Senior Welding Engineer
The journey from Meccano to Materials Technology
Lego, Meccano and an uncle who was an engineer were responsible for sowing the seeds of an engineering passion for John Haines, our employee in focus this month. John started out in agricultural engineering but as, at that time, it wasn’t very forward looking, he jumped at an opportunity to work for the research arm of Alcan and then Auganish Alumina, before joining Arc Energy around 18 months ago. As he says, “life is all about taking up opportunities as they arise”.
The Stepping Stones to Success
When an opportunity opened up at Alcan Research Laboratory for engineers to set up equipment and run experiments, John went for it as he’d always had a science bias. In a hectic first month he moved house, was sent to Germany for two weeks, had a birthday and got married, after which it was plain sailing for the next 12 years: he made things happen for scientists, excelled and enjoyed it a lot until Alcan decided to move their operations to Australia. He made the decision not to uproot that far and was approached by Auganish Alumina, an alumina refinery in Ireland that he’d worked with at Alcan, with a fantastic job offer. He started out working on corrosion and scaling and ended up looking after non destructive testing, materials, corrosion, failures, plant integrity and was gradually being moved into more management roles. While at Alcan John had arranged a visit to Arc Energy to talk to them about weld overlay cladding for Auganish Alumina, so his relationship with Arc Energy started back in 1999 and, when he decided he would prefer a technical role to a management one, he approached Alan Robinson to see if he knew of any openings in the industry. Two weeks later one of Arc’s welding engineers left and John was offered the job.
Skills and Experience
When John took on the role at Auginish his predecessor had passed away so, deciding that he didn’t know enough about the role, he trained himself up with qualifications that are now useful for Arc Energy. As well as the European Welding Engineer Diploma, he has an HND in Engineering (Agriculture), an MSc in Materials Technology and, along with a number of other qualifications, he is also a Chartered Engineer. Given his skills and management experience, Arc Energy was initially worried that he would find it difficult joining a department with a manager in place who is younger than him, but he was more than happy with that arrangement as he much prefers the technical side of the job and enjoys working in a team environment.
The welding engineering department at Arc is very technical, dealing with specifications and standards to ensure the right processes are followed to weld the job in hand and meet all the specifications. That might involve a main specification like ASME, plus a client specification about 70 pages long, which needs to be read through and complied with. John says the best bit of working with Arc Energy is that “we have a lot of enjoyment. My little group, the welding engineers: Connor, Peter, Alan and myself do a lot of technical stuff, fixing problems. Every days is different and a challenge and 90% of the time I go home happy. It’s a small company with good values and although Alan is around slightly less day-to-day these days, he’s great guy and I’m glad to work with him and for him. I’ve worked for larger, geographically spread out companies where I’ve had to try to break down barriers between different divisions that seemed to be working against each other. This is small enough that I can work closely with the estimators and feel involved with the orders that go through and feel like what I do matters. Everybody here is very committed to getting the job done, doing it very well, solving problems and giving a great service to our customers and we’re happy to put our heads together and bounce ideas around. We had one job when I first started that we’d been told nobody else in the country could do. It was a slightly complex weld but nothing we couldn’t handle so we got on and did it. We believe in putting the effort in to talk to our customers, find out what they need and take a ‘can do’ approach to solving problems for them.”
John recently gave a presentation at a seminar about welding processes set up by Gene Mathers, Chair of the Welding Processes Technical Group at The Welding Institute. The seminar was based around the nuclear industry and the other presenters were from Rolls-Royce, Nuclear AMRAC, TWI Ltd and Polysoude. John was the only presenter who specialised in welding and made finished products and gave a talk based on reality rather than conjecture, which was very well received. Rolls Royce talked about smaller modular reactors being the future of manufacturing for the nuclear power industry in the UK, which is presently mainly theoretical but it was interesting to hear their ideas, especially as Arc Energy has now qualified as one of their accredited suppliers and has already impressed Rolls Royce with their proactive approach.
Training and bringing people on is something John enjoys too and he’s happy to help training manager, Mike Hazleden with technical back up for training. “The work we do with the STEM project feels really worthwhile, getting young people interested in engineering and I’m glad that Arc Energy is prepared to be involved and pay for people to spend time out of the company teaching school children. There needs to be more encouragement for engineering in this country, especially for girls. There are not enough more female engineers, which is a shame as the ones I’ve worked with have always been very good. They think about things slightly differently to men, so there’s a less blinkered approach if you have male and female engineers working together.”