60 second interview: Blair Hutton, Institution of Engineering Designers
Paul Fanning talks to Blair Hutton, design ambassador at the Institution of Engineering Designers
How did you get into engineering?
It goes right back to my father having been a fairly traditional sort of engineer first of all with P&O and then with Babcocks. I knew I had the maths and physics acumen, but I wasn't convinced that that was what I wanted to do. I enjoyed using the creative and artistic side of my head and I thought that meant I wanted to be an architect/ I spent a week in an architect's office drawing a garage and that really didn't do it for me, so I thought there's got to be something out there for me. I then learned what engineering really meant and did product design engineering at university.
How did your career develop from there?
I did a number of work placements as part of my university course and one was with Ford, which got me into the automotive industry. I then got a jobn with Jaguar when I graduated.I worked there in total for about six years. Originally I was in 'rag and fluff' interior trim engineering - dealing with all the bits of the car that you touch and interact with. I did that for about a yearor so and then applied for a job in special vehicle operations. That was fantastic working alongside the production line on all the really bespoke jobs where customers would come to us with a blank chequebook and ask for their car customised. Normally in a company that size you get a certain amount of red tape, admin and protocol, but being in this satellite group effectively gave us the ability to plunder resource from main product development while avoiding a great deal of that.
From Jaguar, I moved on to Dyson, where I was for six years or so. I was heavily involved with the James Dyson Foundation, which involved a lot of ambassadorial work, which in turn has led to what I'm doing now.
What interesting projects and technologies have you worked on?
We produced the cars for the 'baddie' in the James Bond film 'Die Another Day' – customised and styled green XKRs. Another project that was interesting – although not my personal favourite – was having to produce a car for Clive Woodward after England won the Rugby World Cup. They picked the only Scotsman in the office to do that. I'm still in counselling about it!
What does your current role as design ambassador for the IED entail?
I was originally chartered through the IMechE, but during my time at Dyson, my role became less mechanical and more design focused, so the IED became more relevant for me. I became a member and when this role arose and I took a bit of a leap of faith to take it.
The role is different every day. I speak to all sorts of audiences from those sort of gnarled cynics you find at engineering companies to university students or even schoolchildren. I will then go on to discuss professional registration and why it's still a contemporary and relevant thing to do. So it varies tremendously.
What advice can you give to younger engineers just entering the industry?
At the moment, that's actually an easy question to answer. I think the key thing is that there are great career prospects out there.?The Government is at last seemingly acknowledging that and all these apprenticeship schemes are popping up.
Perhaps even more importantly, there are these huge engineering projects now: HS2; Bloodhound; the Olympic Park; Norman Foster's airport in the Thames Estuary. All of these projects are going to need thousands and thousands of engineers to actually make them work. There will be jobs out there for young engineers and they will be exciting jobs. In terms of advice, it pays to think initially about what sort of engineering they want to get into, but don't get hung up on that. Also, try to get as much work experience as you possibly can and get into the habit of drawing your ideas as much as possible to allow you to visualise it and more importantly as a means to communicate your ideas.
How do you see the bearings industry changing going forward?
Within the UK, the bearings industry is moving towards serving new market sectors such as renewables (wind energy in particular) and hybrid electric vehicles. Also, condition monitoring is becoming more attractive to customers now, as it enables companies to maximise the efficiency of existing plant and equipment, as well as holding less stock.
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