Process improvement specialist

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Robert, 24

Robert works in the Materials Planning and Logistics department of Ford where he is part of the team responsible for managing all the parts required to build their cars. His role is to find better, cheaper and more efficient ways of ordering, recording and managing these parts. Find out more:

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Fact file

Job description: Robert's job sees him working on a series of short projects with different teams within the department. By improving the efficiency of the process, he helps ensure that there are always enough parts on hand to keep the production line running which in turn helps the company potentially save a lot of money.

Subjects studied: Maths (Methods), Maths (Specialist), English, Physics, Chemistry, Physical Education

Further training: Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical and Manufacturing) - 4 years University of Melbourne

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Profile

Rob has always been interested in science and maths so when he finished Year 12, he decided to start a double degree at university in science and engineering. After one year, however, he found that he much preferred engineering and deferred his science studies to concentrate on mechanical and manufacturing engineering.

Having decided that he wanted to work in the automotive industry, when Rob found out about the Ford Graduate Program on the company website, he decided to apply for a position once he had completed his studies.

The graduate program sees about thirty new graduates from all areas (engineering, marketing, finance, human resources) all starting at Ford together. As well as working in their specific areas of expertise, people on the program attend a lot of courses on general topics such as public speaking and diversity. They also get the opportunity to rotate their job within different areas of the company every six months or so.

At the end of the three year program, they all have not only a good understanding of the company which helps them to decide which area they would like to work in, but they also have a terrific set of skills which will help them succeed. Rob says: "One of the other great benefits is that you have 30 people who are in the same position as you so you can really support each other. And it's not all work ? there are a lot of social events as well so it means that when you've finished, you have a ready-made network within the company."

Rob is currently in the second year of the program and is working as a Process Improvement Specialist within the Material Planning and Logistics department. At first he found this a bit daunting as he realised that what he was doing could save the company a lot of money, but also had the potential to lose a lot of money.

Rob works on small projects within the departments that look at how different teams control parts. This could include what records are kept and how, the way parts come in to Ford, how many parts need to be ordered and how well the supplier's systems match the systems at Ford. Each project lasts from 2?4 months, so Rob has to work at a fairly hectic pace.

A typical day sees Rob starting at around 7.15 in the morning when the production line gets rolling. During the day, he is either working with a small team within the department or working with outside suppliers to make sure their systems match. Once he understands everything that is happening and why, Rob then tries to see if there is a better ways of doing things.

Because he works on short term projects, Rob finds that if he doesn't enjoy a particular project, it's no big deal as he knows he will move on to a new one very soon. He enjoys working in a high pressure environment and you certainly can't get much more active than an automotive production line. Every second the line is not running can cost thousands of dollars, so Rob has to try and make sure that there are always enough parts to keep production going. "It's basically second to second action. I often have to think on the spot and make sure I have all the information so I can answer any questions."

When asked where he thought he would be in five or ten year's time, Rob's answer was simple: "I'll be at Ford forever. It's everything I've ever wanted from an employer. My new department manager started off on the graduate program so I'm inspired to follow his example and climb the ladder in the company."

With all the opportunities available to an engineer in automotive manufacturing, who knows where that ladder may lead.

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Job specs

Chemical engineers design and coordinate the construction and operation of manufacturing facilities and processes which convert raw materials into everyday products such as petrol, toothpaste, pharmaceuticals and plastics.

Duties

Chemical engineers may perform the following tasks:

  • Seek new and more efficient processes and materials, or improve or find new uses for existing materials
  • Design methods and equipment to control and contain the processes that transform basic materials into useful products
  • Make sure of the safe, efficient and environmentally friendly operation of equipment and test products at various stages of production to check the quality
  • Design and build pilot plants to indicate how full-scale plants will operate when built
  • Make plans and specifications for full-scale production plants, taking into account available technology, the cost and size of equipment and storage space, market needs, transport methods and disposal of surplus substances
  • Review current methods of production for cost efficiency, environmental friendliness, maximum output and product quality
  • Identify faults in the day-to-day operation of process plants (e.g. oil refining, steel making, water treatment) and take corrective action
  • Prepare reports, feasibility studies and cost analyses of processes
  • Provide product process information to sales and marketing personnel or customers
  • Direct and coordinate the work of maintenance and construction tradespeople or process plant operators
  • Provide advice on economical methods of converting raw materials

Personal requirements

  • Enjoy technical and engineering work
  • Willing to adhere to safety requirements
  • Able to identify, analyse and solve problems
  • Good communication skills
  • Good at computing and design
  • Practical and creative
  • Able to work independently
  • Able to accept responsibility

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Getting started

Find out more about a career in process improvement engineering:

Engineers Australia (Victoria Division)
21 Bedford St North Melbourne, VIC 3051
Tel: (03) 9329 8188
Email: vic@engineersaustralia.org.au

The Institute of Chemical Engineers in Australia (National Office)
3/21 Vale St North Melbourne, VIC 3051
Tel: (03) 9329 3046
Email: members@icheme.org.au

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).

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