Team approach sparks innovation

by Carmen To

Dominic Mak, chairman and CEO; Bonnie M W Wong, deputy executive officer, Manufacturing Modes International Limited

Being inventive is a vital part of the job for mechanical engineers

In the modern world, outperforming the competition in any industry requires excellent products or services plus the ability to innovate and exceed customer expectations. To achieve this, Dominic Mak, chairman and CEO of Manufacturing Modes International Limited (MMI) decided to introduce one important discipline, which he believes has been a key part of the company's ongoing success.

"I ask my staff to sit down every week to share ideas and brainstorm about ways to improve," Mr Mak says. "This creates synergy and allows the workforce to assimilate both old and new elements into their projects, so that we can enhance the quality of whatever we are doing for clients."

Essentially, that means providing a wide range of plastic injection moulding services for different industry sectors. It also involves product design, tool construction and turnkey manufacturing projects.

Mr Mak adds that, in any profession, academic training takes people only so far. It is therefore necessary to keep an open mind and continue to absorb what colleagues and contacts can offer in terms of knowledge and ideas. Bonnie M W Wong, deputy executive officer for MMI fully agrees. "That's why we recommend that staff keep upgrading themselves and, more importantly, share what they have learnt with one another." By applying this principle, Ms Wong has gained a double degree in mechanical engineering and business management and is now well set for a promising career within the company.

Technical skills

She began as a mechanical engineer working on some of the technical problems associated with product design and perfecting practical applications. This involved her in almost every aspect of the production process and allowed her to learn about tooling, moulding, design and making adjustments to the manufacturing cycle. Along the way, she also realised the importance of communicating effectively and thinking creatively, when solving specific customer problems.

Since taking on a management role, Ms Wong has mainly been responsible for ensuring that individual projects run smoothly and supervising the work of junior engineers. Her ability to motivate subordinates while also empowering them has earned her respect as a leader.

Assessing which personal qualities have most contributed to her success, Ms Wong puts persistence first. "I never give up in the face of setbacks. I had a passion for cars when I was young and was determined to build a career in mechanical engineering. That was my life's goal and I am still convinced it was the right decision."

Her advice to aspiring engineers is that it definitely helps to have a passion for the profession. They should also try to gain experience in different industries in order to learn about a wider range of products, materials and processes.

Mr Mak notes that there will always be a need for mechanical engineers at airports, power stations and in manufacturing companies. Graduates can therefore look forward to an interesting career, provided they are willing to accept challenges and work hard. Starting salaries for junior engineers usually range from HK$8,000 to HK$10,000 and increase steadily with experience and responsibility.

More competition

In recent years, mainland-trained junior engineers have been competing with their Hong Kong counterparts for many of the best jobs. "Their academic training is now of a similar standard and they are willing to accept comparatively lower wages," explains Mr Mak. He adds that mainlanders also readily accept the need to travel as part of the job and are more pragmatic about the likely speed of career advancement. Engineering graduates in Hong Kong, in contrast, tend to be more international in their outlook, have more diverse cultural experience, and often pick up new concepts more quickly.

Mr Mak suggests that graduates and young engineers can always improve themselves by participating in trade fairs and talking to as many people as possible in different branches of the profession. He also says it helps to keep closely in touch with industry developments and current events in order to have a broader perspective and remain innovative.

Four qualities that MMI looks for in mechanical engineers

  • Commitment — the determination and willingness to work hard in various product areas and to communicate clearly with customers
  • Work smart — it is important to have the knowledge and ability to complete tasks efficiently and on time
  • Team spirit — close cooperation with colleagues is vital to ensure all projects run smoothly
  • Innovation — this comes partly from absorbing information and assimilating ideas from the outside world

Taken from Career Times 24 March 2006
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