Case study

Maintenance planner — Aisling Reid

Aisling studied for a MEng in Chemical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde before completing the HEINEKEN graduate programme. She now works as a maintenance planner

How did you get your job?

In my final year at university I started to apply for graduate programmes. A lot of chemical engineering students go into oil and gas, however, my interest was in the food and drinks industry. One of the programmes I applied for was with HEINEKEN.

I had to complete an online application form, followed by a telephone interview and then an assessment day before I was offered the job. At the end of the two year programme I was offered a permanent role as a maintenance planner in the HEINEKEN Hereford plant, where we produce cider.

What's a typical day like as a maintenance planner?

I always start the day by checking what jobs have been completed the night before. I then look at the new jobs that have come in and arrange for any priority work to be completed.

The site is operational 24/7, so things are changing all the time, and as the maintenance planner I need to keep up to date with what's going on. The rest of the day can be quite varied - if we're having a maintenance outage I might be managing contractors and writing work permits, or I could be preparing reports on the state of our maintenance budget, or I could be following up on ongoing work with the technicians.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The best thing is definitely the team that I work with. Starting out I had a lot to learn, and everyone was very helpful and willing to share their knowledge. There's a real team spirit, and new members are always welcomed.

I also really like being able to see a tangible end product that I've helped to produce. It's great to see one of our products that I helped to make on the shelf in the supermarket, or behind the bar on a night out.

What are the challenges?

It can be a challenge to make the transition from university, which is very theory based and academic, to working in a factory, which is much more practical and fast-paced. The first few months were definitely a steep learning curve for me, but fortunately the right people were there to help me through.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Having an engineering degree was essential to getting my role on the graduate programme to begin with. For HEINEKEN, environmental impact is a high priority, so we have ambitious targets for energy and water usage. Chemical engineering is relevant here as these were important parts of my studies.

How has your role developed?

I've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be a maintenance planner in different departments, so I've seen both the production and packaging sides of the process.

At the moment I'm seconded onto a project looking at making our maintenance procedures more efficient, which is allowing me to see even more of the business. A lot of graduates will go on to do a shift manager role to gain experience of people management.

How do I get into engineering?

  • Try to get relevant work experience during your degree - I did an internship with Diageo, another drinks company, as part of my Masters.
  • Even if it's not a technical internship, part time jobs can also be helpful. For example, working as a waitress I learned a lot about food safety and hygiene, which is critical in the food and drinks industry.
  • If you get an interview, prepare by researching the company and finding out what their values are, and how you can relate to those values.

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