National Engineering Day: Shaping a More Sustainable Future Starts Today
This week we are celebrating National Engineering Day, which takes place on 1st November, by shining a spotlight on the engineering excellence and expertise of our people that are helping our customers solve really complex challenges.
Leigh Beeton, Director of Engineering & Technology at our Ampthill business shares some thoughts on sustainable engineering, and reflects on what inspired him to pursue a career in this field.
Q. Did you always want to be an engineer?
Although I have spent my entire career in engineering roles, I did not grow up aspiring to be an Engineer. If I look back to my childhood, the signs were always there. I loved Mathematics, technology, and problem solving as a child, and I studied Mathematics and Computer Science at University. However, it was not until I started to look for Graduate opportunities, where I could apply my skills and academic knowledge, that I realised a role in engineering is where I could exploit my love for Mathematics and problem solving. I remain grateful that I ended up in engineering. It was, and remains, the right mixture of technological interest and problem solving for me.
Q. What is your role at Lockheed Martin?
I am the Director of Engineering and Technology at Lockheed Martin UK’s Ampthill facility. I have been in this role for just over a year now, but have been at the company for 11 years in various engineering roles. I have responsibility for our engineering activities, and most importantly for the Engineers and Subject Matter Experts that deliver them. I work with an incredibly talented team that work across a multitude of engineering disciplines including, software engineering, systems engineering to safety, manufacturing, project management, and so much more.
Q. How did you get to your current role?
I have always been motivated by learning new things. I began my career as a Graduate Engineer working on sensor and weapon system mathematical modelling. As I learned more about engineering and our wider business, I became increasingly passionate about getting involved in more, and being part of a broader range of projects and roles – my hunger to want to continue learning and exploring beyond my day job always helped me with growth and development opportunities.
As my knowledge and experience grew, I found myself taking on more challenging roles. I was fortunate that I was able to gain breadth of experience through my career across multiple technical domains, in both functional leadership and technical delivery roles. This positioned me well for my current role, in which I now have responsibility for both of these aspects.
Throughout my early career I benefitted hugely from others coaching and mentoring me. This really supported my career development, and helped me mould into a successful leader. And this is something I am keen to give back to others, supporting the talent that comes through our doors to become tomorrow’s experts and leaders.
Q. Did you ever think that you would be changing everyday lives through your day job?
The simple answer is no, not really. At the start of my career, I never quite realised how powerful engineering is, and how it shapes and changes the world we live in. When I started my career at what was then the Marconi Radar company, I was motivated almost entirely by solving technical problems and doing interesting work. As I developed my skills I became more aware of the external impact that my work, and that of the amazing group of engineers around me had on the lives of others. In my current role, I lead an engineering function that is responsible for delivering real capability into the hands of our soldiers. Knowing that I am part of a team and organisation that is developing products and capabilities that are helping our soldiers complete their missions and return home safely, is the most rewarding element of my job.
Q. Why does engineering matter?
Engineering touches every aspect of day-to-day living for everyone. In one form or another , engineering has and continues to be critically important to the development of our society, and it is becoming increasingly fundamental in helping shape our future, not only here on Earth, but also as we continue to explore the expansion of humanity into our Solar System and beyond. The technology, tools and processes may evolve and change, but the key tenets of utilising technology and the intellect to create a reliable and safe solution to a problem, in my view, will always remain.
Q. What is Lockheed Martin, from an engineering perspective, pioneering in?
Lockheed Martin covers a huge breadth of engineering disciplines, topics and activities. At Lockheed Martin UK Ampthill, we are leading the way in some real game changers. An area of particular interest at the moment is Additive Manufacturing and linked to that, Digital Transformation. We are supplementing our Additive Manufacturing skills and capabilities with the technical expertise required to predict and validate the performance of the product in a digital environment. By combining these capabilities and ‘building digital twins’ we are able to deliver real value to our customers, delivering products that we are able to underwrite through performance modelling, with limited, targeted real world test activity.
Q. What does sustainable engineering mean to you?
Sustainable Engineering covers a breadth of topics, and for me some of them are not always obvious. While sustainable engineering can (and does) mean developing products that are reusable, repairable and recyclable, to me it also means a sustainable approach to the development process.
At Lockheed Martin we have invested in the development of Digital Tools and a Digital Product Thread that removes paper based processes wherever possible. We have digitised our design and manufacturing data, not only reducing the environmental burden and inefficiency of paper based processes, but also providing increased access to real time performance data across our whole team. A specific example that we have introduced in the past year is the digital thread between product test and product certification evidence. Our test engineers have moved from a hand written, manual input approach, to a digital implementation where test results can be entered directly into a tablet, and then automatically uploaded to a central requirements database, and autogenerated into digital test reports that provide the data and evidence required to agree compliance with our customer, and to certify our products. This repeatable approach has eliminated significant waste from our processes and has increased our effectiveness in delivering for our customers and our business.
The other major area where Digital Tools have improved sustainability is in communication. As part of an organisation with multiple locations in the UK and Internationally, digital product representations and documentation has enabled greater remote communication between our teams, reducing a significant amount of both domestic and international travel.
Although I never started out knowing I was going to become an engineer, I wouldn’t change it for anything. It has, and continues to be a rewarding and fulfilling career for me. I am looking forward to continuing to push myself, and excited about what the future may bring – it’s not a cliché, but engineering really does change lives.
Anyone that wants to join us on the journey of shaping the future for a better tomorrow, should take a look at our Early Careers opportunities here.
Our 2024 Graduate and Placement Student opportunities are live now, and our Apprenticeship roles will be advertised from early / mid November. And we will also be offering Work Experience for school children, taking place 1st July 2024. Applications for this will open during early February.