Profile - Angela Shackcloth PhD CEng - Electronic Materials Specialist
2011–2012 R&D Manager, Chimet SpA – Arezzo (Italy)
2008–present MBA, University of Warwick
2004–2011 Applied Technology Engineer, Ferro Corporation – Haverhill (UK)
2001–2004 Materials Engineer, Oxley Developments Co Ltd – Barrow-in-Furness/Great Yarmouth (UK)
PhD researching Ba(Ti1-xZrx)O3 Ceramics, University of Leeds
BEng Metallurgy and Materials Science, University of Liverpool
What made you choose to study materials science for your undergraduate course?
I’ve always been interested in wanting to know how things work. After studying physics, chemistry and mathematics at A-Level, I wanted a practical subject that combined all three disciplines. Materials science did that and, for me, it is also a bridge between the theoretical sciences and other engineering fields.
What made you decide to focus on ceramics in your postgraduate study?
When people are asked about ceramics, they generally think of bathroom fittings, tableware and tiles (floor, wall or roof – rarely those found on the exterior of spacecraft). I was intrigued to see how ceramics were used in electronics, how they were processed and how the chemistry (compositions) could be adjusted to optimise desired properties.
What made you decide to complete an MBA?
I am enrolled on a distance learning MBA. The majority of studying is completed at home with very few face-to-face lectures or opportunities for contact with fellow students. The flexibility of such a course has been great, but it has been incredibly difficult juggling the demands of work, the MBA, my family and having a social life.
The MBA has already benefitted my career. For me, the essence of engineering is that it’s multidisciplinary, requiring knowledge or interaction with not only engineers from other fields but also, for example, senior management, production, customer services, sales and marketing, and finance groups. Studying the MBA has given me insight and background information so I can at least see their perspective and talk with them on the same wavelength. Additionally, in an increasingly global and ever-faster moving business environment, the MBA has increased my awareness of the strategies required for sustainable competitive advantage. I am currently taking time out to re-evaluate my career goals and complete the MBA. However, with both my engineering experience and the MBA, I know that there are many options, for example engineering management (product, process, operations), project management, self-employment (as an engineering consultant or contractor) or something completely different.
How has the industry changed over the course of your career?
International competition has always been present but major technological advances in IT and communications – for example desktops, email and the internet, and improved transport – have led to an acceleration in market globalisation, the use of outsourcing and changes in the way business is conducted.
As such, there has been a big impact on manufacturing in the UK. There has been a massive decline since the 1980s. For example, companies such as ITT Components split their respective divisions and a series of management buy-outs, takeovers and mergers followed. At one company, the ceramic components were manufactured in-house, shipped to India for assembly and then returned for final testing, repacking and shipping. This was cheaper than manufacturing and assembling in the same building. Additionally, from the 1990s an increasing number of multinational companies have opened manufacturing sites in India and the Far East, firstly to reduce costs but also to tap into these markets. The net result is that there have been a lot of company closures in the UK, leaving a few bespoke manufacturers.
What do you think are the challenges facing the industry in the next few years?
Of what is left in British manufacturing, many companies are groups within multinational companies and are not British-owned. The high standard of living and strength of Sterling effectively keeps prices high for anything manufactured in the UK, but innovation is strong and existing companies have to remain competitive to ensure further facilities are not transferred to cheaper countries.
Furthermore, as communication and transport infrastructure, and the availability of local, highly educated people with management and engineering skills increase in the BRIC countries, the local companies will tend towards the higher end of value chain, for example product development and research. They will become more prominent in global engineering and impose an even greater threat.
What makes your job worthwhile?
I love learning, solving problems and working with a variety of people in a range of environments. Engineering is a forever advancing subject and I’ve never known a day where customers have not required some form of assistance.
It is also applicable to a multitude of industries giving ample opportunity to meet people and see different applications.