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Digitalisation and automation: these are two concepts that define the future of manufacturing. They lead to more efficient production processes, but also bring challenges. Workers need to be more flexible than ever before. A well-stocked backpack of knowledge is essential. Knowledge that many professionals gather at the Mikrocentrum.

  • Digitalisation and automation are driving innovation in the manufacturing industry.
  • Rapidly evolving technologies require continuous training, for example in AI and cybersecurity.

Looking back on the year, Frank Bruls, manager of the training department at Mikrocentrum, says: “This year, we prepared more than 7,500 professionals for the future.” A future in which digitisation and automation have become indispensable for high-tech and manufacturing companies, ranging from the ASML chain to the medical sector.

There is good reason for this. Smart, automated processes (think AI-controlled machines and robotics) contribute to a ‘future-proof’ industry. Repetitive tasks, for instance, can be taken over by machines. This not only results in higher efficiency and cost savings, but also allows people to focus on creative and strategic aspects of their work. Automated processes also play a role in addressing staff shortages. Data and algorithms, in turn, create a streamlined production environment, making companies more competitive.In short: developments are happening at lightning speed. So keeping manufacturing knowledge up to date is quite a task.

Wouter Lintsen, programme manager training Digitalisation, Mechatronics & Automation at Mikrocentrum, emphasises the importance of upskilling. “Imagine a robot on which a smart camera is mounted. The robot is controlled with a computer system and artificial intelligence, and knows exactly what to do. Think, for example, of harvesting ripe cucumbers in a greenhouse.” A nice innovation, “but the engineers working on this have a background in mechanics and now suddenly have to work with algorithm technology.” A pattern he sees echoed in other branches of the manufacturing industry. In other words, “continuous training is essential.”

Bridging the gap

Bridging this knowledge gap is a familiar task for Mikrocentrum, and the role of the knowledge institute has become all the more important. “The course offering, with 120 short-term courses at different levels, is aligned with new digital developments. Teachers teach trainees everything about processes relevant to their business, from mechatronics, to process improvement, to product development,” Bruls explains.

AI gaining momentum

Harm Bodewes, lecturer in artifical intelligence at Mikrocentrum, also sees his field transforming. “There is often only a small group of experts who can keep up with developments in AI, while it is very important that a large group of professionals learn to deal with it. Every company collects huge amounts of data. And that amount also doubles every two years. What can you do with it all? How can you design your business processes more conveniently thanks to AI? That’s what my course focuses on.”

Based on assignments, course participants set up an AI project for their own organisation. “For example, I teach them how to use AI to predict when a machine will break down.” Bodewes also updates them on the latest developments. “Recently, I added a few more topics to the course because developments are so fast. Think, for example, of deep fakes or the application of ChatGPT.

The amount of data can be quite overwhelming for entrepreneurs. But Bodewes hopes that more and more entrepreneurs will get to grips with data and AI, partly thanks to the course. “If you can use AI smartly as a manufacturing company, the opportunities are there for the taking.”

Cyber security as a top priority

In parallel with digitalisation, cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly urgent issue. Rob Hulsebos, lecturer in this field at Mikrocentrum: “I see that SMEs do not always have the necessary knowledge. That can cause problems,” Hulsebos explains. In recent years, several large and small companies, as well as universities, have had to deal with cyber attacks.

Developments within his field are going to take a bird’s-eye view in the coming years, he predicts. This is partly due to new regulations requiring the manufacturing industry to secure data. But also because of recent developments in technology. “There is a lot of fear that ChatGPT is going to make it much easier for hackers to get in somewhere. But users can already greatly boost their defences with little effort, that’s what I teach them.”

Digital Industry Boost

With its courses in automation and digitalisation, Mikrocentrum contributes to a competitive economy. Since September, the knowledge institute has also been working with regional partners to further close the digital knowledge gap in the region. In cooperation with Fontys Hogeschool, Summa College, Brainport Industries, EdiH and the Province of North Brabant, the Digital Industry Boost (DIB) consortium promotes the connection between education and business.

Bruls concludes, “With the necessary knowledge at hand, together we will ensure that companies can take great steps towards the future.”


This story is the result of a collaboration between Mikrocentrum and our editorial team. Innovation Origins is an independent journalism platform that carefully chooses its partners and only cooperates with companies and institutions that share our mission: spreading the story of innovation. This way we can offer our readers valuable stories that are created according to journalistic guidelines. Want to know more about how Innovation Origins works with other companies? Click here