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SL Controls Named as a Top 20 Ignition Integrator Worldwide

Each month, Inductive Automation publishes the top integrators of its leading industrial automation platform, Ignition. For the period January to February 2024, SL Controls is 13th on the leaderboard out of more than 1,600 currently certified Ignition integrators.

SL Controls takes a customer-focused approach when recommending and selecting technology stacks, but the features, pricing structure, and overall flexibility of the Ignition platform means it is increasingly coming out on top.

 

Read our latest whitepaper on flattening the manufacturing stack and making the right choice of SCADA / MES platform for your facility.

 

Frank Quinn, Digital Transformation Executive at SL Controls, said: “Being named as one of the top 20 Ignition integrators worldwide is something we are proud of at SL Controls, and it is a testament to the continued work of our team.

“As a company, we recognise the power of the Ignition platform and the immediate and long-term benefits it offers to industry, including customers in our specialist area of life sciences manufacturing.

“For life sciences manufacturers and other industries, the Ignition platform provides a powerful foundation for the development of fully bespoke, innovative, and intelligent solutions. Tangible results, such as the digitalisation of 50 percent of paper-based processes within six months, are achievable with rapid returns on investment.

“We will continue to invest in training for even more members of our team. Based on the current leaderboard, we are a top-3 Gold Certified Ignition integrator, and we also plan to achieve Premier integrator status by the end of Q1 2024.”

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SL Controls at Explore Engineering 2024 – We Hope to See You There

If you or someone close to you is considering a career in engineering, make sure you have 7 March 2024 in your diary. That is the date of the Explore Engineering Showcase in Limerick.

SL Controls has been a proud supporter of Explore Engineering for several years and the team is looking forward to going again this year. We are making final preparations to our setup, so make sure you drop by to say hello and learn more about what we do at SL Controls.

Explore Engineering is for students, graduates, teachers, and parents. It is at Shannon Airport and parking is free. We hope to see you there.

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Engaging the Next Generation of Engineers

Two members of the SL Controls team, Chief Technology Officer Paul Clarke and Talent Acquisition & Onboarding Associate Aoife Burns, recently completed a 10-week STEAM teaching programme with a class of primary school children from Strandhill National School.

STEAM is an organisation that partners with companies like SL Controls to deliver fun and interactive classes to children on engineering, technology, science, and maths topics.

“The children in the class had some good understandings of the concepts we covered and talked about,” said Paul. “Kids today are very savvy with technology and can look information up so easily, so we were able to see how they were not just responding to what we were doing, but also investigating the topics for themselves. That was really brilliant to see.

“The mediums we presented the information through were presentations and practical exercises, but it was the practical element that the children really loved. For me, the combination of the presentation and the practical element really worked.

“And the children also had a good understanding of what engineering is and what engineers do. For example, some of them talked about the work their parents did and were able to explain the various types of engineering roles. It was great to see they were able to make the connection between what we were doing in the class and the work of their parents or relatives.”

Aoife said the open attitude and approach of the children was really positive. She said: “The kids were so enthusiastic, and they were not in any way afraid of asking questions. As we get older, we have a tendency to start thinking that some questions are stupid, so we stop asking them. But no questions are stupid, and it was refreshing to see the children in the class asking whatever they wanted.”

Aoife added that it was rewarding for her and Paul as well as being enjoyable for the children. She said: “I have never taught before, so it was nice to do something different. For me, the whole experience was great, and I found it very rewarding and fulfilling being able to make a positive impact on children. I have no doubt some of them will blossom into engineers at some stage in the future.”

Paul agreed. He said: “When we asked who wanted to be an engineer when they grow up, a load of them put their hands up. It was also great for Aoife and me as every day we arrived, big roars went up from the children because they were so enthusiastic.

“Also, for me, it was an interesting change from my professional role to take on an educational role. In my day-to-day when talking to my peers, the language can be very complex. Discussing engineering topics with children was a great grounding experience and I think it has made me better able to communicate what we do as a company to people who are non-technical. So, I think the kids got a lot from the experience, but I did too.”

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Meet the Team: Johnpaul Nwachukwu

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

In my role as a Systems Engineer, I harness cutting-edge technologies, including data, software, and hardware, and seamlessly incorporate them into an existing platform and system to increase efficiency.

