We use chemical products every day, such as washing powders, washing up liquid and much more.
All of this takes a lot of energy, raw materials and water to make - and it produces waste too.
Engineers like Emma Shavick look at manufacturing processes like this and work out how they can make them better, more sustainable and efficient - using fewer resources and eventually producing less waste!
Name: Emma Shavick
Job title: Site Sustainability Leader
A-levels: Maths, Physics, Design & Technology
Degree: MEng Mechanical Engineering
Employer: Procter & Gamble
Where you live: East London
Tell us about your job. What do you do?
I help save electricity, gas, water, and waste at P&G’s largest UK manufacturing site just outside of London. The site produces washing powders such as Daz, Bold and Arial, as well as Fairy washing up liquid.
We have several very large making and packing departments, as well as a large warehouse, and I’m responsible for overseeing all energy, water, and waste reduction projects across the site. I do this with the help of a team of great people!
What does an average day look like for you?
The great thing about my job is that the huge range of projects I work on means that no two days are the same. One morning might be spent reviewing the outstanding actions on our condensate recovery installation (getting hot water back to the boiler to re-use for steam generation).
Next I might do a site tour, looking for energy losses, calculate the costs of upgrading our metering & monitoring systems to know and understand our energy consumption. After lunch I could be reviewing the electricity savings from installing LED lights on the packing floor, or reading up about the new Energy Saving Opportunities Scheme (ESOS).
We make sure that no manufacturing waste is sent to landfill, by looking at innovate new solutions to turn our waste into something useful - like creating truck wash out of scrap Fairy, and sending good products we cannot sell to charity.
How does your work affect the world around us?
At P&G, sustainability means making every day better for people and the planet through how we innovate and how we act. I’m proud to be a small part of this, contributing towards reducing the carbon footprint of the company and building a sustainable supply chain from raw material to finished product. I have a great network of Sustainability Leaders at other P&G sites around the world, and together we have both a responsibility and an opportunity to do the right thing and create change.
What made you want to be an engineer?
When applying for university I had no idea about what I wanted to do once I’d graduated. I chose mechanical engineering because I enjoyed science, maths and practical projects in design technology. I also wanted to keep my career options open and I knew a degree in engineering would lead to good job opportunities.
There are a number of different routes you can take into a career in engineering. What route did you take (and why)?
I studied mechanical mngineering and although we had plenty of chances to specialize I kept my degree as general as possible to leave my options open. I did a year in industry half way through my degree, and then went on to work at Rolls-Royce and P&G as summer internships to try out different job roles. My advice is, if you’re good at maths and science, and want a career where you can make a real difference to the world, then go for engineering!
How important was studying maths and science in school for what you do now?
Without maths at school I never would have been able to study engineering at university, so for me it was very important but also really enjoyable. I still use it a lot in my work when analysing large amounts of energy consumption data, but now Excel or a calculator does the hard part for me! I think science, technology, engineering and maths-related subjects at school are a very safe bet for a wide range of options at university, and a good career path.
There are fewer women working in engineering than men? What would you say to girls who might be interested in a career in engineering?
I’d say go for it! It’s a subject that opens doors to a wide range of career opportunities, and stereotypes about engineering as a subject only for men are becoming a thing of the past. I have plenty of female friends from my engineering degree. (See the picture of us below - they’re now travelling the world as successful oil and gas engineers.) I also have female colleagues and managers at work.
What do you like most about engineering?
I really love the practical, hands-on side of engineering and working in a team to solve a problem. My final year project at university involved designing and building a human-powered submarine, which we then raced against other universities from all over the world in a huge swimming pool! How many subjects allow you to do that?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
After work I play football with a group of women from my work. We train every week and soon we’re going on holiday to Croatia together for a big tournament. I’ve also been learning to code at free evening classes (codebar.io). When I’m not busy at work I’m off travelling or relaxing with my friends and family.
What personal qualities are important for being an engineer?
You will very rarely find an engineer who works on their own, so being a “people person” is important. You should enjoy working in a team and be a good communicator (for example, to explain complex ideas to non-engineers) as well as a good listener. Being a creative and passionate person and enjoying problem solving is useful too.
If you could go back in time and invent anything, what would it be?
Oh tough question! I think Edison’s invention of the light bulb must have been a life-changing invention for its time. If I could go back and do something as ground-breaking as that I would!
What advice would you give a young person who was considering engineering as a future career?
Work hard at your maths and science because those are very important for getting into a good university. Most importantly, I think you should follow the subjects you enjoy most, because that will lead you towards a career you’ll enjoy. Don’t worry if you don’t know yet what you want to do when you get older.