In our Bright Lights series, we’re showcasing some of our brilliant employees and their experience of working here at STG Aerospace. We sat down with Head of Operations, Lee Harrhy, to find out more about how his Operations career came to be, his experiences since joining STG, and what he’d say to anyone thinking of joining the company.

 

The past couple of years has been extremely difficult for businesses, particularly those within manufacturing. Supply chains have been decimated, first by a global pandemic and then the resulting effects of war in Europe, making production lines sluggish if not halting them entirely.

Senior figures have had their work cut out and Lee Harrhy, Head of Operations at STG Aerospace, has been one of them. When the world went into lockdown order books emptied out, phones stopped ringing, and aeroplanes remained on the ground. However, thanks to the dedication and tenacity of Lee and the team at STG, we made our way through the worst of it in good shape.

Working through the pandemic was very much a case of being thrown in at the deep end for Lee – he joined the team as Production Manager in July 2019, but it wasn’t until the December that he began overseeing the Production and Supply Chain teams. Three months later, lockdown set in.

“We went from around 50 people on site, every day, down to six of us,” Lee recalled of the early days of lockdown. “We didn’t know where the next order was coming from, and if it did come in, we didn’t have anyone in to build it.

“It was a case of figuring out this completely new situation. Thankfully, our marketplace recovered quickly – we saw two months of next to nothing, before it picked back up again. We were very fortunate in that regard, but the marketplace grew back much more rapidly than any of the analysts predicted.”

STG’s success during that time is testament to the team’s handling of the unchartered territory of Covid lockdowns. Lee explains that the company is not only back at pre-pandemic levels of operation, but exceeding them, as demonstrated by our recent completion of the cabin lighting refresh for Delta Air Line’s fleet of A330s – our biggest installation project in the company’s history.

If you had asked a 16-year-old Lee what he’d be doing, it’s extremely unlikely he’d have replied with anything to do with aviation. From studying English Literature, History and Law at AS Level, to working as a postman, it was joining AB Electronics as a Production Operator that saw his career begin to take shape. Lee worked his way up into manufacturing and, like many of his STG colleagues, gained valuable experience in South Wales bustling electronics industry.

“In the 1980s you couldn’t throw a stone in South Wales without hitting an electronics factory,” he joked. “There are quite a few of us here from that background, which is probably indicative of STG’s growth areas. Historically we have focused on photoluminescent products, but in the last five years we have experienced huge growth in cabin lighting systems, and we are well placed to benefit from the region’s key industries of the past.

“It was a happy accident really. I was working at an electronics company on the production line, when I told the Operations Director that I wanted to make a career in the industry, and I was met with laughter and told I wasn’t smart enough for that! Yet they supported me through college to become a qualified mechanical engineer, and I did management development courses too, and here I am!

“At the time it was tough, but in hindsight, I was extremely fortunate to receive the support I was given.”

There’s no looking back for Lee. He has carved out a career that he loves and is working for an employer that he is full of positive feedback for. He’s kept on his toes and never knows how the day will play out when he walks through the door in the morning.

“It’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever worked,” Lee remarked. “One day I’m dealing with a one-million-pound order, the next I’m fixing one of the external doors. I’ll have an operator come down to my office to talk about something, and then go into the canteen to see our CEO chatting to warehouse staff over a cup of tea during a break.

“We have sales professionals handling massive accounts like Boeing and chemists who are designing the best molecular mesh for our products, and everyone in the middle. It’s an eclectic melting pot, and I’d tell anyone who is thinking of applying to do it right away. I had the choice between STG and another business when I joined in 2019 – and not once in three and a half years have I regretted the choice I made.”