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

I’m currently involved with an autonomous intelligent vehicle (AIV), essentially a mobile robot. I’m in the process of developing a demonstration to showcase how the robots can move around in the plant. My long-term objective is to enable the robot to interact with the personnel at the customer’s plant. The goal is to familiarise operators with the robot’s autonomous capabilities.

Regarding the robot’s intended tasks, I aim to simplify the work of the plant engineers when it comes to transporting heavy raw materials from the storage area to the production lines. Ultimately, our primary objective is to minimise the downtime associated with engineers having to manually transport pallets or boxes around the plant.

3. How did you get into the industry?

I was given the ability to upskill myself in the last three years. This proves the concept that competencies can be enhanced wherever you are in the world. Shane (Shane Loughlin, SL Controls co-founder and Chief Digital Architect) gave me the ability to upskill myself back in Nigeria. Upskilling myself presented opportunities for coming over to Ireland to work.

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

My proudest moments occur whenever I achieve a goal. This can happen daily, and it’s that exhilarating “eureka moment” when I realise that my efforts have paid off, and everything is functioning as intended. For instance, at work or in my comfort zone, when I’m writing a complex program and it performs flawlessly, that’s when I feel the most content.

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

I recommend that you remain open to continuous learning. Whether you’re receiving advice, encountering new technologies, or engaging with new ideas, be ready to learn and benefit from the knowledge and experiences of others. Learning from people, and understanding their perspectives, cultures, and ways of life is essential for personal growth and progress.

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

Gaming! I love gaming, so I play games a lot when I am free. I love cars too – reading up on cars, and technologies around cars. And finally, music, I play the keyboard.

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

The ability to help someone, somewhere, that you do not know – helping them indirectly. Trying to solve a problem is the thing I find most interesting when working in the life sciences sector.

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

SL Controls is, to me personally, more than a team – I would call it a family in the sense that you can interact with people easily. It is so smooth that you can easily talk to anyone. If you have problems or need advice, there is a network where everyone is connected.

Finally, it is a place where your skills are maximized as you upskill yourself in every area.

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The SL Controls Team – A Year in Review

It has been a busy and interesting year for the SL Controls team as we welcomed new colleagues and got to know our existing colleagues better. Here are some of the stories we published throughout 2023 that give an insight into the people who make SL Controls the team and company it is.

Embracing Equity at SL Controls on International Women’s Day

Embracing Equity at SL Controls on International Women's Day

“The Embrace Equity message is very powerful and it’s one we should all be aware of. At SL Controls, we support equity both in theory and practice, as we work hard to treat everyone as an individual.” – Shauna Ryan

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Celebrating SL Controls Female Engineers on International Women in Engineering Day 2023

Celebrating SL Controls Female Engineers on International Women in Engineering Day 2023

“I’d like young women to know that their personalities and strengths are required and valued by the best engineering companies. Diverse experiences and backgrounds really do promote innovation.” – Patricia Cowley

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Celebrating Fathers Working at SL Controls

Celebrating Fathers Working at SL Controls

“The most fun thing about being a Dad has got to be answering questions like ‘where are the Gruffalos?’ during a visit to the Zoo.” – Dermot McMorrow

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International Men’s Day at SL Controls – Building Mental Resilience

International Men’s Day at SL Controls – Building Mental Resilience

“Winning and losing in sports over the years has also helped me build up my mental resilience. How you come back from losing in a big game, for example, and how you cope with high-pressure situations.” – Keith Moran

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Celebrating Diwali

We asked members of the SL Controls team celebrating #Diwali earlier this year what this annual festival means to them.

Giving Back to Our Communities

Supporting Our Local Communities this Christmas

Various members of the SL Controls took part in a range of activities throughout 2023 to give back to our local communities. We have raised money for Ballybunion Sea and Cliff Rescue and the Children’s Health Foundation and donated Christmas gifts to children via St. Vincent de Paul. Our engineers have also spent time in primary schools delivering Engineering in a Box lessons as part of the STEAM Education initiative.

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Team Building in Athlone

SL Controls Company Outing 2023

Earlier in 2023, the SL Controls team enjoyed urban adventure team-building activities in Athlone.

