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Production Engineering Overview
It’s all about products and processes! Production engineers are responsible for devising exactly how something is going to be made, what machines are going to make it and how it can be made as efficiently and as safely as possible. These products can be anything from newspapers and plastic bottles to tin cans and iPods.
Alternatively, you could even be working to facilitate the transfer of hydrocarbons from oil into the production process. As long as there’s a production line and a process, you’re likely to find a production engineer close by.
Why is it important? What does it involve?
If these guys all packed up and went home for a day, we’d struggle to eat or do any work. It all seems so simple – how bananas end up in the local supermarket, or how a laptop ends up in a computer store – but it really isn’t. Behind each product is a complex production line.
Dreaming up a design and sending it throughout the land to various shops is one thing, but actually producing something is the tricky bit that falls on the desk of the production engineer.
The job itself takes much the same form as most other engineering professions. The problem is identified and the research begins. If the request, for instance, is to make the production of bottle tops quicker and cheaper, various options are considered, tested and reviewed until a solution is reached.
It’s then all about making a big leap and scaling it up to the real thing. Some products, such as the Coca Cola bottle, will be produced in their millions and millions each year, so the production equipment better be darn good and incredibly efficient! Not only that, if production stops for even an hour, that’s a large amount of bottles that you’re not producing. The pressure can build up easily!
So how do you get into the industry then? Apprenticeship schemes are very common in this area of engineering, where a salary and work-based training can help you get on the ladder to becoming a production engineer. The most common route, however, is via an engineering degree. Either way, you’ll need a whole lot of training to become a production engineer, especially given the complexities of what you will be working on.
Break it down for me a little bit!
Where will you be working? Well, it all depends on the type of production you’re involved with really. If oil or gas is your thing, then you’ll be working for one of the big energy companies, helping them to improve their processes and making things even more cost-efficient.
If you’re working in the exciting world of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), you could be on the production line in a factory, working for one of the major supermarkets. You’ll be advising the company on how this piece of machinery can package three more apples in that box or save £50 a shipment.
Essentially, your job will be to answer the question: “how can this be produced in a better way?” If you think you can come up with the goods, and your head’s a conveyor belt bringing one innovative idea after another, this may well be the career for you.