Two continuous improvement engineers are showing how building materials manufacturer Wienerberger – supplier of bricks, roof tiles, solar panels and many other products used in the new build sector – is supporting women in traditionally male-dominated roles and promoting the career prospects they can enjoy.
In their very varied jobs, Pippa Salt and Laura Emms analyse designs and processes, identifying any areas in which improvements can be made. One day, they might be working on the factory floor helping with training and workshops; the next, analysing data at their desk. Both of them have acquired both industry qualifications and a wealth of experience, and both are keen to talk about their career progression and about how other women may follow in their footsteps.
Laura says: “I had never considered a career in the brick and roof tile manufacturing industry before applying for the role of continuous improvement engineer with Wienerberger. Based on the interview alone, Wienerberger came across as a great place to work, offering a wealth of opportunities to learn. The people are also very open to sharing and discussing new ideas, which also attracted me to the company.
“After graduating from Loughborough University in 2012 with a First Class Honours in Innovative Manufacturing Engineering, I was employed as a graduate engineer with Jaguar Land Rover for two years, before being promoted to engineer. I then moved to Siemens Wind Power when I became a process and industrial engineer for two years, before joining Wienerberger at the end of last year as a continuous improvement engineer.
“Even after just five months working for Wienerberger, I am truly enjoying my job, and I love that I get to work with a variety of people on a day-to-day basis across various projects. Working in the construction material manufacturing sector offers the variety and progression that many other industries do not. I would never have expected to be where I am today, and I’m really grateful to Wienerberger for giving me the opportunity to develop my career in engineering.
“I understand why some women may feel hesitant to join a male-dominated industry such as engineering, however I have never experienced any prejudice working with Wienerberger, and I encourage other women to consider a career in the industry. It is my belief and that of the company that if you showcase your skill set and you work hard, you will be viewed positively as a professional in the industry, regardless of gender.”
Pippa says: “I was originally attracted to working in the brick and roof tile manufacturing industry as it is still in its infancy when it comes to lean manufacturing and technology, meaning that there are plenty of opportunities for change and growth. This is an industry where changes can be made quickly, and the impact is almost immediate, which is very rewarding! It’s exciting to be part of that journey and being part of a team which will help make sure that Wienerberger can achieve its commitments and targets year on year as a leader in the industry.
“My biggest career highlight has been starting my role with Wienerberger, and encouraging teams to think differently about how they operate. Each day offers so much variety and the chance to work with many different people. Working across three sites, including Smeed Dean, Warnham and Ewhurst, I get to take a more holistic view on how the teams operate, getting involved in everything from safety, quality assurance, production, technical, design and more – there’s never a dull day!
“For people who are considering an engineering career in the manufacturing sector, I would recommend developing skills including communication and negotiation. Knowledge around lean manufacturing tools and how they can be effectively deployed, as well as a good understanding of change management, can all help to prepare for a role in the industry.
“It is no question that being a female engineer is rare at the moment, however I want this to change and it’s great that Wienerberger is encouraging women to consider careers in engineering and manufacturing. The future of manufacturing is looking bright with the advancement of new technologies and digitalisation, and I believe that the UK has the opportunity to lead the way. The brick and roof tile manufacturing industry is a very exciting place to work and I strongly encourage those with an interest to look for opportunities and get involved now.”