TM profiles Rob Shaw, plant engineering technician at Allied Bakeries.
TM: What is your role and what are the main responsibilities?
As an engineer my role is to support our manufacturing function to make sure we get consistently great products. This involves a broad range of responsibilities; anything from responding to when a machine breaks down, installing and making modifications to equipment, to assisting with the commissioning of any new equipment.
TM: What are the key technical skills you use?
Perhaps the most obvious but important skill in my job is to have an in-depth knowledge of the bakery systems that we use. If something goes wrong with these machines, it’s my responsibility to get to the root of the problem and find a solution in the shortest time possible. Our newest plant makes three loaves per second, which is an impressive 10,000, 800g loaves every hour. Every second matters if something does break down, which is why I need to fully understand the machines to fix them quickly.
TM: What personal characteristics help you in your role?
I’m very analytical and tenacious when there is an issue. It’s important to keep asking ‘why’ a problem is occurring, as that leads to the best solution. It is essential to be able to keep calm and confident in a pressurised situation. The ability to communicate clearly is also important. I’m often speaking to bakery operatives and other personnel across the business and need to explain an issue using non-technical terminology so that they understand.
TM: What do you consider to be your biggest personal success at the company so far?
Allied Bakeries recently opened a new bread plant at Walthamstow, as part of our national capital expenditure programme, which is the biggest long-term investment in the sector. I assisted in the commissioning and optimisation of the packaging plant, and I’m very proud of how well it ran from day one. We’ve seen low fault and waste levels, so a great result for the business. I’ve also just been promoted – moving from a shift engineer who responds to day to-day issues into a managerial role.
TM: What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
Seeing good quality bread coming off the end of the line with high efficiency rates and no damage. It’s vital to maintain quality for both our customers and consumers. Engineering plays a big part in this, as it makes sure that the systems are optimised for our colleagues in manufacturing roles.
TM: Do you have a grand career ambition?
My immediate ambition is to excel in my newly appointed role as plant engineering technician. I’ve worked in manufacturing and engineering across several sectors for just over 20 years but have only been in the bakery sector for a year, which is why I’m keen to gain more experience in this area. Ultimately, I’d like to progress into central engineering to work across some of the other Allied Bakeries sites, and move to a senior management role.
TM: What first attracted you to a career in manufacturing?
I’ve always had a passion for modern technology, so working in an industry, which allows me to be close to this every day is what motivates me. It’s also been great to have the foundational skills and qualifications that I do because these are transferrable across manufacturing in different sectors. This has meant I could move from motor manufacturing to bakery manufacturing, and still retain and use the same skill set.