How engineering works in healthcare
Published: 17 Nov 2016 By Georgina Bloomfield
A day in the life of an Engineering Technician at GSK
One may not immediately think of making their next engineering career move within the healthcare sector, but it is certainly something that should be considered. The healthcare industry is growing as the population demand increases, with technology becoming more advanced and sophisticated.
GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) is a science-led, global healthcare company that is helping transform the lives of billions of people around the world. Working for GSK could be the best career change you ever make. GSK is a world-leading business that research, develop and manufacture a variety of innovative pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines and consumer health products.
Roles with GSK vary greatly for their engineers; one in particular to focus on is the Engineering Technician role.
Craig Edwards is an Engineering Technician at GSK who primarily works to ensure that the production lines for a key respiratory medicine continue to run efficiently, safely, and produce consistently high quality medicine while minimising equipment downtime. He is also responsible for continuous improvement within the manufacturing area, whereby he puts forward ideas and has the opportunity to follow them through to completion.
Pictured: Craig Edwards: Engineering Technician at GSK
Edwards has been working for GSK since March 2015, and continues to find the job challenging and enjoyable as an engineer. He said: ‘Having previously worked in the research and development sector in a different industry for 12 years, I thought the time was right to venture into something totally different. A few of my friends already worked within GSK at Ware and after discussions with them about the type of work they do and the complexity of the machinery, it sounded like a really great opportunity. The pharmaceutical industry is thriving in the UK at present, and it was something that I wanted to be a part of.’
The pharmaceutical industry is certainly thriving. GSK alone invested £3.1 billion in R&D in 2015 in their search to develop new medicines, vaccines and consumer products. Additionally they have a network of 71 manufacturing sites in 33 countries, and large R&D centres in the UK, US, Belgium and China.
The pharmaceutical area tends to get overlooked by already-trained engineers during their job search. Edwards highlighted: ‘When I was looking for a career change I didn’t automatically look at the pharmaceutical industry as I assumed that I would require sound background knowledge of the industry, and have some level of chemical qualifications. It wasn’t until I looked in more detail at the job specification for my current role that actually my skills and engineering knowledge could easily be transferred across. I think I’m not alone in saying that many other engineers outside of the pharmaceutical industry may not look at engineering positions within GSK for that reason.’
As for his day-to-day job as an Engineering Technician, Edwards said: ‘Every day brings a different challenge and task, and no two days are the same. I work across three departments with different technologies, and each day a new issue requires support from a technician. Some tasks are simple ‘quick fixes’, but most require deep understanding and root cause analysis which can take hours, or even days to resolve properly. I learn something new every day and even though some of the equipment has been onsite for 15–20 years, there are still problems that even the most experienced of technicians have not seen before.
‘Safety is one of the most important factors in our role, so planned maintenance takes place regularly to ensure the production lines are running safely and also to the best of their capability. Our maintenance ranges from calibration of equipment to ensure they are running within the specification limits, to regular maintenance of mechanical and electrical parts where we check for wear, damage, lubrication, and general state of each component.’
How do you get into the pharmaceutical industry as an engineer?
Craig previously worked for Xerox Ltd in Welwyn Garden City, where he gained his Advanced Modern Apprenticeship in Mechanical Engineering and then studied an HND in Mechatronics. He commented: ‘The GSK website has a great job search functionality, which lists all jobs across in the UK and globally. I would simply apply through the website and once you have applied you can track your application at each stage. It doesn’t matter what background you are from - whether it’s military or product development, there are opportunities at GSK for a wide range of engineering backgrounds.’
Still interested? Here is a summary of the tasks he carries out on a day-to-day basis: ‘At the start of each shift, we carry out a fifteen minute handover with the outgoing shift where we discuss priorities, safety concerns, production problems and any other engineering issues that we need to be made aware of.
‘Once handover is finished, our Lead Technician and Engineer will delegate work to each Technician. From there, I will go to the relevant job which can vary in complexity and range from routine maintenance, project work, continuous improvements or general breakdowns.
‘Most of my day will be carrying out these tasks along with learning calibrations on various pieces of equipment when available. There are many new trials and critical experiments taking place at the Ware site to launch new products into the market, so supporting these developments is really important. If any work has not been completed before the shift ends, then this will be discussed in detail and handed over to the oncoming shift.’
You can guarantee that each week you’ll be learning something new, no matter how experienced you are as an engineer.
If you’re interested in applying, you can search and apply our jobs: http://www.gsk.com/en-gb/careers/search-jobs-and-apply/
Or meet more of our people: http://www.gsk.com/en-gb/careers/meet-our-people/david/