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Necessary knowledge and skills for quality PLC programming

  1. May 5, 2013 #1
    Hello everyone! This is my first post on PF, but I've been reading the forums for some time now. My question is rather a simple one, but since I'm an Electronics Engineer, I think it would be polite to say a few words about my education and work experiences.

    I've finished 4 years of Electrotechnic School, where I got a high school diploma for a Computer Technician. After that I've finished 3 years on Faculty of Maritime Studies and got an Engineer's degree in Marine Electronics. Now I'm working as an Electronic Assistant onboard a 420 000 000$ (not a typo, this is 420M$ ship alright!) LNG vessel. The ship is a 2010. vessel capable of trading 150 000 m3 of liquid natural gas cooled down to -162c, with an addition of a re-gas plant capable of re-gasificating LNG from other ships and discharging the gas in vapor form ashore. At this time I'm just gathering HUGE amounts of practical electrical knowledge every day, and so far I'm doing good. At my current position I'm on a perfect place to learn a LOT about electronics, machinery systems and automation systems in practical everyday work. In 2 months I will start a post graduation education on Faculty of Maritime Studies in order to get a Magistrate degree in Marine Electronics.

    There is one thing that got my attention, and this one thing is the PLC.

    I'm really interested about skills, knowledge and experience needed for quality PLC programming. I suppose one would need to understand machinery operations and procedures, lots of electronic, math, physics, practical work and programming in order to become a skilled PLC programmer.

    So here are some of my questions:
    1. What knowledge and skills, and on which level, would one need in order to program quality PLCs?
    2. Am I on the right place to gather knowledge and skills required for future PLC programming?
    3. Is there big money in PLC programming? This may sound rude or immature, but working in Oil and Gas industry, big money is the only thing that really matters given a fact that you are on high seas for 6 months every year, often missing family, friends, birthdays and holidays.
    4. Can you please give me some advice on where to start my education regarding PLC programming?

    Thank you very much! :)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 5, 2013 #2
    I'm no genius but I found programming PLCs remarkably easy. With no previous background in PLCs, upon being hired, a company sent me to 3 days of training. After the training I was expected to adapt an existing PLC program to a new application and be ready to install it at the customer's site in 6 weeks. That meant thoroughly learning every function of a 140 page program and programming new functions for the unique aspects of that job.

    The purpose of the PLC was to control the operation of a riderless crane in storing and retrieving loads in a warehouse. The warehouse had 6 aisles but only 3 cranes. In order to access one of the other aisles the crane would board a transfer car, tell it which aisle it wanted to go to, and exit in the correct aisle, all autonomously. The installation was finished without any major problems in 2 weeks.

    To answer your questions:
    1. If you did well in the courses you took and if you can think logically, you probably already have the ability to learn to program PLCs.
    2. By place, do you mean can you learn to program a PLC on a ship? I don't see why not. It's much more important to have a PLC you can practice on. I have seen free PLC simulators available online for Windows but haven't tried any of them. That may be a way to practice if there are no practice units available.
    3. The oil and gas industry pays better than most other industries but in my opinion PLCs are so easy to learn I can't see there being a shortage of programmers. I doubt the money is better than it would be for an electrical engineer.
    4 If you have a computer, look for a PLC simulator and practice. Try to program the controls you're familiar with. If the ship already uses PLCs, contact the manufacturer of those PLCs and ask them where you can get training.
  4. May 8, 2013 #3
    #1 most important skill: Boolean Algebra. Without an understanding of Boolean you have no business in the PLC business.
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