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Meet the Team

Throughout 2023, we have published Q&As with various members of the SL Controls team. Here’s what each of them said about working on the SL Controls team:

Shane McLaughlin, Director of Client & Business Services

“The people – that’s the obvious one.” Read More

Shane McLaughlin
Eamonn McManus Eamonn McManus, Operations Manager

“There is also a great sense of camaraderie in the team.” Read More

Blessing Nwachukwu, Systems Engineer

“It is a community, and the people are highly intelligent and brilliant.” Read More

Blessing Nwachukwu
Kristian Fitzgerald Kristian Fitzgerald, Systems Architect

“The team here is very supportive.” Read More

Josh Morris, Systems Engineer

“Everyone is so friendly and helpful, and I can reach out to anyone with any questions I have.” Read More

Josh Morris
Jisa Varghese Jisa Varghese, Systems Engineer

“Another added advantage is resolving issues together and discovering different ways of solving the same issue.” Read More

Bryan Slevin, Validation Engineer

“They are a nice bunch of people, very knowledgeable, very willing to share knowledge.” Read More

Bryan Slevin
Paul Clarke Paul Clarke, Chief Technology Officer

“The support structures and expertise… are really down to the people who work in our business who support and mentor each other.” Read More

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Supporting Our Local Communities this Christmas

The SL Controls team has taken part in initiatives to support our local communities this Christmas.

We had a Christmas Jumper Day on Friday 15 December to coincide with our monthly anchor day where staff come into the office rather than working from home. As part of the Christmas Jumper Day, staff made donations to raise money for Ballybunion Sea and Cliff Rescue. The company also made a donation to this valuable service. Further donations can be made on the link below.

Donate

Staff also donated Christmas gifts via St. Vincent de Paul to children who would otherwise not receive any presents on Christmas morning.

Shauna Ryan, SL Controls Director of People and Culture, said: “Supporting our local communities is hugely important at this time of year. I would like to thank every member of the SL Controls team who made a donation this Christmas, both to the initiatives organised by the company and the individual contributions that I know so many people make.”

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Meet the Team: Paul Clarke

As SL Controls CTO, Paul Clarke is responsible for the technical capability of the business and its future direction via a technical roadmap. He also provides support to all our business functions. This includes supporting the commercial teams in generating new opportunities and providing technical consultancy to our staff and customers.

You can find out more about Paul in the Q&A session below.

You can also read Paul’s latest whitepaper on the growing importance of Full Stack OT platforms in the pharmaceutical, medical device, and technology manufacturing industries. The whitepaper also includes a step-by-step guide for choosing the right platform for your business.

Whitepaper - Full Stack OT Platforms

 

Q&A With Paul Clarke

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

The majority of our customers produce medication such as drugs or medical devices to help and improve people’s lives. I help our customers manufacture them more effectively through the use of automation or software systems. I provide this support through consultancy and solution design.

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

At the moment I am working on various connectivity and integration projects for large plants in the life sciences sector. This includes plants operated by large life sciences sector corporations and their contract manufacturers.

I also provide consultancy services on solutions and designs. I make sure I still get to do the hands-on parts of projects because it’s important to keep up-to-date and have a good awareness of what’s out there. It’s also essential to have a thorough understanding of what our customers are thinking and the platforms and solutions they are using.

3. How did you get into the industry?

I was lucky to get into the industry straight after college thanks to Shane Loughlin (SL Controls co-founder and Chief Digital Architect) who offered me my first position working at HP. HP really had cutting-edge systems at the time and I learned a lot there on how to structure good code and the benefits of automation and standardisation.

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

Professionally, it was early in my career and I was still very much a junior engineer but I completed a highly complex project for a large life sciences sector customer. The project required knowledge of their processes and there was a lot of customer engagement. It was also technically complex and a competitor had already tried to solve it and failed.

Once it went live, the customer had an instant 30 percent reduction in production time across most of the plant. It was the biggest productivity improvement I have ever seen on a single project for a customer as a result of automation and software solutions.

Obviously, in my personal life, it’s hard to top the first time you hold your newborn child.

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

For anyone coming into the industry now, I would advise them to develop a broad knowledge across different platforms and systems through different projects. This is because the industry will be going through a lot of change over the next decade. Factors such as cloud capabilities, advances in connectivity, and possibly AI technologies will feed into manufacturing systems to disband what we call the traditional ISA 95 automation stack.

Under the traditional automation triangle, engineers’ roles were very clearly laid out at the level where they operate – device, controls, SCADA, MES, ERP. This is now being displaced by a move to increased connectivity driven by the shared resource capabilities of cloud solutions, protocols such as MQTT, and the move to a unified namespace.

