50 Young People Making Manufacturing Smarter part 1

Diversity of views and perspectives is fundamental to successful innovation. If we are to progress and change successfully Manufacturing strategy at a Government, Industrial Strategy and individual firm level needs to embrace new and varied voices.

Manufacturing, similar to other sectors, lacks diversity in terms of age, gender and ethnicity. The closer we get to the top, the narrower perspectives become.

In a complex, fast-changing, globally connected world, the need for fresh thinking is recognised in many manufacturing boardrooms and at senior levels of Government.

As an organisation that connects for positive change, KTN are working with The Manufacturer to bridge this gap between manufacturing board rooms and the future of manufacturing.

By encouraging and inspiring the next generation, established manufactures not only help secure a stronger future for manufacturing, but they also learn by exposing themselves to fresh perspectives in the present. Nurturing young talent by giving them a voice, listening to their ideas, and taking the time to share experience benefits everyone.

Having benefited from structured and intentional development programmes as part of her industry-sponsored undergraduate study and with mentoring and exposure to a variety of roles embedded in her early career development, Nicole Ballantyne, Manufacturing Made Smarter Network lead for KTN reflects on the importance of listening to and encouraging younger voices.

“As a result of encouragement, support, and importantly the recognition given to me by my employer and the wider community (I won Young Female Engineering of the Year in 1987) I felt excited by and valued in manufacturing. This brought out a spark of enthusiasm in me that grew into a deep passion for manufacturing, and a commitment to improving manufacturing in the UK. If we want to Make Manufacturing Smarter, we must hear and listen to the ideas of the next generation.”

This series is a first step in sharing the voices and ideas of those to whom the future belongs. Let’s take this opportunity to encourage, mentor and listen.


Joseph McGrath – CAE Tech

manufacturingWhat excites you most about a career in manufacturing?

“With so much scope for improvements in manufacturing (and thus the products being made) there is always a new customer expectation to fulfil – allowing us, as engineers, to always strive for better.”

How did you start your journey and where you see your future?

“After attaining a 1st Class in Mechanical Engineering from Coventry University, I’ve chosen to pursue another path in Software Engineering.

After completing a 12-week online coding boot camp, I’ve emerged into the world of computing at CAE Tech, an innovative small company developing tools for online design software such as Onshape which allows small & large businesses globally to plan and develop their manufacturing line.

In the future, I’m looking to expand my knowledge in software development – it brings a lot of freedom and creativity to my work.”


Elliot Bloor – Siemens plc, Congleton

What excites you most about a career in manufacturing?

“Manufacturing requires a fast pace. It is exciting, constantly adapting, International and full of interesting challenges. Anything is possible: digital twinning; new technologies and innovations and diverse and plentiful. I love that manufacturing shapes our present and our future.”

How did you start your journey and where you see your future?

“I have always been interested in how ‘things’ work and so, I naturally steered towards hands on or engineering based classes, courses and now in my profession.

From an early age I was obsessed with scale model building and making weird and wonderful contraptions, which then developed into a passion for 3D CAD design and simulation.

I went from studying an engineering level 3 course at college straight into industry, at a Siemens factory in Congleton. Alongside my role as Industrial Engineering Apprentice, I study towards a degree in Control and Automation.

The 3.5 years that I have worked in industry has given me great opportunities to learn about new technologies and get involved in exciting projects such as the Ventilator Challenge UK.

I look to my future with the commitment of becoming an Industrial Engineering 4.0 Consultant, helping to develop Britain’s manufacturers to be more competitive and sustainable.”


Ben Hall – Industrial Gas Springs Ltd

What excites you most about a career in manufacturing?

“I am exited about opportunities to push the limits on what is physically possible using CNC machines and introducing new and innovative technology into the manufacturing process.”

How did you start your journey and where you see your future?

“4.5 year apprenticeship, moved onto a medical implant manufacturer, then onto a company that manufactures gas springs, where I am the machine shop supervisor.

In the future I would like to start my own subcontract CNC machine shop, utilising new techniques and technologies.”


Savina Venkova – HSSMI

What excites you most about a career in manufacturing?

“Manufacturing makes the stuff that is necessary as well as fun. I am inspired by the brilliant brains, creativity, hard work and the diversity of people in the sector.  The work we do in Manufacturing impacts absolutely everyone.”

How did you start your journey and where you see your future?

“I lead the Circular Economy team at HSSMI, a manufacturing consultancy and research organisation. Prior to that I managed the strategy and operations for waste for a large range of factories and hospitals. My passion is putting circular economy principles into practice, and seeing how their application can differ or be surprisingly similar in a wide range of scenarios or industries.

We’re at a point where society broadly agrees circular economy is important, but let’s do less talking and more doing! In my day-to-day role, I get to see highly innovative or sometimes old-as-time circular economy projects be put into practice, in manufacturing environments as diverse as textiles and car batteries. I’m passionate about bringing more young people and more women into manufacturing. I hope to continue to be part of the manufacturing industry, perhaps even leading or owning a manufacturing business.”


Maxwell Weatherhead – Produmax

What excites you most about a career in manufacturing?

“Creating something tangible that I have worked to create to the customers satisfaction is the best feeling. I’m also excited about solving problems (and preventing them) as well as working to continuously improve processes to enable us to be more productive and sustainable.”

How did you start your journey and where you see your future?

“My journey has been very different to many. I started out doing DT at school and loved it but didn’t look for a career in manufacturing until later on in my career. I worked in sales for 6 years after school and ended up in a recruitment role recruiting engineers, this opened my eyes to the career choices in manufacturing.

