Best Manufacturing Technology Lead
'I work with many different people from different and diverse backgrounds, some of whom don't have English as a first language, and often different time-zones, so being able to communicate and articulate with clarity and in an environment of mutual aspect are of equal importance to the technical aspects of my work,’ says Damian.
What does your Job entail?
I work for DuPoint at its Kevlar plant on the Maydown site, just outside Derry. The plant has been making Kevlar Fibre for the last 25 years.
Kevlar which was invented by a DuPoint scientist Stephanie Kwolek in 1965 is extraordinary strong, light weight and on an equal weight basis, five times stronger than steel.
It is mostly widely known for its use in bullet proof vests and helmets, but can be found in many other things including ear phones for your iPod, high performance tyres like the ones used in formula 1, fibre optic cables to protect the glass fibre from being stretched and broken, stereo speakersand even in space as Kevlar ropes were used on the Mars pathfinder mission which landed on the surface of mars.
In my role as local best manufacturing technology lead for one of the key Kevlar spinning technologies, I work with colleagues here at Maydown and at its sister plant in Richmond, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina and Tokai in Japan, to identify common issues and opportunities and use this knowledge to help improve processes and practices across four Kevlar production sites.
Is it 9-5?
As my wife and I both work full time, being able to achieve a good work/life balance is very important and Dupoint have always been very supportive of this. We have a young family and share the school runs, so I can start later or finish earlier depending on what we have going on that week – usually though my job is 9am to 5.30pm.
In my last role whilst working on a new plant in the US, it was not uncommon to have work days up to 13 to 15 hours, especially during the most critical commissioning and start-up phase.
How did you get into this line of work?
I always had an interest in engineering from a young age. By my late teens I was pretty sure I would go on to study chemical engineering at University.
DuPoint are a global company employing thousands of engineers and are world leaders in many industries, so when I was thinking about future employment DuPoint was a perfect fit, especially as they were ‘down the road’ from where I grew up.
Outline your career to date?
At 24 I started work as a process engineer with DuPoint at their Hypalon plant on the Maydown Site.
Over the next 15 years I worked in a variety of different roles in three different plants on site. Initially these roles focused on monitoring and improving our production and manufacturing processes, looking for ways to achieve better productivity, higher quality products or reduced operating cost.
As DuPoint places are the highest priority on safety, everyone regardless of the role, also has a significant safety aspect to their job.
As the years progressed I moved between plants, eventually joining the Kevlar team in 1995.
In 2007 I started working on the project to build what would be a new Kevlar plant near Charleston in South Carolina. Initially this work involved developing and what we call a ‘basic data’, package.
A particular aspect of the project for the new Charleston plant involved the construction and operation of a test, or pilot, facility at the Maydown site, between late 2007 and early 2008. In July 2008 I was relocated along with my family to Charleston and over the next three years saw the project through to its final commissioning and start up phases, before returning to Maydown in late 2011 to take up my current role.
Tell us about your qualifications/training
I went to St Patricks Primary School Donemana, Co Tyrone, and completed my secondary education at St Columb’s College in Derry. I went on to achieve a BEng and PhD in chemical engineering from Queen’s University Belfast.
What qualities are required for your job?
An engineering and technology role requires technical knowledge, an analytical mind, logical thinking and reasoning, attention to detail, diligence, the ability to process complex information and the tenacity to see things through are very important .
I believe the most important qualities are the ability to interact and form good working relationships with others and to become a team player.
Very few people can get through their working life and achieve success without the help and input of others. I work with many different people from different and diverse backgrounds many of whom don’t have English as a first language and often across different time zones, so being able to communicate and articulate with clarity and in an environment of mutual respect are of equal important to the technical aspects of these roles.
What are the biggest challenges and rewards of your work?
One of the biggest challenges is finding a solution to a work process problem that our plants may be facing.
For example if we see slight differences in performance across the various Kevlar plants and sometimes, although are equipment and processes may be almost identical, it can be very difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for these differences.
Making progress on these types of problems, as a result of persistence or by trying a novel approach to reach a solution is particularly rewarding for me.
Who has inspired you most in your life?
I take inspiration from many different sources.
However, the greatest inspiration in my life comes from my wife and children.