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As part of our ‘five minutes with’ series we’ve been getting to know the people behind the winning team at BPE. Here, we speak to Technology Director Noel Quigley about everything from the challenges in-house process engineers face to his favourite invention of all time.
Q: What was your first job?
A: My first proper job post university was as a Process Engineer on a papermaking plant for Procter & Gamble. The highlights were being involved with a few plant upgrades for product and process improvements, and learning how to drive a modified fork lift truck to move giant toilet rolls around the factory (picture 6ft diameter weighing approx. 1 tonne).
Q: What’s a typical day like for you?
A: There’s no such thing as a typical day so far, which is great. On any given day I could be working on a project for a client, or I could be working on sales or business strategy.
I’m currently working on a number of projects ranging from very early stage concepts through to detailed design for projects entering construction, and technologies including pharma, biotech, chemicals and waste recovery.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge your clients face?
A: A lack of skilled resources I guess. In the majority of cases, our clients come to us because we can provide a breadth of process engineering knowledge and experience that is simply no longer available in-house as corporations scaled back their engineering teams to focus on core business.
The decline of these in-house engineering teams coupled with the trend for large engineering firms to use agency engineers or low cost engineering centres has led to a general lack of staff development over the last 10-20 years, which now presents itself as a very small pool of highly skilled and experienced engineering experts.
Q: What’s been your proudest achievement in your career to date?
A: I had an opportunity to lead the process development and engineering design for a new process technology. Over the course of 12 months I took a concept for a manually operated batch process and developed it into a fully automated continuous process, then led the engineering team to design more than five individually customised commercial scale units over the following 12 months.
Q: Phone call or email?
A: Why not a face-to-face chat? I much prefer to talk to an actual person than a voice on a phone or a line of text on IM or email. Unless it really is a simple 30 second conversation, I find it is better to go see the person I need to talk to as you tend to get their full attention and communication is much more effective, but it’s also a more sociable way of working.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges for manufacturers in the coming years?
A: Pressures to produce goods sustainably at lower costs, whilst reducing energy usage and eliminating emissions. The latter two elements usually conflict with the first, so it will be an interesting challenge.
Q: What do you get up to when you’re not working at BPE?
A: Generally I spend time with my family. My kids are still very young and they still want me around, so for now that’s where my energy goes.
Q: If you weren’t a Technology Director or Process Engineer what do you think you’d be doing?
A: Not sure as I enjoy so many different aspects of what I do, but it would most likely have to be highly numerical and analytical. I’d considered an actuarial career before choosing engineering, not so much for insurance which sounds quite dull, but using actuarial skills to drive business strategy and corporate decision making.
In many ways this is similar to what we do as engineers, it’s just a different set of data and a different set of decisions that need to be made.
Q: What one invention couldn’t you live without?
A: I’d have to say fire. My original thoughts were solely around creature comforts such as cooking and heating, but then the engineer took over and realised that fire was needed either directly or indirectly for all subsequent discoveries.