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Meet the SCADA engineer who stops your bag getting lost at the airport
Have you ever wondered how your luggage gets from bag drop to the plane? Every major airport around the world has miles of baggage conveyors and processes millions of passengers’ luggage every year. Take Heathrow Terminal 5, for example. The newest terminal at the UK’s busiest airport has 30 miles of baggage conveyors and sends 53 million pieces of luggage to the cargo hold each year. Behind every effective luggage system is a team of dedicated engineers who design, create, operate and maintain it, ensuring it all runs smoothly.
We caught up with Matchtech contractor Jack Taylor to find out about his experience as a SCADA engineer working at Heathrow airport and hear how the work he does helps reunite passengers with their bags when they arrive at their destination.
What’s your job and what does it involve?
I am a SCADA and Test Engineer at AAC (Aviation Automation and Control). The main purpose of the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) testing I do is to review upgrades to the baggage system. Upgrades can include things like adding new Explosive Detection Screening (EDS) machines or new conveyors.
Once they are in place, they have to be tested in a way that proves all logical functionality; looking for things like overloads on the motors which drive the conveyors. I work from the testing spreadsheet and TIA (Totally Integrated Automation) portal to make sure everything is working. I then work with the commissioning team to put right any faults.
Once the testing is complete, the upgraded systems are then used to safely pass all passengers’ baggage onto the correct flight.
What’s the best part of your job?
I would say the most exciting part of this job is that it never feels monotonous. As a young engineer I have jumped from several different projects and, where others may see this as a hindrance, I am always learning new ways to test and run the systems which is a positive. I think, for me, this stops the job from becoming the normal 9-5 routine as well as constantly broadening my knowledge.
Before I was an engineer I was an apprentice footballer for Sheffield Wednesday, so coming from a job that I loved doing every day, I wanted something similar in my engineering career. My team makes it a joy to come to work and the environment they have created is enjoyable; allowing me to produce the highest quality work.
How did you get into engineering?
After my football career ended I began deciding which direction I wanted to take my career. Engineering was something that always fascinated me. When I looked at moving machinery and automated processes I was always interested in finding out how they actually worked.
I chose to take the HNC (Higher National Certificate) in Electrical Engineering as I wanted a course that gave me an overview of engineering, so I could decide what I was best at and enjoyed most. This enabled me to make an informed decision about my career path.
How does your job improve lives?
There’s nothing more annoying than arriving on holiday and realising that your bags are somewhere else – my job ensures the likelihood of this happening is significantly reduced. Even a small fault in the system or something missed during testing could result in bags being delayed or ending up in the wrong location. The testing we do ensures that these minor faults don’t occur and, if by chance they do, the downtime is minimal.
What will your career look like in the future?
Engineering is progressing at such an exponential rate that it is impossible for me to say how plants and automation will run in five to ten years’ time. I am really excited to be at the forefront of these innovative changes to processes; not only understanding them but being able to improve on them too.