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University of South Australia
Production leader, DuluxGroup
Eloise Matthews studied a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) (Honours) and is a production leader at Dulux.
What's your job about?
I work at the Dulux Merrifield factory where we make one million litres of water-based paint every week. When the factory was being built I was involved in commissioning – working with contractors from Italy and Germany as they installed state-of-the-art equipment and trained us on the processes. Dulux has embraced a high level of automation in the factory, so learning how all the equipment works, passing this knowledge on to the operators and monitoring the production of batches through the system is a key part of my job. As a production leader, I am now responsible for a team of operators that I support to ensure we achieve production demands in a safe and efficient environment. I will also be involved in implementing lean manufacturing principles onsite and coaching operators through continuous improvement projects.
What's your background?
I grew up in Adelaide and moved over to the UK when I was nine as my mum wanted to work and live in a different country. I was lucky enough to do lots of travel around Europe with my family before returning to Adelaide six years later to finish my schooling and uni. Through the careers guidance contacts at uni, I was able to secure a job as a quality engineer for an automotive paint factory in Adelaide who supplied painted parts to GM Holden and Toyota. Since the automotive industry is in decline in Australia, I expanded my job search to other areas and was fortunate to be offered a place on the DuluxGroup graduate program. I spent a year working at the Dulux Acratex factory in Adelaide before relocating to Melbourne where I spent two years at the Woodcare factory in Dandenong South as a project engineer. Relocating was a huge step out of my comfort zone – I had always lived at home and basically knew no one in Melbourne. However, the opportunities that have opened up as a result of the move are well and truly worth it – I’ve met lots of great people, been exposed to different manufacturing sites and it’s pushed my career in directions I’d never imagined.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Yes! To do my job you need to enjoy working with people, be a great problem solver, have high regard for safety and be able to communicate effectively. If there’s a problem to fix, a change to be made or a target to be achieved, you need to understand exactly what’s needed to avoid delays and pricey mistakes! In a leadership role, I think it is important to be able to empower others in your team so as to maintain a positive and effective work environment. Exposure to continuous improvement processes and lean manufacturing is a great help and is something that many manufacturing companies are now embracing to ensure they stay competitive in the changing market.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is that I get to lead and coach a team of people to make and fill huge quantities of paint with the most high-tech equipment, in the largest, state-of-the-art coatings factory in Australia and New Zealand. When I’m working with the operators to achieve something that directly benefits them and makes their jobs easier, it’s so rewarding to know I’ve helped to improve their work area. I think it’s great to work with operators and trades people with diverse backgrounds because they have so much to offer.
What are the limitations of your job?
To meet production demand, we work two shifts. To achieve a multiskilled workforce, all production leaders rotate across the two shifts and across our two work areas: manufacturing and filling. Since I’m leading a team, I do put in extra time to ensure things are organised for the shift and that production will run smoothly. Of course, there are times when things don’t quite go to plan; a machine might break down or a batch needs to be made urgently. Therefore, it is important to be flexible, know what the priorities are and be prepared to stay back late or start early so the impact on production is minimised. Leading a team can also be challenging. If procedures are not followed or operators are working unsafely, it is necessary to address the issues to get the job done safely and efficiently. It’s challenging when everyone thinks their ideas are the best, so you need to filter the important facts and take action accordingly!
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back and complete university again?
If I had my time at uni again, I would try and do as much work experience as possible and attend networking events – getting yourself known to employers can really help when you’re ready to start applying for jobs. Relevant work experience is an asset in a competitive market!
I wish I’d gone on exchange. Studying abroad is a great way to enrich your learning and to experience a different culture whilst getting credit for your subjects. Most importantly you need to enjoy the time at uni – don’t wish it away. The working world is great however you don’t quite realise how good student life was until you have to plan when to take annual leave!