The Manufacturer Top 100 2021 alumni Joshua Simpson knew he wanted to be an engineer since the age of six. After falling in love with his work experience time at MINI Plant Oxford and completing A Levels, he was lucky enough to be offered an Engineering Technician degree apprenticeship. Taking inspiration from engineers in his family, particularly father and grandad, Simpson has been trying to push the limits of what is expected of apprentices by independently running his own projects and following them through to the best of his capability, learning along the way. Despite some significant challenges in the industry with the pandemic, suppliers and push for future change, he feels it is an incredibly exciting time to work in the industry.
Click here to view the video of the full Top 100 interview with Joshua Simpson.
What is your role at BMW Manufacturing?
I am an Engineering Technician Degree Apprentice in my third year. Here at Plant Oxford, we make the three-door, five-door and Clubman models. Alongside producing Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars, we also make the three-door Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) on the same production line. Currently, I am still doing three-month placement rotations around the business, getting to experience a wide range of departments. However, from September I will be in my ‘Home’ department, where I plan to continue to work after my apprenticeship: Production Steering, TU-O-410.
What does it mean to you to be part of the Top 100?
To be part of the Top 100 means a great deal to me. I was so surprised to receive the news and still can’t quite believe that I won! It certainly feels nice to be recognised for what I have been doing during my apprenticeship.
What do you think are the key attributes which led to you being nominated?
I would say that the proactivity that I apply to my role was a key reason for my nomination, as I am always looking for work and ways to improve the business. I also try to maintain a positive attitude and stay enthusiastic about my job, while seeking out feedback to gain the valuable opportunity to improve.
What do you find most inspiring about working in manufacturing and when did you realise this is the career for you?
The fact that the almost incomprehensibly complex process behind producing a vehicle is possible and that I am able to contribute to the company behind it, inspires me every day. I realised manufacturing was the career for me when I discovered it was my perfect combination: engineering and technology, all within a fast-paced environment. I love how broad the industry is and the constant buzz and rush that drives production forwards.
Who or what has been the biggest influences on your career in manufacturing?
I would say my grandfather and father have been big inspirations for my manufacturing career as they were both engineers themselves and also my mother for her unbeatable work ethic.
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far and how have you overcome it?
Trying to not let COVID-19 have any impact on my apprenticeship, so I can make the most of my learning experience. I have done this by being as flexible as possible in how I work and making the most of what I can do, considering any restrictions in place. In any potential quiet periods induced by restrictions, I have ensured that I work on a personal project which not only benefits the business, but benefits me too.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in manufacturing during your career?
The huge increase in the importance of sustainability and digitalisation. Although there is still a long way to go with these topics, I feel that people are starting to realise the urgency of them. It was extremely refreshing to attend the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit and hear the incredible innovation that is going on to improve sustainability and further integrate digitalisation. Furthermore, hearing that other companies face similar challenges and their solutions in the roundtable discussions, was highly insightful.
What are the biggest challenges that are facing manufacturing as a whole and how are you and your company seeking to address this?
The same as any other employee in UK manufacturing I’m sure – COVID-19, Brexit, and supplier issues. However, I would say sustainability is going to be the next biggest challenge to the industry and we should fully embrace it, as it is not a hinderance, but an opportunity. At BMW Group, we are pushing the boundaries of sustainable manufacturing, for example, the BMW i Vision Circular and a heavy focus on electric vehicles.
Can manufacturing learn anything from any other sectors?
I think manufacturing could learn from the technology industry to better integrate digitalisation and development methodologies into production. There is industry-wide hesitation to fully adopt digitalisation since there is often little, if not no link between IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology). This means that the importance of it can often be looked over. However, in an increasingly digital world, we should look at the tech industry to better understand the benefits and working methods of digitalisation.
What sort of growth/change has your company implemented/gone through over the last 12/18 months and how has this been managed?
I would say the biggest growth in BMW Group has been with the electric vehicles we manufacture, which have proven to be hugely popular with our customers. Due to this popularity, we have had to maximise MINI Electric production, which was a significant challenge. However, at Plant Oxford, we were able to produce one MINI Electric out of every three cars, compared to the previous one in ten. In fact, group-wide, we doubled electric vehicle production in 2021.
What do you think will be the long-term legacy of this current period of unprecedented change with the manufacturing sector?
The long-term legacy of this current period will be the newfound importance of flexibility in production, realised efficiency of different working methods, strong advantage of collaboration and giving power back to the people.
What advice would you have for any younger people who are considering a career in manufacturing?
Work hard and be open to change. The industry is so fast moving and at the forefront of technology that new, innovative people are needed for businesses to stay competitive.