"I searched for an employer that would give me every chance to gain experience"
The Frenchman Zakaria Bachir graduated as Mechatronics Engineer in September 2017 and started to work with Flanders Make as Functional Safety Engineer immediately afterwards. “Moving to Belgium wasn’t that big a step. I already had gone to Sweden for six months within the scope of an exchange project. Besides, during one of my work placements, with the French multinational Alstom, I gained my first experiences in functional safety. I am excited now being able to continue on this compelling path.”
When Zakaria Bachir applied for a job with Flanders Make, he was above all curious about the opportunities for starters. “Fortunately, these appeared to be quite good (smiles). As a newly graduated applicant, you obviously lack experience and I searched for an employer that would give me every chance to gain this experience. And I am pleased to say that, although I am still pretty new here, I get plenty of opportunities. Within Flanders Make, I mainly check if new technology meets the prevailing functional safety standards such as specific ISO or IEC standards. Then for every user case the relevant standard depends on the specific field of application.”
“The organisation attaches a great deal of importance to permanent education. For instance, I recently got the chance, together with a colleague, to attend an international conference on safety standards in Germany. It’s great that we can increase our knowledge in this way.”
Also the international aspect of the organisation appealed to Zakaria. “I find it very fascinating to work in such a diverse organisation. Ironically though, my team, apart from me, only consists of Flemish people but I think they will agree with me that I am well integrated. Professionally, this has been a bit easier than in my private life. Flanders Make monitors new employees from close by so that you can always turn to someone whenever you have questions. They take good care of you here. Privately, I notice that the Dutch language is holding me back. But it is a good thing that through Flanders Make we are now given the chance to follow Dutch language lessons. I hope to benefit from this beyond working hours as well.”
“Flanders Make monitors new employees from close by so that you can always turn to someone whenever you have questions.”
"We search for answers to specific questions from the industry"
30 year old Patricia Leconte may have passed through a bit of an atypical academic curriculum, she currently feels like a fish in the water with her first employer, Flanders Make, where as a Research Engineer she is mainly active in the field of robots and cobots.
“I followed a master in physiotherapy and then switched to biomedical engineering sciences”, explains Patricia Leconte. “During my studies, I became truly fascinated by electromechanical engineering and robotics and chose most of my optional classes within these fields. My PhD was the perfect combination of my studies: I examined how patients, after a brain haemorrhage, can be supported in their rehabilitation by a robot.”
Programming more intuitively
After her studies, Patricia actively searched for a job in electromechanical engineering. She found it with Flanders Make. “I love to perform research but preferably when this research is linked to practice. In this regard, Flanders Make is the perfect place for me. Here, we search for answers to specific questions that the industry has today and anticipate tomorrow’s trends.
With my team, I focus more specifically on how robots and cobots can be used. We try to make companies more aware of this technology and of how they could benefit from it. We also examine how to make robot programming easier and more intuitively so as to increase and widen their deployment and, for instance, facilitate their use for different products and processes.”
“Anyway, I am very happy here. There aren’t too many jobs available in this industry and the opportunity to work on a 4/5th schedule was an added advantage for me. They reacted very positively when I asked this, which isn’t that common in this line of business.”
“We examine how to make robot programming easier and more intuitively so as to increase and widen their deployment.”
"We give it everything we have to realise a strong growth in the next couple of years"
Before Bert Paquet started working as Cluster Manager for Flanders Make in the summer of 2017, he had already gained many years of experience within the industry, among others with the CNH-I Group and as technology and business consultant. This experience now serves him well within our organisation and its new cluster Motion Products.
“The CNHI-I Group was one of the founding fathers of the Flanders Mechatronics Technology Centre (FMTC)”, explains Bert Paquet. “So, from my position within CNH-I I was already familiar with one of both organisations that would later give rise to Flanders Make. I then worked in Chicago for a little while and, upon my return to Belgium, acted as technology and business consultant for large and medium-sized companies. As such, the link with the manufacturing industry remained firm. Last year, I saw that Flanders Make wanted to strengthen its team and since August, I am now part of it. This was a great period to join the company because at that time the new clusters were being prepared before being finally launched.”
“The experience that I gained within the industry generates added value to my job as Cluster Manager. I try to guide the strategic research from the needs of the Flemish companies, in a realistic way and with both feet firmly on the ground. State-of-the-art technology is interesting but to create sustainable value for the industry we also need a simple and clear profile that is mainly geared to the future needs of our industry.”
“Flanders Make is going through a fascinating period. We give it everything we have to realise a strong growth in the next couple of years. To this purpose, we offer our talented employees with a very diverse and international curriculum an exciting career in which they can grow and become valuable experts that are able to generate direct added value for the Flemish manufacturing industry. Also the further integration of the new structure, through which the external core labs are more closely involved than ever, create an extremely exciting and dynamic work climate. This is absolutely a positive evolution as it makes it much easier for companies to appeal to the right competence groups and because in this way Flanders Make becomes their one-stop-shop for innovation.”
“The experience that I gained within the industry generates added value to my job as Cluster Manager.”
We give the floor to the university core lab employee professor Hans Vangheluwe
"The cluster bridges the gap between the business world and our generic research"
Computer Sciences Professor Hans Vangheluwe is Professor at Antwerp University and Assistant-Professor at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He teaches and performs research in modelling and simulating. “I use my background as physicist and computer scientist to help engineers in creating optimal designs for their complex cyber-physical systems.”
During his work in Canada, Professor Hans Vangheluwe got in touch with FMTC, Flanders Make’s predecessor. After his return to Belgium, he worked together with FMTC on the MBSE4Mechatronics project and he continued this cooperation when Flanders Make was set up. “Today, I am part of the university core lab AnSyMo/CoSys within the Design & Optimisation cluster”, says Professor Hans Vangheluwe. “From my field of expertise, we suggest methods, techniques and tools that enable engineers to perform better and more efficiently. I particularly find the mix of companies, academic partners and internal researchers within such cluster a huge added value. I may be specialised in developing techniques and tools, I am no domain expert. Just as, in turn, a domain expert will not be an expert in building an optimal overall system. The cluster bridges the gap between the domain issues of the business world and the more generic design techniques that we develop.”
A hot topic within the Flemish manufacturing industry is the increasing importance of product families. “This is an interesting evolution. When developing a product, you no longer depart from one product, think for instance of one car, but from several cars with different functionalities and features. In other words, from a family ofvariants onto which you can apply your development, optimisation, production... This drastically reduces the complexity, for instance for managing the evolution of the product family over time. Initially, the interest in this vision within the Flemish manufacturing industry wasn’t really overwhelming, whereas in Canada, where I worked together with General Motors Research for about five years, this product family concept is something companies are already working on for quite some time now. Today, however, we as well are investing heavily in making this shift and it is definitely a focus point of the research efforts within our core lab.”
“I particularly find the mix of companies, academic partners and internal researchers within such cluster a huge added value.”