How did you get into engineering?
I didn’t actually decide that engineering would be a career option or something that I would want to do until about my final year of school when I had to decide what I was going to do at university. But I think from a young age I already had the foundations there. I’ve always liked to pull things apart and see how they work, I was really fascinated with Lego as a kid, so that kind of naturally developed into engineering. I always had an affinity to the more mechanical, things that moved and that are dynamic.
What do you enjoy most about mechanical engineering?
It really depends on the project but I get a real sense of satisfaction in a project when I’m doing the detailed design. And at the end when I’ve made the final polishing touches to parts and assemblies of whatever machine or product I’ve designed and knowing the amount of analysis and design that’s gone into it by that point is quite satisfying. I also quite enjoy doing some of the analysis activities.
Our current project is a ground up redesign of a Cavotec MoorMaster™ machine, which are ship mooring machines for industrial ports that improve the safety and efficiency of mooring and loading goods. They’re basically just big vacuum pads on a robotic arm that grabs onto the side of the ship and you have a series of those spaced down the dock.
We’ve had to go back to the drawing board and redesign a new machine—they’ve been designing these machines since 2000—so we’ve learnt a lot. The machines have evolved with the twenty-odd years of experience they have, we’ve just been going back to the start and rethinking from the ground up what the machine can be and trying to figure out the best possible machine application.
What does the average day of a Caliber engineer look like?
Every week can be a bit different. This project I’m working on at the moment has a lot of concept development and a lot of exploration and trying out different ideas and doing some of the math for the analysis. While some other projects it might be that it’s really manufacturing focused and that they already have a machine that they know works well and it might just be that they’re selling the machine to customers and so you might just be doing detailed drawings and some slight changes depending on the customers.
We also have a lot of meetings to discuss and plan, today for example we had a planning meeting in the morning to figure out what the workload is and what sort of milestones and deadlines we have coming up. Might be a few hours of design or analysis work. On a weekly basis we try and have a design review, which might be on a machine as a whole or just talking about what one or all of us have been doing for the last week.
What does your dream project involve?
For me, a big personal concern is climate change. So I’d love to be involved with sustainability focused projects like reducing carbon emissions in infrastructure and transport. Projects with a focus on emission reduction. I don’t know if those sort of opportunities would come up in New Zealand but I like to hope that they would, especially in the upcoming years.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
It mainly revolves around bikes. We’ve got seven bikes in the garage between my partner and I, so lots of mountain biking! On our last few overseas holidays we’ve done cycle touring. We circumnavigated both islands of Samoa which was super hard because it was so hot and humid. We’ve also done a trip from far south western China through to Pakistan on a branch of the Silk Road that goes through the Himalayas and that was a month long trip. Last summer we went for three months in Europe. We started in Rome and went north up through Italy and then east through the Dolomites, down through Slovenia, down through the Balkans, all the way to Greece and then got the ferry back.
What makes working at Caliber different from other engineering companies?
The variety. There are a lot of industrial applications of mechanical engineering even in little old New Zealand. In Christchurch there are electronic companies here, there are product design companies and it’s got pretty broad, primary food processing as well. The types of projects vary wildly as well, so it could be quite a long term contract through a detailed design project or it could be a one-or-two week long short project that’s just a bit of detailed design or analysis. Or the client doesn’t really know what they want and they need someone to do some project management as well as engineering stuff as well. It’s beneficial to have a pretty broad skill base and we do cross the company as well. I am constantly challenged which is really good.