Operations Engineer

Su'ad Barakat

Operations Engineer, Fonterra

In a nutshell: Finding ways to make milk processing plants more efficient.

Why? "I can make people's jobs easier."

Pathway: Macleans College, Final year subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Classics, Physics, Statistics
University of Auckland: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) majoring in Chemical and Materials Engineering
Massey University: Masters in Dairy Technology

Earning: $50-55,000

I chose a career that combines the theoretical with the practical. I wanted to study science at university, but I wanted to be able to apply what I learnt and be hands-on, both at university and in my career. Engineering was the way to do that for me.

I decided that I wanted to work in the food industry after getting some experience with process engineering.

After completing my degree and summer work in the industry, I took a graduate position in the operations area of Fonterra's milk processing plants.

So far I've been given the opportunity to work on improvement projects. These begin with a business case, where a potential improvement in our products or processes has been identified by me or another employee.

One of my current projects focuses on bottling milk with as little waste as possible. We always slightly overfill the bottle to ensure the customer gets their litre of milk, so I have been using a statistical analysis to get an accurate fill, rather than a slight overfill which is a cost to the company.

To find solutions to such problems, I do a cost analysis, gather data about the possibility and interact with the production team. Then I manage implementation of that solution to make sure it works in the long term.

There is no routine to my job, which is very appealing to me. One day I'll be completing a task on my own, another day I'll be working in a team. I am constantly problem solving and trying to find more efficient ways of doing things.

It helps to have an analytical mind that is always on the lookout for potential problems. You also need to be a 'people person' and be able work with everyone from maintenance engineers to managers.

I find working with the operators most rewarding. When my project makes their work easier and gives them more information about the process they are operating, I feel like I have succeeded.

Posted May 2012

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Degree in Chemical, Materials or Process Engineering

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