Sustainable plastics and Sci-Fi engineering | an Interview with Kylash Makenji
Kylash, Principle Engineer in the WMG SME Group, talks to us about his leap into plastic injection moulding and his love of Star Wars. Interviewed by Charlie Ward, Marketing and Communications Executive.
What is your specialism?
Anything to do with the processing of plastic materials.
How did you get into that?
When I was 17 years old, I wanted to do an apprenticeship in engineering and I ended up getting one at an injection moulding company. It was amazing, I had the interview for it on Thursday, got a call back on Friday, and then started on the Monday!
At the time, I didn’t realise it was one of the largest plastic injection moulding companies in the country. It was called Guinness Plastic Group International (GPG). Guinness is most well known for making beer, but they needed a plastic moulding company to make crates for the beer. They now also make all crates for Tesco, Sainsbury’s and other supermarkets. When I joined, they had just started in the automotive sector making parts for vehicles. At that time, the benefits of plastics in vehicles was just starting to take off in terms of light-weighting, design freedom, corrosion resistance and other properties.
It was a four-year apprenticeship and, afterwards, I was offered the position of process engineer. I did every single course available at Linpack so I could become highly skilled and show that I was keen, and I surrounded myself with motivated engineers.
GPG was sold to Linpack, (Lincolnshire Packaging). They were the sort of company where you would almost certainly touch a Linpac product every day, without knowing it. In my job, we worked with injection moulding on a large scale. The smallest we had was a 700-tonne machine and it ranged all the way up to a 2700-tonne machine, which was the largest.
Recruiting people was notoriously challenging as very few people have seen machinery that big. Linpac typically took on 20-25 apprentices who would become the future engineers and supervisors, so it worked well in terms of training, running the business, and getting super technical people in.
It wasn’t until I started working at WMG that I did my doctorate. I completed it between 2008 and 2012. My supervisors at WMG, Vanessa Goodship and Professor Gordon Smith, both encouraged me to do it and they were very supportive. Never in a million years did I ever think I would achieve a doctorate, the lesson here is to never give up, believe in yourself and take opportunities when they arise.
What inspired you to get to where you are now?
Star Wars! Only Joking. But it did inspire me actually, as I loved the engineering that went into making the special effects. Now it’s all CGI but, in the mid-70s, it took a lot of engineering to convince audiences that what was going on in the film was realistic. Just making the models and the stop motion must have taken loads of effort and creativity.
What has been your favourite job role – apart from this one?
I had a few roles in the University of Warwick and they’ve all been great. It gives me a lot of freedom to try out new things and understand existing and new concepts. In the working environment of a manufacturing business you have to know those machines are there to make money, so there is less room for trying things or experimenting. Here, there are no manufacturing pressures and we can focus on the research and development side, and taking novel ideas and proving them. We take them from concept to an industry-level condition and even consider how it can be recycled in 20 years too.
At work, when are you happiest?
I am happiest when I’m engaging with manufacturing business, adding value to what they do and making a difference. My experience at Linpac and other businesses has given me the confidence to try new processes and materials, taking them to manufacturing businesses. I like to use these skills and expertise to demonstrate new ways of doing things, and to make a real difference.
I like having a varied role and love interacting with my colleagues. They have a superb set of experiences and wealth of industry-focused knowledge.
We’ve introduced teaching sessions within my team. Each member takes a turn teaching the rest of the team about something they have a great deal of knowledge of so we can learn from each other and improve our capability, while expanding what we can take to industry.
Finally, can we have a photo of you in your natural habitat?
Here is a recent photo of me outside the Natural History Museum, one of my favourite museums.