siemens sinumerik Virtual Technical Application Center VTACDescribe the founding, purpose, and evolution of the Virtual Technical Application Center, or VTAC.

When I began working for Siemens about nine years ago, I was in the field promoting the Sinumerik control systems, the 808, 828, and the 840. We were reaching out to machine tool OEMs, distribution sales operations, and end-customers. That led to the establishment of our brick-and-mortar Technical Application Center here in Elk Grove, Illinois, where we held training seminars and things of that nature. Then, about four years ago, we asked ourselves how we could do a better job of interacting with our customers, so we began developing the concept of “virtual outreach,” in which anyone who was interested in Sinumerik CNC technology could access the initial learning stages online, at their own speed, and progress through increasingly advancing levels of knowledge from their own desktops. We utilized various social media avenues and posted webinars on YouTube. Once we began pursuing this kind of outreach in Elk Grove, we became the only Virtual Technical Application Center, although Siemens has Technical Application Centers located around the world.

So what are the levels someone would move through who’s engaged in this process from start to finish?

Again, it all begins with a visit to our website, which has links to familiar social media platforms like YouTube, called Mr. CNC, where we post fresh webinars every six weeks. The content is basic and broad-ranging, building a nice foundation of knowledge for higher levels of learning. There are also some 70 webinars on a wide variety of subjects archived there, so visitors can access information on other Siemens technologies and services they’d like to know more about. The next level involves online training with classes led by Siemens instructors. We limit class sizes to 12 attendees since this is an interactive format, where everyone signs on in the morning for a three-hour session and is then given an assignment to complete that afternoon or evening. These courses generally last four-five days. Once that has run its course, the attendees who are interested in progressing to the advanced training level will travel here to the Technical Application Center in Elk Grove for in-depth, hands-on meetings covering topics like 5-axis controls, variable machining technologies, and additive manufacturing.

What kind of support do you provide end-users moving forward as they encounter challenges and as your technologies evolve?

In terms of staying in touch with our customers, we are constantly sending them information about available upgrades, upcoming seminars, and any Siemens event from which they might benefit. We have an incredible wealth of resources to offer our customers, and we’re constantly developing more utilizing the most up-to-date social media platforms available. We also offer what’s called the Virtual Product Expert, where a customer can schedule phone and web time with a Siemens technical or product specialist to discuss a specific goal or challenge they’ve encountered. Since the whole motivation behind creating the Virtual Technical Application Center was to find better, smarter, more convenient ways – and safer ways, in light of the coronavirus, it turns out – we’re continuing in that same spirit of concentrating on the customer, making it easy for them to continue learning about new technologies and to master the Siemens CNC products they’ve already invested in. It’s a long-term relationship, and we’re committed to holding up our end of that bargain.

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