Modern Manufacturing: A Day in the Life of a Mechanical Engineer

October is a great month to focus on modern manufacturing. Across North America, manufacturers like Domtar are celebrating Manufacturing Day on October 6 or throughout the month by inviting students for site visits or visiting area schools and clubs to help them learn more about manufacturing careers.

Many prospective employees wonder what their day in a modern manufacturing company might look like when considering a career at Domtar. While every role and every colleague at Domtar are unique, it can be helpful to take a look inside the business through the lens of a specific job.

Brandon Sneed is a mechanical engineer at Domtar’s Kingsport Mill in Tennessee. A graduate of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Sneed was hired by Domtar as an associate engineer at the Kingsport Mill in 2013. After two promotions, he now works as a senior engineer at the mill.

A typical day for a modern manufacturing engineer at Domtar requires teamwork, effective communication, strong technical and project management skills, and the ability to adapt to frequently changing tasks and situations. For Sneed, it also starts and ends with promoting health and wellness at the mill.

Recently, Sneed invited the Newsroom to take a look at how he spends his day:

A Typical Day in Modern Manufacturing

5–5:15 a.m.
Perform security walk of the fitness center

“I come in early morning to check that our Wellness Center is tidy, looks appealing and does not contain any slip, trip or fall hazards. Fitness is a big part of my job, since I am the wellness champion for Kingsport.”

5:15–6 a.m.
Complete daily exercise routine

“When the fitness center is in top condition, I start on my daily workout routine. It is important for me to be consistent in my message of health and wellness to the mill, so I make sure to commit myself to working out on a daily basis. I work out to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but also to set a good example.

“My weekly routine includes weight training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and cardio on Tuesday and Thursday. This helps me to maintain a balanced fitness plan and clear my mind to start the day out on a positive note.”

6:30–7 a.m.
Review notes and statistics from the previous shift’s Bleach Pulp Mill (BPM) foremen

“This is the first work task I do each day. This review gives me an accurate understanding of how the mill is running and gives me an idea of where I should be spending my time to help resolve existing issues. The information provided will guide the activities and tasks I complete throughout the day.”

7–8 a.m.
Review and organize work for on-site contractors

“This task is extremely detailed, but it’s necessary to ensure that our contractors get started on the right foot with clear expectations for the day so they can stay on track with daily goals.”

8–8:30 a.m.
Attend daily production meeting

“I attend this meeting on behalf of all BPM project engineers. The daily meeting allows leaders to come together to discuss projects that Operations will be involved in, discuss process issues and concerns, and create plans to resolve these issues or concerns. In the engineering department, we like to think of Operations as a customer. Our primary goal is to serve them.”

8:30 a.m.–Noon
Assist Operations with projects

“This takes up a major portion of my day and accounts for 60 percent of the work I do here at the mill. I manage all mechanical capital projects for the utilities department and prepare appropriation requests to be approved. I also spend a great deal of time with the Lime Kiln Continuous Improvement (CI) Project. For this, I develop and track action items that revolve around CI in the recausticizing area, work with operators and leadership to optimize lime production, and generate biweekly reports on purchased fresh lime and current action items to be submitted to corporate.”

Noon–1 p.m.
Break for lunch

“My lunch is not very glamorous. While most engineers get together for lunch, I like to take a quiet lunch in my office and continue working on current projects. My wife is kind enough to fix my lunch each day, and nothing tops her cooking. As the mill’s wellness champion — and, honestly, as a frugal spender — packing a healthy lunch every day works best for me.”

1–3:30 p.m.
Work on outage planning, which is essential (timing varies according to the day’s workload)

“In my current role, I manage code work in the utilities department and any mechanical capital projects that require millwide outages. This includes contracting and managing jobs for boiler repairs, for example. I have also begun the process of planning for the major rebuild of the mill’s 50-megawatt turbine generator, scheduled for the fall of 2017.”

3:30–4:30 p.m.
Implement corporate health and wellness initiatives

“Being the wellness champion for the mill is one of my favorite responsibilities. It places me in a position where I can help coworkers set goals for a healthier future. In this role, I formulate communication plans for wellness initiatives, act as a resource for information and reinforce healthy behaviors through incentive programs. Our most recent program, Lean in 2017, was a great success. A colleague of mine lost 30 pounds and nearly 10 percent of his body fat within three months. He has completely changed his outlook on wellness. It is rewarding and inspiring to witness the people around you achieving their goals.”

A Future with Domtar

Sneed appreciates the culture at Domtar, where excellence is valued and there is opportunity for advancement.

“That opportunity doesn’t end with just my position,” he says. “Domtar continues to invest in me as a leader. Shortly after I was hired, Domtar paid for my membership into a young professionals group, Professionals Engaged in Advancing Kingsport. I helped develop the organization and became the civic volunteer co-chair, planning volunteer events for nonprofit organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club of America, Habitat for Humanity and Second Harvest Food Bank.”

Sneed also likes the fact that his modern manufacturing career is challenging in all the right ways.

“It encourages me to bring something to the table to make my mill a better place,” he says. “My career at Domtar has helped shape me into the person, the employee and the leader that I want to be.”

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