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How to make companies fit for machine vision

16 Nov 2020 | Reading time: 4 min

Impacts of the crisis on the training sector

A four week lockdown paralysed Germany this spring. This also affected numerous trade fairs and training seminars. What damage has the Corona crisis caused to the training business? What opportunities did it create? And how differently will training programmes for users be organised in the future?

5 questions to Lars Fermum

chief instructor at the European Imaging Academy (EIA)

How hard did the Corona crisis hit the European Imaging Academy?

The limited travel possibilities of participants, who were often in their home offices and not at their workplaces in the companies, had a significant impact on the European Imaging Academy.

The first wave of COVID-19 caused a lot of uncertainty for everyone. For example, in order to protect the STEMMER IMAGING staff and keep the business running, it was temporarily not possible to hold customer meetings and training sessions.

Thanks to suitable precautions, however, we have been able to resume safe training sessions with an appropriate hygiene concept and a reduced number of participants since early summer. Part of the drop in attendance could be compensated by online courses, which we created especially for this purpose.

What are the benefits of online courses?

Well, let's be honest with ourselves: First of all, extensive online meetings and long webinars can be extremely tiring. Moreover, it is almost impossible to address customers or participants directly, to have eye contact or two-way communication compared to face-to-face meetings or classroom events. According to our experience over the last few months, these new technologies can be put to good use and have advantages: No more travelling for participants, which saves a lot of time and money.

An online seminar can be held much more flexibly and individually. A "one-day" event, for example, can easily be split into two half-day sessions which fit better into a busy schedule. In addition, training held in English can address a much larger target group within Europe or even worldwide without any extra effort.

It is important that such an e-learning event does not turn into a "mind-numbing never-ending monologue" for the participants. Instead, it should be adapted to the new technologies and makes full use of their benefits. For individual training courses, we discuss topics with each other in advance and examine sample parts from the customer, if necessary, and integrate them into the seminar.

The actual training itself is then implemented as a mixture of meetings, conferences, presentations with live demos and, when it comes to software, with online and offline exercises. In this way, customers can also do their software exercises offline at their own pace, which are then discussed with each other in a subsequent online phase. The mix of methods in the training is very important to avoid the audience getting tired.

It has proven to be particularly helpful – in feasibility studies as well as in training courses – not only to show the inspection image captured by the camera but also to stream the view on the laboratory table side-by-side with additional cameras.

On top of this, participants usually receive their training documents in advance, which enable them to familiarise themselves with the topic beforehand. In this way, they can follow online presentations more easily and add their own notes.

Are such web presentations the end of classroom training?

As always, new technologies do not necessarily have to replace all others but provides additional value. We see the advantages of face-to-face training in our company in the way we conduct these events. Hands-on training and real "learning-by-doing" still works best in face-to-face training.

One-to-one conversation in person, swift assistance in a task, special tips on how to do things quickly for a single person in the group, a glance at a test object for which a confidentiality agreement has been signed: all this is possible in a face-to-face event followed by lively discussions.

What can participants expect from EIA webinars?

We recently launched a weekly webinar series with exciting content. They offer valuable insights into our technological know-how, and some of them are teasers of our training courses. At the same time, they also deepen and complement our customers’ knowledge in short, 30-minute sessions in which machine vision technology is looked at from a different angle.

Examples are topics such as "Inspecting transparent objects" or "Why is my system not working? Troubleshooting in machine vision systems".

Through this channel, we also want to share information on the latest products and technologies with our customers.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for machine vision beginners?

There are two topics that occur to me straight away.

A major challenge for newcomers is the complexity of machine vision. A good programmer is by no means a good vision expert. Robust evaluations can only be achieved by combining specialist know-how in optics, illumination, suitable camera technologies and, of course, software algorithms. But it’s also important to combine industry know-how, understanding of processes and environmental effects, and awareness of the pitfalls of test objects. In a steel mill, for example, simply other rules apply than in the cleanroom of a pharmaceutical company.

The other big challenge is the speed of how technologies and products develop. It’s so difficult to keep track for anyone who does not deal with this every day.

With our training courses, webinars and services, we enable our customers to "stay on the ball", to find out about the latest trends in machine vision and to gain the necessary expertise to implement their applications with ease.

We thank Lars Fermum for the interview.