I found it hard getting my foot in the door with many manufacturing companies because of my age and because I had been in a sales role for a number of years. After two years of knock backs Produmax took me on as an apprentice at the age of 25 which I am very grateful for. I am now 1 and a half years into the role and I am loving it and wish I got into manufacturing earlier, this is why I would like to share my experiences.”


Radhika Srinivasan – EcoTextura Ltd

What excites you most about a career in manufacturing?

“Nothing beats the satisfaction of having your design on paper become a tangible, scalable and industry-approved product. What is better than a career in manufacturing?  Designs and technology will keep improving and this process never stops!”

How did you start your journey and where you see your future?

“I’ve always grown up envisioning efficient solutions to processes/objects I see and experience, in fact, my current business idea came to me during a hospital visit when I was 15 years old.  At present, I am the director of my company, EcoTextura Ltd, which manufactures proprietary-design, innovative medical face-masks and is in the R&D stages of producing its own sustainable medical-grade nonwoven fabrics and products.

I studied a Masters in Mechanical Engineering & Finance, choosing to specialise in developing sustainable non-woven fabrics and PPE products for the medical industry (thesis topic). I developed my products, pitched my business idea, won funding, worked as a stockbroker, quit my role and finally started my business in 2019 – prior to the pandemic. EcoTextura is now a supplier to the NHS and private hospitals nationally. Going forwards I look to continue designing/manufacturing innovative & sustainable fabrics and PPE and scale the business further.”


Jacques Bonfrer – Bot-Hive

What excites you most about a career in manufacturing?

“In recent decades, digitalisation has manifested itself through invisible means.  I’m now hugely excited to experience digitalisation of the physical world.  The manufacturing community is fast becoming the most exciting industry to be in.”

How did you start your journey and where you see your future?

“My career started in digital media & data intelligence products.  My journey into manufacturing only really began at the age of 24 when I met my now fiance who works for a longstanding family-run food manufacturer in South Wales.  Entering their factory for the first time, I remember being absolutely amazed by the sheer size and complexity of the operation.  From the initial goods-in processes, through to packaging & distribution, I was taken back by the sheer amount of hard work that goes in manufacturing environments.  It gave me a new found appreciation for the work that goes into producing things and the vast array of talent required for manufacturing companies to succeed.

In 2018, I began working with online publications that served the manufacturing community.  This opened the doors to a whole array of manufacturers and allowed me walk around shop floors across the country.  Whilst my admiration for businesses only grew, I became increasingly conscious of inefficiencies and inconsistent approaches to things like material flow, quality control and staff management.  Pairing my love for technology and experiences as a digital expert with the manufacturing industry, I set out to build an online marketplace that accelerates and improves the path to companies adoption automation.

Two and a half years down the line, we’re now a team of 8 and backed by a series of investors to build a marketplace business designed to radically enhance the way manufacturers get started with automation.  We’re democratising the processes surrounding embedding automation into businesses easy and accessible to manufacturers of all sizes.  Our ambitions are to become the industry’s recognised gateway into automation in the future.”


James Tetlow – Zama Digital

What excites you most about a career in manufacturing?

“In the manufacturing industry,​ new technology is always being developed and applied in new ways. Working with new technology to drive real-world process improvements is very exciting for me.”

How did you start your journey and where you see your future?

“During my Mechanical Engineering degree at Exeter University, I undertook an industrial placement year and wrote a dissertation entitled, ‘Investigating a machine learning decision support tool for a manufacturing SME’.  It became clear to me from working in industry and undertaking my dissertation, failing to collect actuate data from production machinery leads to inefficient decision-making. As a result, businesses suffer significant downtime, production losses, as well as reduced competitiveness.

To help solve this problem, after graduating in 2020, I founded Zama Digital.  Zama Digital exists to provide a machine monitoring solution to manufacturers, offering real-time​ insights from all manufacturing equipment. Delivering data needed to improve the efficiency and profitability of their operation.

Over the coming months and years, I am looking forward to growing Zama Digital as a business and to working with our customers to ensure harnessing the power of machine data becomes their competitive advantage.”


Bharath Karumuri – Associated Dental Products Ltd

What excites you most about a career in manufacturing?

“Working in manufacturing Industry is always challenging.  From managing a team and leading projects to improving productivity – the job is incredibly varied and interesting.”

How did you start your journey and where you see your future?

“Manufacturing is dynamic, evolving and increasingly automated. With industry 4.0, Internet of Things is certain to r+J10evolutionise manufacturing and take efficiency and productivity to new levels. I’m exited to play a role in shaping our future.”


Farhan Ahmed – Alucast

What excites you most about a career in manufacturing?

“Manufacturing is dynamic, evolving and increasingly automated. With industry 4.0, Internet of Things is certain to revolutionise manufacturing and take efficiency and productivity to new levels. I’m exited to play a role in shaping our future.”

How did you start your journey and where you see your future?

“After graduating from Aston University with a first-class honours degree, I was handpicked by WMG to work with a local SME called Alucast, an award-winning aluminium foundry supplying and machining complex lightweight castings. I develop an effective Kanban system which controlled the flow of materials throughout the foundry and the machine shop. This led to a 36% increase in productivity and I was offered a permanent position at the company.

After obtaining my lean six sigma green belt last year, I have utilised my lean manufacturing knowledge to successfully boost operator efficiency from 65% to 85% by driving continuous improvement to eliminate lost manufacturing time and by championing 5S across the machine shop! I am also responsible for vital decision making to optimise production to meet various conflicting customer demands. I see myself developing within both manufacturing and the rapidly changing automotive industry.”


All images supplied by participants.