Thomas Kelk, Design engineer
At Sewtec, no two working days are the same. Our bespoke approach to automation solutions means we work on a variety of different projects for clients in a wide range of sectors, creating unique machines to meet our customers’ needs.
We caught up with Thomas Kelk, a designer engineer who has been part of the Sewtec team for the last four years, to get find out what it’s like to work on bespoke automation solutions on a day-to-day basis.
Q: Tell us about your typical working day
Thomas Kelk (TK): There is no typical working day at Sewtec. Depending on what project you are involved in, you may be designing machinery, having design reviews, drawing up pneumatic diagrams, discussing new concepts, assisting fitters with the machine build and detailing drawings.
Q: What made you choose a career in automation?
TK: The future of manufacturing is automation and robotics. Manufacturers are increasingly using automation to improve quality, safety, productivity and profitability within their businesses. The demand for automated solutions will only grow and advanced technologies must be developed to further this demand. Technology is only useful if you have a well-trained new generation of engineers with the ability to use it.
Q: What would you say the best thing about working at Sewtec is?
TK: One of the greatest factors of working at Sewtec is the variety of projects you can be working on. I have designed equipment for the tobacco industry, but I have also been involved in confectionary, pet foods, tea and the pharmaceutical industry. All of these sectors have different factory requirements, which need to be considered during the design process.
I have also spent a couple of months supervising machine installations and commissioning in The Netherlands and Poland. Depending on where the project is being installed, Sewtec gives you the opportunity to travel all over the world.
Q: Name three characteristics you would say are needed to work in automation?
TK: I would say the follow characteristics are required:
Conscientious – A machine consists of thousands of individual components, all which need a detailed drawing complete with dimensions and geometric tolerances. For this to be carried out, you need to know how the part is assembled, and its function considered. After working on a machine for six months, I can identify every part and locate it within the machine, but I cannot remember my own telephone number!
Resilient – During the research and development stages of a process, solutions that you have spent a lot of time on may not work. You cannot throw the towel in but must adapt and learn from this to produce a viable engineering solution.
Lateral thinking – Sewtec designs bespoke machines and in doing that, creative and out-of-the-box thinking is required to solve a puzzling unique machine process. It is quite common that the application has never been done before, so there is little experience or historic machines to fall back on.
Q: What’s been your proudest moment whilst working at Sewtec?
TK: I feel proud every time a project is complete and successful with a happy customer. You have a personal attachment as you have put a lot of time and effort into it.
Q: Do you feel inspired by working as part of an award-winning team?
TK: It is rewarding to see Sewtec’s ability being recognised by the wider engineering audience.
Q: How have you developed your skills whilst working at Sewtec?
TK: On starting at Sewtec, I was given 3D Inventor training so that I could hit the ground running and later received additional inventor iLogic training to help reduce design time on standard equipment.
I have worked as part of a design team under the R&D Manager, Gary Robinson who has guided and mentored me, steadily giving me additional design responsibility as I gained more experience. After a few years, I was given smaller solo projects to expose me to project lead and customer interaction which was rewarding after positive customer feedback.
Once I had more experience under my belt, I was given ownership of complete machines which required collaboration from other departments such as, electrical design, software and production teams.
Q: What aspirations do you have for your career at Sewtec moving forward?
TK: My aspirations are to be involved in a machine in a sector which makes an impact on day-to-day public life
For more information on current vacancies at Sewtec, visit our Careers page.