Manufacturing AUTOMATION

The road to automation success

January 24, 2013
By Jeremy Pollard

As I walked into the classroom at Durham College for the first time in 1986, I was terrified but oddly confident; kinda like a push/pull feeling. I was a “professor.”

I had worked for Allen Bradley for just less than 10 years, just short of vesting my pension so, yes, you guessed it, I am no spring chicken! But because of the training and guidance I received from the experienced people at the plant in Cambridge, Ont., I have forged an enviable career.

Funny how it all started. Back when I was in high school, grade 13 was for the brainers. I fooled myself into thinking that I was one of them, and took three math credits, chemistry, physics, history and English. Believe or not, I achieved very high marks in the first five subjects. The other two… well, not so much.

After high school, I went to Ryerson to study controls engineering, before Ryerson became a university. They were the best three years of learning I could ever imagine. I met some lifelong friends, was awarded ‘best all-round technologist’ in fourth semester and I wondered why and how. I pondered that it was because I played in a band from Friday night ‘til Sunday… so my effective study time was short.


Back then, Allen Bradley, as a company, really did consider their people very important. They hardly ever fired anyone. They trained their way through the impasse. Novel idea.

When I was going to leave the company, the VP of sales met with me and my immediate manager to change my mind.

I still wonder what they saw in me and my skills and/or personality, but I have to tell you, it felt pretty good to be “courted.” I feel that the only reason this meeting happened was because of the training and experiences I had from high school to Ryerson, to the AB training program and, of course, my own insatiable thirst to learn.

I got involved in everything. I have only missed one ISA technical conference in 23 years. I have presented at most.

At one point in time I was receiving 26 publications, and read them all. (Note: there aren’t that many around anymore!) I produced the first ‘learning’ newsletter called The Software User. Steve Rubin of Intellution fame asked me where I made my money. My dumbfounded look said it all. It really isn’t about the money – it is about helping and guiding.

The feeling of sharing and guiding is priceless. Our college system is failing us. Our apprentice system is failing us. Our employers are failing us.

Hopefully we are not failing ourselves.


This article originally appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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