Where to start when you're first getting started

Getting started in the world of machine automation can feel overwhelming. There’s a lot to learn and it can be tough to know where to begin. When I was starting out, I found this article to be incredibly helpful:

It breaks down the basics in an easy-to-understand way and provides a solid foundation for anyone new to the field.

I’m curious to know what resources helped others when they were first starting out. Please share any articles, videos, books, or other materials that you found useful. Your recommendations could be just what someone else needs to get started!

I had a “trial by fire” approach to automation. My best resource was my mentor - a seasoned chemical process engineer - who showed me the ropes and gave me a model to learn from.

That being said, industrial automation is definitely overwhelming at first. I was lost among brands, salespeople, and advertisements for acronyms I didn’t even understand. Here are a few resources I used to get started:

  • Learning the Automation Pyramid: This channel clearly lays out the automation “playing field” for beginners, without advertising any one brand. I also learned PLC programming basics on their website.
  • Toyota is awesome: The Toyota Production System transformed the manufacturing industry and is a must-have lesson in automation. It’s a great story to spark an interest in automation.
  • Cool Logistics Videos: The best way to learn is to follow a genuine curiosity. If you’re working in industrial automation, you almost certainly have an interest in logistics, optimization, and cutting-edge technology. There’s a rich community on YouTube full of logistics enthusiasts that is worth watching and participating in.
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I was thrown to the wolves and had to figure everything out that I now know.

I learned early on to never focus on types of equipment or brands, but rather on how to approach the problem. Because once you define the problem the technology needed to solve the problem tends to sort itself out. And the technology may or may not be related to industrial automation. Here are some resources I have at my desk:

  • “Lean Robotics” by Samuel Bouchard: its the easiest to follow method for implementing robots in a factory environment.
  • “Dummies” book series: I have copies on Six Sigma, Lean, Lean Six Sigma, and Statistics. I find elements of lean philosophy useful when figuring out how to tackle a problem. The writing style and focus means that these books are accessible to a normal audience but also complete works.
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