SL Controls Shortlisted for Innovator Excellence Award
We are delighted to have been selected as a finalist for the Innovator Excellence Award at the upcoming Sligo Chamber of Commerce Excellence Awards. We are one of three finalists for the award, which is sponsored by Atlantic Technological University.
Keith Moran, CEO at SL Controls, said: “The Innovator Excellence Award category this year is focused on new product innovations that facilitate circular economy processes and workflows. This is an area that is important to us at SL Controls as we develop solutions that transform manufacturing operations in highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
“Being shortlisted as a finalist is an honour and we are looking forward to celebrating these really important awards that recognise the efforts of the fantastic business community that exists in Sligo.”
Meet the Team – Shane McLaughlin
Describe your job in 5 words
Trusted partner delivering technology transformation.
What is a cool thing you are working on right now?
Can’t tell you (client confidentiality and all)… but it’s cool.
The tech is cool too. A lot of tech that I’m currently working with the SL team wouldn’t have seen. I’m working a lot with NNIT (SL Controls’ parent company) at the moment, and I’m seeing the new stuff they are working on. New technology and new clients.
In the past, you knew everybody in the company, and you knew what everybody did. Now working in NNIT, I am always meeting new people as it is a much bigger business. I was over in Germany in the summer as well, meeting some of the folks there.
The alignment is good between the two business units – we do level two integration at SL Controls, and they do level three and level four. So, it’s all about how we can sync up, where are the synergies, how can we create more business, and all that is very interesting.
All that said, 70 percent of what I do is still with current clients, but I’m even looking at them in a different light now as we have different services that the NNIT team can bring.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
A vet initially. I come from a farming background, and we had a B&B when I was growing up at home. So, it was all about customer service and farming.
I’ve also always had an interest in fixing things. That led me to my career. First, it was refrigeration on large boats and then onto maintaining technology with Hewlett Packard. I then went back to university to get an Honours degree as an engineer.
How and why did you get into business development?
I spent 15 years in engineering and engineering management, but I always had a high interest in commercial growth and forging partnerships, so it seemed like a natural progression for me in doing more of what I enjoy.
If you could swap jobs with someone for a day, who would it be?
Vladimir Putin… It would be a busy day with a fair few changes to turn things around from what we are all facing today.
What is the best thing about being on the SL Controls team?
The people – that’s the obvious one. I’ve also always been interested in what drives and motivates people and businesses.
What do you like about working in the life sciences sector?
At the end of the day, it is about health and happiness. You do get to see some of the end results where drugs or medical devices have improved people’s lives. This could be in clinical trials, and I have been to India where I got to see some of the medical devices that we were involved in being used in the field.
I was lucky enough to get that real-world experience. I’ve seen the products in the factories that we help to modernise. But when you see the end results, the patient outcomes, that’s a different game.
Staff Wear Christmas Jumpers to Raise Money for Rescue Service
SL Controls staff wore Christmas jumpers to work on Friday to raise money for Ballybunion Sea & Cliff Rescue.
Ballybunion Sea & Cliff Rescue was instrumental in the search for our friend and colleague Donal Kennedy who sadly passed away in September.
Members of the SL Controls team searched side-by-side with the Ballybunion Sea & Cliff Rescue team, so we got to see first-hand the fantastic, challenging, and essential work they do. We miss Donal and continue to mourn his loss, but we are also proud to remember and honour him as we raise money for this vital service.
2022 Christmas Gatherings at SL Controls
The first in-person Christmas gatherings at SL Controls took place over the weekend as staff at our regional offices got together for a night out ahead of the seasonal break.
Over 70 people attended the get-togethers which took place in Sligo, Galway, Limerick, and Maynooth.
Shauna Ryan, Director of People and Culture from SL Controls said: “It was an interesting experience over the past couple of years going to Christmas parties virtually where you sit in your living room wearing a Santa hat, looking at a laptop screen. They were great at the time, and they certainly served their purpose, but it was fantastic that we could all get together again in person.
“Everybody works so hard throughout the year, so it is important that we enjoy some non-work experiences as a team.”
Mental Health First Aid Awareness Training Provided to SL Controls Team
Are you able to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health problems? Would you know how to engage in a conversation with a colleague, family member, or friend you are concerned about?
These were some of the topics covered in a recent Lunch & Learn session at SL Controls. Lunch & Learn is an initiative in the company where we provide short and highly focused information sessions to all staff on a wide range of topics.
The topic of this Lunch & Learn session was Mental Health Awareness. It was hosted by a specialist trainer from Mental Health First Aid. The session itself was very well attended and it was recorded for those who weren’t able to join.
Shauna Ryan, Director of People and Culture at SL Controls, said: “Mental health problems can arise in any setting, including in the workplace. At SL Controls, we have a Think Well at SL programme that promotes good mental health in the workplace, and one of our Sustainable Development Goals is to promote good health and wellbeing.
