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Connecting software with the real world

Michel Pires & Arjan Poldervaart , Process control engineer & Team manager process control

At Van Oord, process control engineers have both feet planted firmly in the real world. The automated processes that these specialists develop must be technically superior; equally important is that they are useful in everyday practical situations. These demanding positions call for an ability to analyse and connect.

‘We need to know about processes and automation, but we also need communication skills,’ says Michel Pires. ‘I’m responsible for several vessels and when I get a request, I want to know precisely what the crew needs. That might be a new PLC/SCADA system or adjustments to an existing system. I also have to look at general operational frameworks, for example concerning safety, and our own efforts to align all our systems.’

‘The nice thing is that I work with different departments, on different projects, and with different software suppliers. My goal is to actively go after information so that I understand the request inside-out and can transform it into effective software. Van Oord is a great, professional company in which all sorts of things are possible. It’s given me the opportunity to broaden my skill set. After two and a half years at Van Oord, I still haven’t had enough.’

The nice thing is that I work with different departments, on different projects, and with different software suppliers. My goal is to actively go after information so that I understand the request inside-out and can transform it into effective software.

Michel Pires, Process control engineer

Automation increasingly important

Arjan Poldervaart is in complete agreement about the opportunities at Van Oord. After seven years as a process control engineer, he has spent the past two years as process control team manager. ‘I’ve learned a lot working with my colleagues, and we keep close track of all the latest innovations in the world of automation. Automation is becoming more important all the time.’

‘I get a lot of satisfaction from managing the team because I can support my colleagues’ growth that way. One of Van Oord’s strengths is that personal and professional improvement is always negotiable and is always encouraged. There are plenty of opportunities inside the company. It's a family business that takes a genuine interest in people.’

Tuned in

The process control engineer looks at the human side as well. The final result goes beyond an effective, reliable PLC/SCADA system with associated network to control the vessel or equipment; it also involves designing easy-to-understand control panels and instructions, adapted to the crew. Arjan and Michel stay tuned in to the real world by visiting projects worldwide.

Michel cannot hide his enthusiasm as he describes the Svanen’s modification. This enormous floating crane was first deployed on civil engineering projects, and then to help build the foundations of offshore wind parks. Michel helped improve its functionality. ‘A complex, challenging project. We have a lot of individual responsibility. At the same time, we’re always ready to help one another out. Every morning, we meet to talk over our tasks and discuss any questions. That works really well for us.’

Engineering and real life converge

The process control engineer has to look at things from many different angles when drawing up a set of specifications and coordinating with software suppliers. The wishes and requirements of crew and organisation are just as important as cost. ‘I have a versatile job. No two days are alike. I learn something new every day and I want to keep improving my specialist knowledge,’ says Michel.

Arjan sees eye to eye with Michel about his job’s enormous versatility. ‘One good example is how we increased the functionality of our giant hydraulic cranes by analysing and improving the non-documented software. I also was very excited to be part of the engineering team for the Aeolus, our installation vessel for offshore wind parks. Engineering and real life converge in our job, and that’s very motivating.’

I’ve learned a lot working with my colleagues, and we keep close track of all the latest innovations in the world of automation. Automation is becoming more important all the time.

Arjan Poldervaart, Team manager process control

Interested?

Do you have technical (process) expertise, an analytical mind-set, communication skills and a passion for the maritime sector? Are you eager to improve your skills? We’re looking for highly motivated colleagues for our Ship Management Department (subdepartment: Electrical & Automation). Their base of operations is our head office in Rotterdam. See the vacancy and apply trough the application form.