I think for automation in the medium term, an overall supply chain cloud solution will probably auto-generate, deploy, monitor, automatically validate, and test all code in real time for a manufacturing process. Reports and user interfaces will also autogenerate in an environment where the manufacturing process is only one element of the overall supply chain.

The customer will be able to simply ask for what they want with a basic description of their requirements and the technology will auto generate and test the change.

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

I have always loved electronics, automation, and building things – building buggies, creating car modifications, working on home automation projects. I think a lot of this comes from growing up on a farm where I would have regularly fixed machinery from a young age.

The availability of low-cost kits such as Arduino or Raspberry PI is great now for electronics hobbyists and kids. These kits have really opened up the possibility of low-cost automation to anyone.

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

It’s a great industry to work in because you can directly see how the products or medications being manufactured, that you work on and improve or make more affordable via optimised production, benefit people.

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

The support structures and expertise in the business are great, and they are only getting better and stronger as we grow. This is really down to the people who work in our business who support and mentor each other. I am always available to support anyone in the business on any technical or non-technical issue if I can, and I know this is the same for everyone in the business.

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International Men’s Day at SL Controls – Building Mental Resilience

At this time of the year, there is a lot of focus on men’s physical and mental health with the annual Movember campaign taking place throughout November and International Men’s Day this Sunday, the 19th. The theme for International Men’s Day 2023 is “Zero Male Suicide”, so we asked men on the SL Controls team about how they look after their mental health with a particular focus on building mental resilience.

Keith Moran, CEO

“Mental resilience comes into play in times of stress and high pressure – situations where you are outside of your comfort zone. Mental resilience helps bring you into a zone where you can cope and deal with the situation in a manner that is controlled.

“It’s also important to remember that you build up mental resilience over time. You are not born with it. We all have triggers, too, so it’s also important to recognise those.

“My advice is to recognise the importance of mental resilience and mental health in general. You should find ways that suit your personality and lifestyle that allow you to get into a place where your mental health is at the forefront and gets your mind in a positive place.

Winning and losing in sports over the years has also helped me build up my mental resilience

“For me, it is sport. Sport helps me get into the right mindset and it has helped me build my mental resilience. I have played squash for more than 35 years and I still play at a competitive level. It’s an individual sport that is high-intensity and, when you play competitively, there is the pressure of winning and losing.

“Winning and losing in sports over the years has also helped me build up my mental resilience. How you come back from losing in a big game, for example, and how you cope with high-pressure situations.”

 

Marcus Wilkinson, Automation Engineer

“I think there are lots of ways to look after your mental health. For me, I enjoy cooking and baking. I have a few signature dishes that I cook, and I have chickens so there are always plenty of fresh eggs on call. I’m the only one in the house, so I can’t eat everything that I bake and cook. But that opens other opportunities. I tend to barter some of the dishes away for different things, like vegetables from a neighbour up the road. I find baking and cooking creative, and I enjoy doing it.

So, it's creative things like sewing and baking that are positive for my mental health

“I also enjoy sewing. I’ve made outfits for all my kids over the years, but there isn’t as much opportunity these days. I do think repairing and mending are important, and I am very much into recycling and reusing. I don’t throw away things just because it has a hole in it. I repair it or find another use for it.

“So, it’s creative things like sewing and baking that are positive for my mental health. I am also very proud of the fact that I have passed this on as my eldest son also sews and makes clothes for himself, his partner, and their son.”

 

Vinnie Boyd, Senior Business Operations Executive

“Flying is one of the things I do for my mental health and mental resilience. First, there is the process of getting your licence. You can’t just rock up and start flying, as there is a long enough process to go through that includes nine exams and over 40 hours of flying time with different milestones along the way. Each of those milestones brings their challenges, enhanced by the Irish weather, so mental resilience is important.

Whether it's on a winter's morning or after work on a summer's afternoon, you forget about the stresses and issues of the day or week once you get off the ground

“I then use flying as my escape, as somewhere to relax. Whether it’s on a winter’s morning or after work on a summer’s afternoon, you forget about the stresses and issues of the day or week once you get off the ground.

“There’s even a sociable aspect to flying as I can enjoy it with family and friends. That also helps with my mental health and mental resilience.”

