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The people behind the technology: celebrating World Engineering Day 2023

This month sees World Engineering Day, a day where globally we can celebrate the engineering industry, the important contributions it has made and how it is shaping the future. So, with this important day in mind, we wanted to share the interesting story of how, one of our colleagues Sheree Collins, based at our HQ in Gillingham, turned a personal passion for ‘tinkering’ into a career as a Surface Mount Technology Engineer at Hochiki Europe.

Tell us a bit about how you got into engineering and your job at Hochiki Europe?


Despite not having a background in engineering I’ve always been a hands-on person. I grew up being encouraged to explore and to tinker with things. I love understanding how something is built and how it works and if I can make it better. Before coming to Hochiki I worked in childcare, so you couldn’t get more different. But I always wanted to follow my passion for engineering. Then one day I spotted an opportunity to join a local company here in Gillingham, Hochiki, that would enable me to explore this desire and I grabbed it with both hands.

I’d not been at Hochiki Europe for long and the role for a Surface Mount Technician Engineer came up and I was successful. Surface Mount Technology is concerned with how electrical components are placed onto a printed circuit board, it's an automated method used in mass production of products.

I work on pre-production, so it's my job (along with the other members in my team) to take a design from its infancy, testing the proof of concept and then run it as a full product. We work closely with quality assurance, customer facing teams, research and development, the production schedular and procurement.

Another part of my role here at Hochiki Europe is to train people on things like fault finding, general processes basic engineering, maintenance and repair. I also look after programming/de-bugging training – this helps ensure our processes are error-free which helps to streamline the process.

What do you love about being an engineer working in the life safety industry?

I love my job because no two days are the same, there’s always something new to learn, always new products coming down the line, and my colleagues are all equally as passionate about the technology as I am. We are given the opportunity to feedback and help improve production processes, our input is important.

I’m proud to come to work each day because I’m making a valuable contribution. It’s not just to the company, I know what I do is helping with the protection of buildings in which we all live, work and travel through, and ultimately people’s lives. For example, St Pancras Train Station in London, one of the biggest and busiest travel hubs in Europe is kitted out with Hochiki products. That’s a cool feeling knowing you had a hand in something like that.


What is the work/life balance like for you as an engineer at Hochiki?

Hochiki are a great company to work for. I’ve always felt supported and encourage to develop my learning here.

During the pandemic we all had to learn to work from home, but when many other companies were asking people to come back to the office, Hochiki recognised that from a design and engineering perspective production value was higher (due to fewer interruptions and the need to concentrate on complex parts of projects), so staff were given that flexibility to switch between WFH and office-based hours. This means there are always people on site to support other teams should the need arises. It means we can keep up that round the clock productivity without sacrificing quality.


What does a typical day look like as a manufacturing engineer look like at Hochiki?

Our team works across shift patterns which means production is almost always running. In my role as an engineer, I’m only required to work 8.30am - 5pm, but my working hours are flexible, and if needed I can work any time as agreed with the technical lead or my line manager. I think Hochiki are really good at this, recognising that the company and the work force can be flexible together to help each other out.

As a department we have weekly meetings where we catch up on tasks and project progression, plus we have daily stand ups to cover off any snags that might have occurred from the last 24 hours, or any other urgent matters and the good thing is that the notes from these meetings are accessible by anyone in the company via our internal systems. This means the work we do is visible which in the engineering and manufacturing world is essential.


What are some of the challenges you might deal with being an engineer working in the life safety industry?

Well, I think, as per most manufacturing businesses across almost all industries, there have been challenges following the worldwide pandemic when it comes to components. However, because we work closely with the quality assurance and procurement teams, we’ve been able to get back to a place where we can meet customer demand once more.

As you can imagine our industry is highly regulated, and rightly so, so yes there are challenges. For example, ensuring the approval process is met with the technical team and the QA team, this means daily testing or reprogramming. But I see this as a good thing – it pushes us to be more innovative and come up with better solutions for our customers.


According to a ‘Trends in Engineering’ report from Engineering UK over the last decade, the proportion of engineering workers who are female has increased from 10.5% in 2010 to 16.5% in 2021. Since starting work as an engineer what positive changes have you seen?

Well, I’ve been here just over four years now, and obviously two of those years were quite unusual with everything that was going on with COVID-19.

But what I have observed in my time here is that Hochiki are a company that understands and does its best to meet the needs of the individual. We have a fairly diverse workforce, and I’m seeing many more women in the in the industry too which is great – they say you can’t be what you can’t see, and I think the focus on STEM subjects for young kids, especially girls, is fantastic and will hopefully encourage more girls and women to start looking at how things are made and working out if it can be done better – just like I did growing up.

Hochiki run an apprenticeship scheme too, the Senior Management Team at Hochiki see the value in developing their teams and ensure they get the chance to continuously develop professionally. For example, I recently got the chance to visit a factory in Europe, that was outside of our company to learn about new manufacturing processes and technologies as well as sharing best practice. I also went to Southern Manufacturing event which was a great learning experience as I got to listen to lots of interesting seminars and there were networking opportunities too. All things I can bring back and share and discuss with the team here. We’re not just chained to the manufacturing line.

I think when you work for a company that encourages this ongoing learning, provides support, and listens to you then you’re going to naturally want to put a lot more into the job because you feel like a valued member of the team. It’s a win-win and can only be a good thing for the industry, and if more companies take on these values, I think we’ll see more and more bright young people looking at manufacturing and engineering as a career choice.

To find out more about Hochiki Europe and careers opportunities visit our careers page