“The Mental Health Awareness Lunch & Learn session was such a valuable experience. I have talked to others who attended, and they are of the same opinion.
“A lot of discussion around mental health is about looking at yourself, something which is absolutely essential. We all need to look after our own mental health. But there are also times when we need help, and that is what this Lunch & Learn session was about – recognising when someone you know is showing symptoms of a mental health problem and what you can do to help.”
The Mental Health Awareness session aimed to enhance understanding of mental health, the stigma that still exists around mental health issues, and how stigma impacts help-seeking. It also provides information on recognising the symptoms and signs of mental health problems and triggers, as well as recognising the barriers to help-seeking.
Advice was provided on how to engage in conversations around mental health and identify the support that is available, both internally and externally.
Deirdre Loughlin, Quality & Marketing Executive, said: “Everyone in Ireland has been impacted by mental health problems in some way, whether it’s personally, through someone you know, or both. There is less of a stigma now about mental health issues, but it still exists, and that has to change.
“It is also great to have a better awareness of the triggers and signs of mental health issues to make us better equipped to help our colleagues, family, and friends.”
Celebrating Fathers at SL Controls Ahead of International Men’s Day
Tomorrow is International Men’s Day, an event focused on celebrating and highlighting positive male role models as well as raising awareness of the importance of wellbeing in the lives of men and boys.
To mark International Men’s Day, we are celebrating the many fathers who work at SL Controls, exploring how they juggle home and work life, and what it means to be a father.
Alan Loughlin, Validation Consultant
“I have one child who has just turned eight. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, sometimes with projects or assignments, it could be quite difficult, as my wife and I have busy lifestyles. We would have to make sacrifices to bring my son to school, relying a lot on family members. Now with the hybrid model of working at SL Controls, there is a lot more flexibility.
“Whenever my wife is not able to bring my son to school, I am able to step in as much as I can when I am working from home. We still do lean on the family a bit – we’re very lucky that we are surrounded by a good support network. But it is great being able to do more of the school runs and other things myself. So long as I am not on the road, I can usually rearrange meetings, and everyone is understanding.
“There is a greater understanding now that having increased flexibility works. The working pattern works, as you can still achieve the same productivity and deliver for customers even if you do have to drop off for half an hour for family reasons.
“With the flexibility of the job I can also make sure I finish on time on certain days. Monday nights are a good example, when I am doing football coaching for my son’s age group. I have a rule to finish on time on that day, and it’s similar for basketball on other nights. It’s great to have that and everyone is understanding. If I decline meetings at that particular time of the week, they understand why.”
Wes Hanbidge, Project Manager
“We just had our first baby, a boy, in the summer. Funny enough, he was born on the same day as my own birthday – and my brother has the same birthday as well! There is something funny with that date in this family.
“I took paternity leave for two weeks when Ivan was born. My manager said to take more time if I needed it, and if I was going again, I probably would take an extra couple of weeks. My manager said don’t be afraid to take a month off, but part of me was saying I would see him every day as I was working from home. My advice to other new fathers is to take more time if you can.
“When you pick him up from the hospital, they sort of hand you the baby and it’s like; what’s next? During my two weeks of paternity leave, I was cleaning the house, looking after the washing and dishes, doing the shopping, anything to give my wife as much time to sleep as possible. And there was entertaining all the guests we had, as everyone wanted to come and see him.
“My wife and I have been living together for a while, but having a baby turns your house into a home. It’s more of a family home now, and it is different as there is a third human being in the house.
“As I work from home, I get to see him a lot more often than I would if I had to drive to work. I get to see him growing up, which is just fantastic. People have given us advice that you have to start looking for creches and schools very quickly but working from home under a hybrid arrangement is a huge advantage. It definitely helps when you compare it to a situation where the two of us are not here at all. Working from home takes the pressure off.”
Volker Winhausen, Systems Architect
“I have two children, aged seven and five. I started when my daughter was born with paternity leave, so I could be around at home and support my wife. They grow up so quickly, though, and I wanted to take the opportunity to spend as much time as I could with them. The weeks fly by, and I want to make use of the time I have with them, so I take parental leave at times throughout the year.
“It is unpaid, but if you plan it early in the year for when you don’t earn as much, it works out okay. I normally take 2-3 weeks off in the summer and I can then take holidays around Christmas and mid-term breaks.
“Even before Covid, I worked from home. Now I do a mixture of home and office, which gives me flexibility. I can use an example – my wife went into town with our son. She wasn’t sure if she would be back on time to collect our daughter from school, so I factored that into my day and was able to collect her. That is the flexibility you have with SL Controls. I get to have those nice moments when they come out running to you when you collect them from school.”
SL Controls’ Fiona Chung Inspiring Students About STEM Career Opportunities
SL Controls Validation Engineer Fiona Chung will be joining other STEM advocates (including an Irish astronaut candidate) this evening at an event promoting careers in STEM.
