Tim Skidmore – Class of 1975
Chief Automation Engineer and Integrator
Daimler Trucks North America, Mt. Holly, NC
Technology is everywhere in today’s world. Most areas of our lives depend on computers, and the world of robotics is expanding every day.
Daimler is a multi-national corporation headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, and has numerous plants and facilities all over the world. Among their subsidiary companies are Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner Trucks. One of those facilities, Daimler Trucks North America, located in Mt. Holly, NC, is the location where Tim Skidmore serves as chief automation engineer, using robotics and other high-tech devices to improve manufacturing efficiency.
“I supervise an office of five people,” Tim explains. “We have two robot technicians, an electrician, an automation engineer, and a C# SQL programmer. This office controls all aspects of PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) Robotics and Networking. We maintain an Ethernet network of over 1000 nodes that range from PLC's, PC's to various and sundry smart devices. Not only do these devices control the machines and robots, data is mined and sent up to engineering for analysis. Problems are located and strategies to deal with them are formulated. Constant real time feedback is displayed on large monitors throughout the plant.
“I also manage all projects that pertain to new machine controls and data collection. All new machine control must be vetted by my office to ensure compatibility with our systems. We also design, build, and install computer control systems. For smaller jobs we do this to increase turnaround time rather than use an outside engineering firm. Along this line, I determine the scope of projects and define what contractors will bid for a new control installation. Once a bid is accepted, I submit the project for approval and will manage the job until its completion.
“Travel is also an important aspect of this job. I frequently travel to the Cleveland, NC, truck plant; the High Point Thomas Bus plant; the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Mercedes plant; and the Portland, Oregon, truck plant, where we collaborate on projects and training.
“I really enjoy this type of work. It is a very intensive technical environment. At first, I wanted to work in telecommunications, but with the advent of computers for the production floor, I sort of backed into this job. One of the challenges of this type of work is that we must all maintain a constant training schedule. I keep a training matrix for all my people and myself to make sure that we are always on top of the latest technology. We attend a variety of classes each year to ensure a high level of competence is maintained.
“Previous positions that I have held each stressed a different discipline. Each added to the other, preparing me for what I do today. Only recently have universities added degrees in megatronics. Previously the job that I do was performed by electrical and mechanical engineers.”
Tim earned Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science degrees from Western Piedmont Community College and came very close to completing an electrical engineering degree from UNC-Charlotte. “One of my goals has always been to complete my bachelor of science degree. Even this late in life I would still like to finish.”
East Burke High played a major role in shaping Tim’s life and career goals. “Being in the first class at East Burke was an adjustment. I think being on sports teams helped give me a sense of belonging that I would otherwise not have had. I was on the football team, wrestling team, and track team. I certainly was not outstanding by any definition of the word on any of these teams, but I enjoyed playing sports immensely.
“The academic side of East Burke was a wonder. The availability of so many topics to choose from that had not been offered to students before was amazing. I just wish I had had more time to take advantage.
“Many faculty members at East Burke were an inspiration to me. Mr. Jim Draughn taught us what a gentleman is supposed to be. Jerry Murray not only taught me science for three years but also taught me discipline through sports. Sam Wilkinson gave me the chance my freshman year to prove myself and develop confidence. Lana Smith, Phyllis Garrison, Lynda Massengill, Elsie Whisenant are others who come to mind, but really there were so many that I cannot name them all. Of course, I must thank my sister, Candace Yount, who kindly proofread all my college papers, especially my English and American literature assignments.
“Professionally, there were three men in the community who helped me develop the skills I have today. Ed Pascal taught me how to lead men. Herman King helped me to learn the practical side of machine control and showed me what it takes to get the job done. Arvin Fowler taught me the electronics a person does not learn in school. His years of experience led me to understand the art of trouble shooting which is so important in my job today.
“My father encouraged me from an early age to learn how to do things for myself. He and my mom always made sure there were plenty of books available and encouraged reading.
“It is gratifying when our team completes a task in satisfactory fashion, complete with the knowledge that we helped make advances in technology that make our world run more smoothly.”