In our Bright Lights series, we’re showcasing some of our brilliant employees and their experience here at STG Aerospace. In this month’s feature we talked to David Wilson, our Continuous Improvement Manager.
In a nutshell, tell us a little about your career journey before joining STG Aerospace.
I began my career at a large American multinational defence company, which is where my intrigue for the field of aerospace began. I started there in production planning, within the import and export department. So I've been working around operational duties since the start of my career and have learned to understand the challenges that prevent things from happening from a manufacturing standpoint.
I was introduced to STG Aerospace by a friend eight years ago, and went on to become an operations supervisor here. This initially involved day-to-day management of all the production applications. Taking the orders, working out what to build and making sure everything goes out at the right quality…, those kinds of things. After two or three years, STG expanded and moved to Cwmbran, where I became the continuous improvement manager, widening my responsibilities across the whole company.
What made you choose the aerospace industry?
I like to think that most things in life are a mix of happy accidents and good decisions. So while I really like manufacturing and that side of aerospace, it was a happy accident that I got to be in the field.
Aerospace is highly regulated, which makes the problems and challenges more complicated – which I like! What I get in aerospace is a lot more of the interesting, nerdy complexity. It's quite stimulating to work on, to find a way to ultimately solve a problem and have the physical things you see come together, with a variety of different people and departments involved.
What does a typical day look like as a Continuous Improvement Manager?
Our Global Kaizen Council (a team of representatives from across the business) and I, essentially ask ourselves ‘how can we make STG better?’. This can involve anything from manufacturing improvements to sustainability initiatives or finance and order system solutions. My role is not just about making things faster, it’s also about bringing benefit to the company, our employees, and our customers.
We gather information and suggestions from across the company, assess all the ideas and try to understand what they mean for the company. If there's a real benefit, then we create a plan and roll it out. However, it takes time to assess each challenge because sometimes a solution in one area, may create a problem in another.
I learn an awful lot just by going to make a cup of tea, because you get to chat to the engineers about what they're working on, the kind of problems they're dealing with, what new contracts are coming up and how the product roadmap fits in to all of that.
You get exposure to a lot of the business, and you understand where your role fits in and where you can make a difference, in a wider sense. I might be working on a project for the finance team, so I'll spend a lot of time with them understanding that and learning what their needs and goals are, and then you can move elsewhere. I’m able to get a great overview of the whole company. I really enjoy that variety and level of complexity.
What's been your favourite project at STG?
There have been a few! When we moved into Cwmbran from Norfolk, we took over a very big empty shell of a building, where we had to fit it out and design it. Not just for the company to move into, but for the future aims of the business. With a degree in civil engineering, I was excited to get stuck in. Working out where to put everything and where the columns and load-bearing walls would go, was a really interesting challenge.
I think just from the ideology of continuous improvement, my favourite things to do are when we replace something that we've already done. There's quite often instances where we put something in place one year and then we’ll grow and update it to an even better system shortly after. For me, that shows the journey we're going on and how we're always learning. Because if we could have done it, we would have – but we were not at that point yet. It’s exciting to see us continuously learning and evolving as a company.
What's something that surprised you about the company?
When I started my journey at STG, there was a small team of passionate people working from our humble beginnings in Norfolk. And now STG’s products are in 65% of the world’s passenger aircraft fleet – which is incredible!
I think the sheer scale of it, and how a small team with a good idea, ended up creating something so important and successful. STG has seen absolutely explosive success and we’re still growing. Getting new customers and unveiling new, innovative products to create solutions for the aerospace industry. That focus on innovation continues to inspire me.
Would you recommend working at STG?
Yes. I think for me personally, it's the challenge that you get from this complex industry and that the business itself is so willing to support and develop its people to make the most of their strengths. My move from Operations Supervisor to a company-wide Continuous Improvement role is a classic example of that.
I like manufacturing, so it’s really interesting to me seeing all the different sides of the business. The size of the company is really good and the open culture that they've created, is great. I feel comfortable speaking my mind and challenging ideas, as I have confidence that I will be listened to.
From early on in your career, you can make a difference here and have a real impact on both your work and the work of STG as a whole. I came from somewhere much, much larger, where I learned a lot about how things should be done. That’s all very nice, but you are such a small part of the operation that you can't really affect an awful lot on your own, and you are very reliant on other huge departments. At STG, I can chat about anything with anyone in the company. That means I can have an impact and the culture of the place (our STG Way) has been conducive to that.