The event, which is part of Science Week 2022, is organised by medical device company Abbott and is being held at the Atlantic Technological University in Sligo. Fiona will join other professionals working in STEM on a panel discussion that will be moderated by Norah Patten, an aeronautical engineer, global faculty member of the International Space University, and Citizen Scientist Astronaut Candidate.
“I am super excited about this event,” said Fiona. “I am always keen to discuss the fantastic opportunities that exist in STEM, particularly in engineering and especially for women. To be doing so alongside such an inspiring person as Norah Patten is a real honour. What she has achieved is incredible.
“I’ll be talking about my experiences and how I got into engineering. In my career, I’ve jumped from being a lab analyst to manufacturing to engineering, with some other areas along the way. So, my message is there are infinite possibilities in STEM.”
Meet the Team – Saoirse Kearse
1. Describe your job in 5 words
Equipment automation and quality compliance
2. What is a cool thing you are working on right now?
Factory automation would probably be the coolest right now. In one project I am working on, we are trying to get as much digital factory technologies onto the site as possible. It’s great being able to work with these technologies and overcome the challenges of implementing them on a production line.
3. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a scientist. My mother and aunt used to be scientists, so it was something that I was aware of from a young age. My mother worked in the hospital in Ennis testing blood and my aunt worked in the hospital in Limerick on cystic fibrosis in kids. She was doing advanced research into that area.
Both my mother and aunt were a big inspiration for me. I thought it would be cool to do something similar, and they inspired me to get into STEM.
4. How and why did you get into engineering?
When I was in secondary school, I took on technology as a subject as I preferred technology to science. In technology, you got to build things and do programming to create things and make them work. I preferred that side of things rather than going into science.
5. If you could swap jobs with someone for a day, who would it be?
It would be Hannah Schmitz, principal strategy engineer at the Red Bull Formula 1 racing team. Her job is really fast-paced, particularly on race days. It would be really exciting the fact that one slight mistake that she makes could impact the overall race. And that she is a major contributor to the success of the team.
6. What’s the most engineering thing you do outside of work?
I love to build Lego. The last thing I built with Lego was the McLaren Formula 1 car.
7. What’s the best thing about working for life sciences customers?
I’d say the best thing about working in the life sciences sector is the fact you can impact people’s quality of life in a positive way, especially when they badly need it. It gives you that satisfaction that you are actually benefiting people.
8. What is the best thing about being on the SL Controls team?
SL Controls is more like a family rather than a work team. Everybody looks out for everyone, and people are always there to support you. There are also always people there to inspire you with what you are working on, and there is a strong foundation of support if things don’t go right.
Meet the Team – Mark Hogan
- Describe your job in 5 words or less
Challenging but very rewarding.
- What is a cool thing you are working on right now?
Right now, I’m working for a pharma company in Germany. The project involves connecting about 100 machines to an MES system. It’s a big project but it’s interesting because there is such a wide range of machines that we are working with. Each one of those machines has its own challenges.
The project is running over about a year, so there is a lot of work in it. It’s mostly remote, but I will be in Germany soon to provide support during OQ (operational qualification) testing.
- As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
I grew up on a farm, so I was surrounded by farm equipment and machinery. I was always fascinated by this equipment, and I enjoyed working on the various machines. So, I suppose I have always been interested in engineering. My father was also an engineer, so that also helped create the interest in me.
- How and why did you get into engineering?
Growing up on the farm was the starting point, as I mentioned earlier. This got me into mechanical engineering. Then, in college, I got introduced to the controls side of engineering. I loved that side because it opened up a whole new range of possibilities of what machines could do.
- If you could swap jobs with someone for a day, who would it be?
I am a big Formula 1 fan, so it would have to be someone from that sport. There is one engineer that stands out – Adrian Newey. He is probably the best F1 designer there has ever been, so if I could swap jobs or even work with him for a day, that would be very cool.
- What’s the most engineering thing you do outside of work?
I still spend my weekends on the farm back at home fixing old tractors and equipment and working on old cars.
I also enjoy working on micro controllers like the Raspberry Pi and with 3D printers. There is always a project on the go, so I am always busy.
- What’s the best thing about working for life sciences customers (pharma, MedTech, etc)?
Working for life sciences customers means I get to work with a wide range of different machines. I like the challenge that this involves. I also like travelling to various client sites and meeting new people.
- What is the best thing about being on the SL Controls team?
At SL Controls, there are great opportunities to learn new technologies, which is fantastic. There is also a great level of camaraderie in the team, and there are always people available to bounce ideas off and get a different perspective.
The ability to work flexitime is positive, too, and there is the option to work from home or in the office. It’s a very people-orientated company as well.
From an engineering perspective, I like the fact the job is about taking on challenges and finding solutions.