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@ Work: Chief of Engineering and Clever Ideas

Name: Chris Conway
Company: Mezzanine Safeti-Gates
Location: Essex, MA
Years On Job: 3

chris at work 2014At Mezzanine Safeti-Gates, we create controlled-access safety gates that secure pallet drop areas on elevated work platforms and mezzanines. Our dual, counterbalanced systems ensure one gate is always in place to secure the ledge. Safety is our number one priority, but we often have to design these systems around space limitations and facility operations. Our company supplies a variety of designs to fit most applications, but when we receive a call regarding a unique application that’s when my work begins. I joined the company three years ago, after spending 20 years working in the plasma-welding industry. My education at Cornell University, where I mastered in engineering, prepared me to enter this industry and design solutions to make work places more safe and efficient. Every day in this job is a unique challenge but I relish the opportunity to work with customers to create the safest and most reliable environments possible.

1. Communication
With the global reach of the material handling industry, it’s impractical to visit every facility in person. Working with distributors allows me to have eyes and ears in these far away locations. From the distributors, I receive detailed descriptions of what’s going on in these applications. Good communication is invaluable because we need to know not only facilities’ layout but the workflow of the operation, where the employees have to stand and what they do. The conversations with our dealers allow us to gain this valuable information and to design systems specific to the application.

2. Clever Ideas
I was hired as an engineer about three years ago to help design ‘clever ideas’ for our dealers and end users. Whenever I come across a unique application where our existing products won’t fit within the operation, I design one that does. Dealers have come to us with some pretty unusual situations. I don’t want to walk away from an opportunity to provide a solution, so it’s my job to come up with an idea to solve a problem that works, meets code requirements and facilitates production. My title actually came from a customer who told us that the solution we designed was a “very clever idea.”

3. Tools
Computer-Aided Design Software (CAD) is the cornerstone of my work. After I receive the information from the customer about the area for a solution, I build a model in CAD to send to the customer for approval. In addition to CAD, I frequently use Word and Excel, email and several physical tools that interface with the computer to build prototypes for testing. It’s a very technical role.

4. On-The-Job Training
My job, like the industry, is constantly evolving. Each project brings about a unique aspect that I learn from and take to the next project. The more projects we work on and solutions we provide, the more experience we can bring to the next one. That, combined with my education background, the intuitiveness of the CAD software and willingness of our team to try new things is the best training possible.