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What is your current position and how did you get into it? I've been teaching myself the basics about PLC programming and I am taking classes at my college for it on top of my EET degree, but I am wondering what it is like in the real world dealing with PLCs.
 

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Can't speak for everyone, but I believe the most difficult part about the RSLogix 5000 is just going online with the processor. Never seems to wanna be easy for me, sometimes I have to restart the laptop several times in order for it to start sending and receiving data
 

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My current position is an Electrical Engineer. I got my start on PLC's back in the early 90's when the company I was with bought a new line which was built in Japan. It came with Omron PLC's installed and all the old farts there were afraid of the flashing pretty lights :) so I got designated to tame the beasts.
Back then I was using a handheld controller and had to draw the programs by hand. This gave me a great chance to understand OR, AND and ORLD etc..
Nowadays the graphical programming is a breeze and the only problems I come across is figuring out each manufacturers software and how they do something.
Troubleshooting is a breeze once you can see what is happening on a screen. The only troublesome times are if something is happening to quick for the screen to pick it up, times like these you may have to add troubleshooting lines to the program to flag something to see if it really happened.
Good luck with you classes.
 

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Thanks for the heads up man. Once I have my EET degree I plan to test for my FE and get a job that focuses on instrumentation and PLCs.
 

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Try food and drug.

Food and drug packagers and breweries are two good places to get into PLC's. Start as an industrial electrician for them, and then let your PLC skills come out. I have worked for them both for as an employee and contractor, and saw allot of good people move up. Work on your logical thinking, just knowing how a PLC works and how to program them is not enough. I used logic puzzles to help teach PLC courses, it gets you thinking on the what ifs.
 
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Ah well my work is actually paying me to be trained in PLCs. They are paying for my college education, paying for me to learn on PLC trainers, and they have provided me with an entire cabinet that has a touch screen and its own PLC.

Thanks for the heads up, I'll keep in mind that breweries actually employ PLC techs. I never would have thought to look there for PLC work.
 
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I am electrical design engineer for a company that builds automatic applianceware machinery.
We have controls engineers who do all of the software coding and machine commissioning, and I get to do the electrical design, schematics, parts ordering and work with the build team to get it built.
I'd quite like to be more involved with the controls side of it, but my present role keeps me busy.
 

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You might consider PAC's as well as PLCs. There is a lot of work with PLC/HMI combinations as well ... learn C and C# programming as well. Do not get hung up on an single brand of PLC or PAC since end users usually decide on the make.
Many companies have on line training or Webinars that can help you. As to where the markets are on the manufacturer websites they usually have applications section showing how their units were used.
Contact me if you would like me to show you what I am talking about. How would us manufacturers make it easier for electrician and controls people enter the market and profit from it.
 

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As David says, I used one of the Windows embedded Programmable Automation Controller (PAC) that is really useful. The only thing is that I have to program it by myself. It supports C programming. I think the main different between PLC and PAC is the OS. It features a Win CE .NET 5.0 operating system build in.


WINPAC
 

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Working with PLC's is not always a cakewalk. As mentioned above, half the battle is getting connected. You need to learn communications (aka networking). Not JUST Ethernet and TCP/IP but the whole slew of protocols and how they work. I have had to deal with everything from Ethernet to RS485 as far as electrical standards. I just used RS232 today actually.

I couldn't connect. Using my laptop with a USB->Serial to connect to a PLC powered with AC. The thing would not connect, the USB was acting funny. Was on a test bench downloading a program to a new processor, or trying to. My solution ended up being landing the ground wire (which I didn't out of laziness) and plugging my laptop charger in to get both of them to the same earth ground potential. RS232 uses a reference voltage. Lots of crazy little things like that which you only really get from experience.

Learn about high level programming langues such as C#, C, C++, Visual Basic. You don't necessarily have to write a lot with them (or you may depending on your platform), but you need to be able to READ them. You WILL run across text-based languages, especially in HMI's and have to dig through references to find out what the built-in functions are doing to make changes or troubleshoot.

Learn to troubleshoot. Really troubleshoot, not just throw parts at a problem. Learn to segment the parts of a system out, look at the part you suspect is giving you difficulty, and analyze that segment, then go down further if need be until you can isolate a component. That means using all kinds of test instruments, and heck, even some old school tricks.

You will need to familiarize yourself with mechanical components. Gearboxes, valves, pumps, etc. Often times a problem with a mechanical component is the issue, and it is an expensive one. You need to be able to verify proper operation of electrical components prior to changing an expensive part.
 

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I agree with everyone else about the getting online and communication issues, being one of the most challenging parts in the real world. The conversion from PLC to PAC (RSlogix 5000) presents a challenge out in the real world too.


More so for maintenance than for engineers, but depends on past experience. In the old days with PLCs, even a maintenance person could get online trace back ladder logic and find out what sensor etc. was causing the problem in about 4-10 minutes. Now with PACs (industrial computers) you have multiple software version numbers, firmware revisions numbers, may go to trace back ladder logic and find program written in structured text, etc. Which take more than 4-10 minutes for a maintenance person to try to trace back through(if they even have the correct software version number and can get online. ) :)

For engineers and those designing, the important languages to learn besides ladder logic is structured text on PAC side, Python on HMI side (haven't run into C+ need so much). But the overall challenge is not only that you have to know all the old PLC/DCS stuff and many communication protocols in the 20 year old equipment you will be interfacing with, plus you need to know current relatively new technologies like PAC, newer HMI/SCADA; you also need to know the future technology as it evolving so quickly. So you need to additionally become familiar with HTML5/Javascript, get network security certified, SQL database, etc. etc. (Preparing for Industry 4.0 and IIoT and Big Data). To gain a big insight into what knowledge is needed out in the real world, see http://plc-training.org
 
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