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Mental Health First Aid Awareness Training Provided to SL Controls Team

Are you able to recognize 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 program 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 – recognizing 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 recognizing the symptoms and signs of mental health problems and triggers, as well as recognizing 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.”

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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 well-being 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.

Celebrating the many fathers working at SL Controls ahead of International Men's Day - Alan Loughlin

“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.

Celebrating the many fathers working at SL Controls ahead of International Men's Day - Wes Hanbidge

“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.

Celebrating the many fathers working at SL Controls ahead of International Men's Day - Volker Winhausen

“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.”

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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 organized 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 honor. 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.”

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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.

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Meet the Team – Mark Hogan

  1. Describe your job in 5 words or less

Challenging but very rewarding.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 traveling to various client sites and meeting new people.

  1. 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.

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The Importance of Integration in the Factory of the Future – a Priority Topic at Pharma MES

Technology and pharmaceutical industry leaders came together this month at the Pharma MES conference to discuss, among other things, the development of the Factory of the Future. SL Controls CTO Paul Clarke was involved, hosting discussions on the importance of integration in the development of Smart Factories

Pharma MES took place in Berlin, Germany, from 21 to 22 September. The main sponsor for this networking and thought leadership event was SL Controls’ parent company NNIT. Paul Clarke (far left in the image below) joined NNIT Managing Director Yasmine Peters to host several Factory of the Future discussions, alongside Frederic Menardo, VP Europe at Excellis Health Solutions.

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The discussions were based on a World Cafe format. In other words, they were workshops structured to bring together colleagues and peers with the aim of finding viable solutions to real-world challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry.

Pharma MES Berlin 2022 2

Paul Clarke said: “We hosted five sessions over the course of the day, with groups of senior people working in the pharmaceutical industry discussing the Factory of the Future and the important role that integration plays.

“The Factory of the Future will need capabilities that are different from today – capabilities that are more complex, time-sensitive, and patient-focused. For example, pharmaceutical manufacturing lines will soon be called on to produce micro-batches of products tailored for specific patients and patient groups. In fact, batch sizes of one are not beyond the realms of possibility. This evolution from the mass production era will require new technologies, workflows, and approaches.

“Integration is central to achieving the Pharma Factory of the Future, where systems, platforms, and equipment are all integrated across the supply chain and from ERP level to the factory floor.

“During the World Cafe sessions at Pharma MES, the topics we discussed included the benefits of developing a fully integrated factory, how full integration can be achieved across the supply chain, and how we can make the best possible use of data.

“The fully integrated Factory of the Future is an ambitious goal that will not only transform the pharmaceutical industry, but also the treatments available to patients. Pharma MES and the workshops that we took part in represent further steps along the digitalization journey.”

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Pharma MES Berlin 2022 4

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Supporting World Suicide Prevention Day 2022

At SL Controls, we take the issue of mental health in the workplace and wider society seriously, so we are pleased to lend our support to World Suicide Prevention Day 2022. The campaigning day takes place tomorrow, Saturday 10 September. It aims to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and focus attention on the message that suicide can be prevented.

Shauna Ryan is the Director of People and Culture at SL Controls. Several years ago, Shauna went through a mental health first aid training course. “What struck me from the course,” Shauna said, “is that you are not going to solve a person’s problem if they are in a state of crisis. The aim is to get them out of danger and to keep them safe until they can get the help they need.

“I learned a lot on the mental health first aid training course about suicide prevention and other mental health issues. In fact, many of the specific things I learned during the course have stuck with me since then. I think mental health first aid training is a valuable life skill, and it’s important to have knowledge and understanding in these areas.

“By being equipped with these skills, you will have them no matter what scenario you are in. This could be in work, which is something we are focused on here at SL Controls, but it also applies in our personal lives and when we are in our communities. As a society, the more of us who have these skills, the more equipped we will be to deal with these problems and prevent suicides.”

SL Controls has organized a mental health first aid training course that will take place next month.

