaking on the topic of Navigating Digital Transformation. They will focus on how to integrate advanced technologies in manufacturing organisations to foster innovation, streamline operations, make efficiency savings, and improve productivity.

Other topics covered during the event include digital twin technologies for facilities management, the unified namespace ecosystem, and the capabilities of collaborative robots.

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SL Controls Engineers Start New Primary School Engineering Programme

Two SL Controls Engineers, Andrew Ryan and Volker Winhausen, have started a new 10-week STEAM programme. They are teaching engineering principles to 5th class primary school pupils at Youghalarra National School in Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland.

STEAM is an organisation that delivers programmes in partnership with industry to inspire children in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and maths. The initiative with the class of children in Tipperary is the fourth STEAM programme that SL Controls engineers have been involved with.

Volker Winhausen, Systems Architect at SL Controls, said: “Inspiring the next generation of engineers has always been important for us at SL Controls. We believe it is the responsibility of all stakeholders in the engineering sector to not only provide information, but to also show how engineering is fun, challenging, and rewarding.”

Andrew Ryan, Senior Validation Engineer at SL Controls, said: “We have completed the first lesson of a 10-week programme and the children at Youghalarra are fantastic. They were enthusiastic about everything that we did and really enjoyed the practical elements of the lesson. Volker and I are looking forward to working with the kids and exploring new engineering topics with them over the next couple of months.”

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Meeting Tomorrow’s Engineers at Explore Engineering 2024

Explore Engineering 2024 took place at Shannon Airport in Clare last week and the event was a huge success. The engineering showcase continues to go from strength to strength as young people and their families meet engineering companies in the region to explore the potential career opportunities that exist in the engineering sector.

Deirdre Loughlin, Quality Lead at SL Controls said: “It gets busier and busier at Explore Engineering every year and it is one of the events we all look forward to. We were talking to people right up until the end at 9 o’clock.

“It is important to promote engineering as a career to as many young people as possible and to show the diversity that exists in this sector – diversity in terms of opportunity and diversity in terms of the people working in engineering.

“Explore Engineering does this as well as any other event and it is great to be involved. It was also great to see, meet, and talk with so many young people looking at engineering as a future career.”

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International Women’s Day 2024: Inspiring Inclusion in Engineering

Today is International Women’s Day and the theme this year is Inspire Inclusion. It is a theme that we fully support here at SL Controls, and it is part of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy.

To mark International Women’s Day 2024 and this year’s theme, we spoke to some of SL Controls’ female employees to get their views on inspiring inclusion.

Diane Maher, Systems Engineer

“I was the only female in the student body for engineering in my institution for the first three years of my degree. There was some hesitation from me at the start, but as time went on, I realised I was here to complete my studies, not to fit in. I think it’s important to realise we are all on our own journey.

“I think change begins in the attitude of the female engineer, in building confidence and strength. That also means getting women more comfortable with the fact there are still more men than women in the engineering industry. Hopefully, that will continue to change.

“Campaigns like Inspire Inclusion help us to feel noticed for some pitfalls we may come across and highlighting Inclusion is especially important. Sometimes we can feel left out by default, as horrible as a feeling that is, we can conquer it by coming together in female groups of our own to empower and instil confidence in each other.

“To make engineering more inclusive for women I think the industry should do more to support women and help them get a good start in their careers. We also need to make women engineers more visible. When I was researching my course there wasn’t much online as what was there was from America. It is better today but we still need to see women engineers more and more to take account and detail of the female experience.

“It is important to teach girls about the benefits of engineering when they are young. I was introduced to engineering myself at a young age. Realising how much it blended with my skills and my interests so young helped me make the decision down the line.

“My view is that women bring different skills to the table and diversity in general is beneficial for everyone. Diversity is what makes us stronger, so that’s why inclusion is important.”

Nav Dharni, Project Manager

“I graduated with a master’s in chemical engineering in England in 2018 and began my career on an engineering leadership graduate scheme working in the gas and electricity industry. I got exposure to a lot of different areas of engineering during this time, so it was a good experience for me.

“But I could see the stereotype still existed that engineering is a career dominated by men. Around 75 percent of my university course was male, and I am now in a team at work that is 85 percent male. My experience at university was good and it has reflected and prepared me for what the engineering industry would look like.

“I think awareness on what engineering careers look like needs to start at school as there is not enough awareness. An engineer is not just someone who wears PPE and spends their time outside. I’m primarily desk-based most of the time, so the perception is different from the reality. My experience has shown engineering is inclusive for women and I have not felt disadvantaged. But there is lad banter, and as a female in the industry, you learn to have to tolerate it.
“Change has to happen from the top down. I am seeing a shift in leadership roles where there are more female leaders in engineering departments now. That will inspire more females to come into the industry. There are challenges, but there are so many exciting opportunities for women in engineering.”

Shauna Ryan, Director of People and Culture

“Inclusion and inspiring inclusion are very important, and it is something that we continuously need to work at. One of the things I cover in our diversity, equity, and inclusion training at SL Controls is perception versus intent. When engaging with others, it is not our intent that is the key element but the perception from the other side. My advice is if you think something will offend another person, don’t say it.

“So, everyone has a responsibility to make the workplace more inclusive, but we also have to continue our collective efforts across the industry to improve the gender balance. The thing that will accelerate change faster than anything else is having more female engineers. And it will be a snowball effect. If you want to be it, you have to see it. The more women there are in engineering the more they will be seen and the more inspiration there will be for other females to pursue an engineering career.”

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