Jamie Lean and Lean Manufacturing


Students studying in the School of Engineering, Manufacturing and Logistics at UWTSD Swansea were able to share the experiences of MSc Lean and Agile Manufacturing graduate Jamie Lean. Jamie works for Tata Steel in Port Talbot, his career started in 1991 through an apprentice. Jamie said:

“I studied up to HNC Level 4 and then stopped to concentrate on my job, however, academically and professionally the HNC was not enough, my horizons had been broadened and expectations had been raised. I was coasting and capable of more so started my BEng in 2001 and completed in 2006.”

Jamie then continued onto the MSc in Lean and Agile Manufacturing for many reasons – pure enjoyment of the subject and personal achievement, the want to test and push himself to prove he was capable of more. Professionally the world had moved on and the BEng was no longer enough, expectations had been raised even further. Jamie also wanted Professional Accreditation and the main reason for completing the MSc was for career enhancement. Jamie said:

“The MSc sets you apart, the BEng qualification has almost become the standard. I also had to increase my knowledge base, moving into manufacturing. It’s not easy – it’s not meant to be easy but I would do it again and I would choose UWTSD because of the support offered by the tutors who have also become my friends. I am now a senior manager, briefing and advising Directors. It would not have been possible to secure this role without the MSc.”

MSc Graduate Jamie Lean shares his experiences on Lean and Agile Manufacturing

Questions and Answers with Jamie Lean

Why would you recommend a career in Engineering/Manufacturing today?

The UK now manufactures more products than ever. So the demand for skills is there and salaries are healthy. It’s also a global market, and UK engineers are respected and in demand worldwide. In most industries, continued education is encouraged and supported. You also get to get your hands dirty, produce something tangible, something real that real people will use and interact with. It’s also exciting, and with technology continually evolving, you won’t get stale. Plus, the skills that you will develop will be in high demand in other sectors if the need for change arises. You will acquire more transferable skills than you may give yourself credit for.

Why did you choose course and how has the knowledge gained from the MSc Lean and Agile benefited your career?

I studied for my BEng with the University when it was Swansea Institute and one of the modules was ‘Lean Manufacturing’. For some reason, and not just the name, I struck a chord with the content and saw real value in its ideals and ethos. I already had some experience in some of the teachings, but having now studied them, gaining a deeper understanding, I saw the relevance of them and the impact that they could have in my workplace. The lecturer, Graham Orr, had a big influence too. His core knowledge is unbelievable. The knowledge has enabled me to look at my working life with a different perspective. I now have an eye for eliminating waste in anything that I am involved with.

How did you manage work and family life with studying part-time?

Just after starting the course my wife and I found out that we were expecting our second child. We had also recently moved house, taking on a rather large 6-bedroomed Victorian house that needed a little more work than we had anticipated. I was working as a shift engineer and fortunately the working pattern provided a lot of time off. My employer also granted me time-off to attend lectures on full pay, so I was extremely fortunate. This fortune extended to my home life. I eventually achieved the qualification, but it was my wife who deserved the medal!! Time management was critical. You have to make plans and stick to them as best as possible. There’s always the odd “curveball”, but if you’re organised, you’re better prepared to deal with it. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Describe how the MSc Lean and Agile has helped you to overcome challenges in the working environment.

Having this sort of knowledge, you view and approach things differently. You learn to take that step back, look at the bigger picture. As a then ‘shift engineer’, getting the plant running is one thing, but if the quality of the product is not right, it’s pointless. Now, as a manager, it’s armed me with tools and techniques to assist in problem solving, presenting data, making reports, building strategies and forward planning. It also gives an insight into other industries and processes and technologies; knowledge and skills that you may not get from your normal workplace.

What did you really enjoy about the course and why would you recommend it to other students?

It’s difficult to pinpoint one thing. It felt like a natural continuation of my studies. You do quickly realise the step-up in standards expected. So it’s the next challenge. I enjoy testing and pushing myself. These days, a Bachelors degree is “the norm”, it’s now a Master’s that sets you apart. And for me, it was this Master’s. Lean ideologies can be applied to almost any sector, and are in demand in a time of increasing efficiencies. It also sets you on the path to Professional Accreditation. Believe me when I say that there will be times when you will question why you ever started, but I promise you that it will be worth it in the end. It’s opened doors for me that were previously firmly closed.

What are the benefits of part-time study at UWTSD and why would you recommend it?

For me, full-time study wasn’t an option. Part-time allows you to start or continue your career, combine your academic development with your workplace based skills and attributes, increase your experience. UWSTD has provided me with a level of support that’s gone above and beyond. I would like to think of some of the staff now as friends. They understand the pressures of studying whilst working full-time and providing for a young family. They have a very realistic approach.

Describe your current position and what motivates you to succeed?

I am currently an Asset Management Improvement Manager. I started with the company as an Apprentice and am now a senior manager. I regularly brief and advise company directors. My motivation is on many levels; a sense of personal achievement, to continually push and improve myself and be the best that I can. It’s about providing better opportunities and quality of life for my family, setting a good example for my children, but also a sense that I am giving something back to an employer, industry and profession that has been so good to me.

What is the most interesting and challenging parts of your position?

My current role involves a lot of Change Management, trying to influence and change the culture of our industry. Some of our workplace behaviours are deeply rooted and have served us well, but in order to survive we need to adapt, be more “lean and agile”. I now interact with people and their working processes and practices more than the plant itself. The saying goes that your people are your greatest assets, and it’s true. If you can get them to function efficiently and with passion, anything is possible.

Are there any other comments you would like to add?

My Higher Education studies have seen me involved with this institution for almost a decade. You build bonds over that sort of period that go beyond the student / teacher relationship. I still keep in touch with many of the lecturers and know that now, more than ever, it’s a two-way thing. My comment about “staff being the greatest asset” is as true of this place as any facility that I have worked in. Some would say that they were simply doing their job. I believe that I owe them a sizeable debt of gratitude.