Shauna said: “Offering the opportunity for our staff to become trained in mental health first aid is important for a number of reasons. It is aligned with one of our sustainable development goals – to promote good health and well-being. The training will also be a key part of our well-established Think Well at SL program in 2022.

“The training is also important on so many other levels. For example, nobody really knows the long-term mental health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic experience. This is on top of the evolving issues that society is currently grappling with, such as the increasing cost of living or the war in Ukraine.

“So, we believe at SL Controls that it is important to continue highlighting mental health issues and doing what we can to promote good mental health, whether that is arranging mental health first aid training, running other initiatives as part of our Think Well at SL program, or voicing our support for World Suicide Prevention Day 2022.”

Keith Moran, CEO of SL Controls, said: “We are all learning so much more about mental health, and we now know it is just as important, if not more important, than physical health. Anything that we can do as individuals, colleagues, employers, or as a society to promote good mental health and reduce the stigma around mental health issues will be beneficial.”

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Meet the Team – Aoife Burns

  1. Describe your job in five words

Matchmaker for company and candidates.

  1. What is a cool thing about your job?

I help candidates get their dream job and achieve their career goals, which is a pretty good feeling. There is lots of variety too – no two days are the same. The jobs market is also always changing and presenting new challenges, and I get the opportunity to meet interesting people every day. Recruitment keeps you on your toes.

  1. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?

Growing up as a kid, all I knew was that I wanted to work outside! Through watching TV shows with my parents, I got the idea that I wanted to become an archaeologist! I think I just enjoyed seeing the digging and finding treasure on the TV screen. Also, my older brother had a metal detector that I was fascinated with. Thankfully, I use this energy elsewhere now as I love getting outdoors in the evenings and weekends trail running.

  1. How and why did you get into recruitment?

Recruitment wasn’t something I grew up thinking I wanted to do, I guess I kind of fell into it.  Like most people after college, not having a clue what to do, I started off my career in the hospitality industry. I loved hospitality, loved the engagement with people, and loved being kept on my toes, but I knew in the long run it wasn’t going to pay the bills.

Between conversations with colleagues, customers, and friends, I decided that I would like to try a career in recruitment. I then made my way into the recruitment industry.

Back in early 2020, so pre-pandemic, I was lucky enough to land myself a job in the recruitment industry, and I’ve never looked back since.

Being in recruitment has given me the opportunity to explore various roles. It also helps me understand the complexity needed to make a success of SL Controls, while positively challenging myself to progress better in my career.

Recruitment is something I have had to learn along the way, and it was a challenge at the start. But challenges are part of the role. The reality is that recruitment isn’t easy for anybody at the moment.

  1. If you could swap jobs with someone for a day, who would it be?

I’d swap jobs with a baker. I’ve often wondered what it’s like to manage a successful bakery. I’m amazed at everything about bakeries and how creative bakers can be. It’s like an art. Also, you’d be surrounded by sweet treats every day and you’d get to give people the gift of fancy pastries and cake. Who doesn’t love cake?!

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

The sense of belonging. I’ve only been with SL Controls since January of this year but as of day one, I felt like part of the team. There’s always help and advice at hand from colleagues if needed.

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Three Legged Races and Sack Races – Team Building Activities Old-School

In the first in-person company outing since before the Covid-19 pandemic, the SL Controls team went back to school on Friday. Well, back to old-school sports day.

The location was Willow Park FC in Athlone where the team-building activities included three-legged races, sack races, wheelbarrow races, and a tug of war. There was also a raffle before a meal and evening entertainment at the Shamrock Lodge Hotel.

SL Controls Summer 2022 Company Outing 1


Shauna Ryan from SL Controls said: “It was a fantastic event and really fun doing all the things we used to do when at school. It was also great to have everyone together in a non-work setting. It included many staff who joined the company during the years of the pandemic, so for many people, this was the first time to meet their colleagues in person.

“Brand Rocket was excellent in running the team-building events and the hospitality at the Shamrock Lodge Hotel was great. It is great that we can hold these kinds of in-person events again!”

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