 

Ruairi O’Neill, Project Manager

“When things are as busy as they are now, you can sometimes feel that it’s like Groundhog Day, doing the same thing day-to-day, week-to-week. That can become quite depressing, especially if you are constantly tired. My recommendation is to do something different to break that cycle, especially with the dark evenings and poor weather.

“What I did was join the Tulla pipe band.

My recommendation is to do something different to break that cycle, especially with the dark evenings and poor weather. What I did was join the Tulla pipe band

“I used to play bagpipes when I was young. Living in Tulla for the past 10 years, it was always on my radar to join the band, but I had made the excuse for myself that I simply didn’t have time. About a month and a half ago, I decided to make time as I figured you need to be doing these activities for yourself when you are still relatively young!

“So, I joined, and, within the month, I was playing at the Clare Hurling County Final and even made it onto TV!

“If I am waiting for the kids doing music lessons, taekwondo lessons, or football training, I have the practice chanter with me so I can learn new tunes. Previously, I would have been having a snooze or doom-scrolling. Now the time passes much more quickly, and I feel that I have achieved something in that hour while waiting for the kids.”

 

Sam Costelloe, Systems Engineer

“I am participating in Movember this year to raise awareness and support for men’s health issues, particularly focusing on mental health, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer. Movember provides a platform for men to openly discuss these often-overlooked issues, encouraging them to prioritise their wellbeing and seek necessary medical attention. By growing a Mustache throughout the month, I aim to spark conversations and promote understanding around the importance of early detection, regular check-ups, and mental health support for men.

Hobbies are essential for preserving mental health. I unwind by going to the gym and playing the guitar. Engaging in these pastimes makes me feel good about myself

“Through my participation, I hope to contribute to breaking the stigma surrounding men’s health, fostering a supportive community, and encouraging positive change. I know that building mental resilience is very important to one’s lifestyle. Building a supportive network; nurturing strong connections with family, friends, and colleagues; having a reliable support system – all these things provide a sense of belonging and can be crucial during tough times.

“My mental health has lately greatly benefited from maintaining an active schedule. I attempt to spend time out with friends as often as possible and go to the gym on a regular basis. Hobbies are essential for preserving mental health. I unwind by going to the gym and playing the guitar. Engaging in these pastimes makes me feel good about myself. Having hobbies is key, they provide a healthy distraction, and they allow me to recharge mentally and emotionally.”

 

Darragh McMorrow, Commercial Director

“The biggest thing for me is to be fit to disconnect from work and what has gone on throughout the day. Two or three evenings a week, I go for a run for around five or six miles. Weekends are an opportunity to get some longer runs into the legs. On the evenings I don’t have an opportunity to run, I go for a brisk walk. This benefits me physically but it’s also to look after my mind.

I believe that sleep is essential for building my mental resilience, and running helps ensure I get the seven to eight hours of sleep I need

“When I run, I might be still trying to solve a problem from earlier in the day for the first five minutes. But then the run becomes the focus, and your mind clears. When you get back after the run, you are totally refreshed, energised, and often have a completely different perspective on things.

“One of the main reasons I run is to get a good night’s sleep. I believe that sleep is essential for building my mental resilience, and running helps ensure I get the seven to eight hours of sleep I need.

“Entering events and completing focused training plans in preparation also helps build my mental resilience. I enter about three to four events a year, whether that is adventure runs, half marathons, or something similar. Doing the adventure runs this year, I find they really test the mind, give you great focus, and take you out of your comfort zone. You are covered in muck at times, even on training runs, and you have to hold on in places to get across the terrain. But it gives me purpose and there is a great sense of achievement.

“The social element is important as well. During the week, I train on my own, but we train in groups at the weekend, and, at the events, there is a great sense of camaraderie. That helps my mental health too.”

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SL Controls Coffee Morning Raises Money for Children’s Health Foundation

The SL Controls team held a coffee morning on Halloween earlier this week to raise money for the Children’s Health Foundation.

The Children’s Health Foundation supports sick children and their families in Children’s Health Ireland hospitals as well as the urgent care centres in Temple Street, Crumlin, Connolly, and Tallaght.

Employees made their own donations and SL Controls contributed €200.

Shauna Ryan, Director of People and Culture at SL Controls, said: “As we work largely remotely at SL Controls, it’s great for our teams around Ireland to come together for events like this, especially when it involves raising vital funds for such an important cause. Thank you to everyone involved and for all the donations.”

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