I graduated in 2018 with a Masters Degree in Product Design Engineering from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Outside of internships, work placements, and part time jobs throughout university, this placement has been my first full time job since graduating.
I thought a ScotGrad placement would be a great way for me to gain professional, industry experience and this placement offered a wide range of tasks and responsibilities aligned with my degree such as product design, material knowledge, and manufacturing. I think the entire placement is a great way to get your foot in the door. It gives you the exposure and experience of industry in a structured programme, which means you get a supported and guided start to your career. You also get access to a number of learning courses.
I work in the Product Design and Development department at Novograf as a Product Designer. The project I am working on is centred around sustainability. The aim of the project is to identify opportunities to minimise the environmental impact of the company’s products and highlight alternative materials and methodologies that aid future-proofing of the business. This involves reducing the use of PVC by using alternative, ‘greener’ materials where possible, reviewing waste stream options and identifying new sustainable, low impact material opportunities.
PVC is one of the most widely used plastics, particularly throughout the construction industry due to its technical properties. We only merit its use when it is the only material we can utilise to fulfil the functionality required. When no other material is deemed suitable for the task at hand, the sustainable limitations associated with PVC can be mitigated in a number of ways, which has been a key task throughout this project. One such step we have taken is identifying and implementing materials with higher percentages of recycled content present, rather than virgin content.
To supplement identifying sustainable materials, another task has been developing an in-house Sustainability Product Scorecard to review the sustainability of new materials by comparing them with an existing material using predefined criteria and weights. By using a weighting and rating type scoring system it is possible to identify the overall more sustainable material. A waste review was also carried out which involved assessing the products we produce and the materials we use in terms of their end of life options, ensuring the environmental impact was as minimal as possible.
Other parts of the project have been not only to identify and test new materials, but to identify new product markets, and new processing potential alongside material identification to expand on potential products and to assess our capability for working with new materials and processes.
Perks of working at Novograf
In addition to the sustainability project, I have been involved with a number of development projects for customers.
I work with more or less every department, from development to sales to the production team on the factory floor. For example, the sales team communicates the customer's brief to the development team, who then have to work closely with the project managers and production team throughout the course of a product roll out. Because everyone has an important role to play you need to work closely with everyone. Everyone has their own skills and expertise to draw from so it’s important to draw from the wealth of knowledge available when it’s at your disposal.
I'm excited about the opportunity to develop new products by trialling and experimenting with new materials and processes. Product development is a very rewarding job, it is a series of challenges to overcome and at the end of it you can physically see your efforts paid off in the form of a new product. I find the problem-solving aspect fulfilling because you can truly immerse yourself in it. The added element of ensuring sustainability was just another enjoyable challenge.
I’ve also had the opportunity to go to a number of events and seminars throughout the country where I was able to network with people across various industries.
Do you have any advice for working in an SME?
It is much easier for one person to affect change in an SME than it would be at a conglomerate, therefore you should always remember that what you do has an influence on the business. You can make an impact in your job from day 1 and your efforts certainly won’t go unnoticed either. Not to state the obvious, but you’ll probably find that due to the size of an SME in comparison to a conglomerate, SMEs are a lot more flexible. Use the opportunity to explore other areas of the business and develop your skills and knowledge.
Has Sam's story inspired you? If you're interested in applying to placements take a look at our current graduate vacancies.