The Big Picture
Joe began a 12-month engineering placement with Cummins Turbocharger Technologies, Huddersfield, in June 2021*. He rotated through three different departments: Variable Geometry, Aerodynamics – High Cycle Fatigue and Heavy Dusty Wastegate, spending four months in each.
*Due to COVID restrictions, this was a remote placement.
“My time was split into three four-month stints, each in a different department, under a different line manager.”
Most of Joe’s tasks were in relation to the testing of prototype or failed units. This involved co-ordinating hardware between different areas (e.g Labs, Special Ops), writing instructions for and monitoring the progress of tests, as well as analysing the outputted results.
Outside of this, Joe gained experience collaborating internationally (Germany, India, China and USA), working with teams to run computational fluid dynamics simulations and writing automation tools in Visual Basic.
“I spoke with a separate team in China who hoped to develop something similar themselves. On joining Aero HCF in November, I began working with design teams in India to produce CAD models.”
The Learning Curve
There were several software tools used within the company which Joe had to complete training courses for to be able to use. Joe’s impact dramatically increased after learning the acronyms, processes and software used by Cummins throughout his first four months.
“My technical and software-based skills have also been improved by the numerous extensive trainings. These include Intermediate Excel, Advanced Excel, and VBA Essentials. The quality of the work I am able to produce is night & day comparing to what was possible for me a year ago”
With the work Joe completed resulting in a tangible product, it wasn’t difficult for him to see the impact of his work. Reviewing balance data for ~100 turbocharger cores, he had strong influence on whether they would be scrapped, re-tested or sent off to customers.
Joe made the decision to volunteer for the “Employee Resource Group – New Hires” team, which had the mission to improve the on-boarding process for new hires in the UK from 2022 and beyond. Joe held voice panels and meeting with heads of departments to discuss improvements, which will feed into new employment processes and have a lasting impact on all new Cummins hires in Europe (potentially USA and beyond).
“Another key piece of work I’m over the moon with is my voluntary involvement with the Employee Resource Group, helping to improve the on-boarding process for all new hires at Cummins.”
The Physics Connection
The solid understanding Joe had developed of mathematics, especially of Fourier analysis, as well as the programming skills he’d acquired in his studies, proved invaluable when analysing data. He discovered that his deeper knowledge of the underlying physics set him apart in the company’s environment dominated by engineering students and graduates.
“The resonances seen in the turbine wheels caused by HCF (High Cycle Fatigue) could only be understood through Fourier Analysis. It was stimulating to see this applied in real life.”
Joe had opportunities to present to various audiences, each different in size. To end each rotation, he presented a summary of his time in the department to all other students and their respective managers. He was also honoured with the opportunity to present a piece of work to the Executive Director of CTT.
International collaboration offered other notable experiences. Joe worked with teams in Germany, China, India and the USA.
“The tool was adopted by the entire team, including members in China. I was later asked to present this in a quarterly review to the Executive Director of CTT, another fantastic opportunity.”
Cummins Inc. is a global leader in the power industry, based in over 190 countries and with over 60,000 employees worldwide.
“I was impressed with the way employees were cared for. Before joining, I was concerned I might feel like an unseen digit amongst the sixty-thousand workers. However, receiving regular communications from senior management on all sorts: weekly company news, Health & Safety reports, employees switching roles, awards received, competitions to enter – helped settle this anxiety. I always felt I was able to provide feedback to my managers, and it was rare I felt unheard.”
“My advice to any aspiring placement students would be to follow-up your applications. It’s best by phone, but emails or LinkedIn messages work too. These companies receive so many applications, you need to do everything to be seen.”
The Next Step
Joe is now returning to university to finish the final year of his physics degree. He was offered both a final year sponsorship and graduate offer at Cummins, but is choosing to pursue a career in software at an environmentally-focused company instead.