Pupil of the Bernardustechnicum Oudenaarde wins the Wout Theuws Prize '21-'22 for best final project on maintenance

OUDENAARDE - 29 June 2022 - BEMAS vzw, the Belgian professional association for technical maintenance, has awarded the Wout Theuws Prize for the fifth time. The winner is Robin De Clercq, an electromechanics student at the Bernardustechnicum in Oudenaarde, who wrote his integrated test on maintenance at a Kuhn silage harvester.

For years, maintenance technicians have been a bottleneck profession. In the VDAB's online vacancy database, there are now more than 12,000 vacancies for maintenance technicians. This is almost 3 times more than the number of vacancies for nurses, traditionally labelled as the biggest bottleneck profession.  However, the number of schools offering specific training in technical maintenance is limited. Together, they manage to graduate only about 600 maintenance-trained students. 

The Wout Theuws Prize is a competition that aims to motivate students in the final year of education with a labour market finality (BSO), a mixed finality (TSO) or SE-N-SE (7th year secondary after secondary) to make an integrated test (GIP) or internship report on maintenance or reliability.  With this award, BEMAS also wants to inspire young people in technical education to start their career in maintenance, just like Wout Theuws, with the ambition to develop further into a real industrial expert and leader. 

Winner and finalists

As a student of the 6th year of Electromechanics, Robin De Clercq developed an integrated test on a Kuhn silage harvester. A silage harvester is used on farms to scoop and distribute animal feed. Not only did he write about the maintenance of this silage harvester, he also made a complete reliability study with a post calculation of the strength of different parts. He also made a PLC simulation to further automate the machine so that it can work autonomously instead of only through manual operation.  
For maintenance, he evaluated the manufacturer's maintenance instructions in order to make various recommendations for improvement. While the manufacturer indicated, for example, that lubrication should be carried out every 100 working hours, Robin found that it is much better to carry out lubrication every 50 hours. In practice it turned out that after 100 working hours there was not enough grease left at crucial points.  He also worked on extending the life of the chain of the outrigger. In addition, he identified certain metal plates that could be better replaced by plastic wear plates. And by adding magnets, metal (litter) can be easily removed from the feed.  As icing on the cake, the work is also handed over to the distributor and manufacturer (Kuhn) so that they can adjust their instructions and improve the device.

His extensive work, together with an excellent oral defence, convinced the jury unanimously.  As the winner of the Wout Theuws Prize, Robin not only receives a certificate but also a nice cash prize of € 500. From now on, the Bernardustechnicum also has a beautiful award in its trophy case.

The runners-up, Kobe Moeyaert, Milan De Meester and Joshua Vandenbossche, from the same school, also receive a cash prize each. Kobe Moeyaert worked on a programmable robot arm in his BIP. Milan De Meester and Joshua Vandenbossche worked together on an AI robot head.

Award ceremony

During the proclamation in the Bernardustechnicum, BEMAS director Wim Vancauwenberghe gave a short speech and explained the idea behind the prize Wout Theuws: "For us, Wout has a brilliant example function. He took a technical course in car mechanics and started his career in a garage at the age of 16. His hard work and eagerness to learn earned him more and more responsibility. In 1991, he completed his Master's degree in Integrated Maintenance Management and 9 years later he was elected Maintenance Manager of the Year. He has worked at Bosal since 1986 and became Group Manufacturing Excellence Leader HSE and Maintenance. Meanwhile Wout enjoys his retirement, but is still an active member in the Board of Directors of BEMAS and is chairman of the European Asset Management Committee."

Wim Vancauwenberghe also thanked SDT for donating the ultrasound machine as an extra prize for the school. This innovative device can now be used in the school for leak detection exercises and preventive maintenance based on condition monitoring. Bart Neirynck, the teacher who supervised Robin's thesis, received this device together with the award for the school.  


BEMAS news

BEMAS vzw, the Belgian professional association for technical maintenance, has awarded the Wout Theuws Prize for the fifth time. The winner is Robin De Clercq, an electromechanics student at the Bernardustechnicum in Oudenaarde, who wrote his integrated test on maintenance at a Kuhn silage harvester.

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