Metal Fabrication in Ireland
Troy Gibbs, 2018 Trade (Metal Fabrication)
After receiving the BBM Youth Support Global Industries Scholarship I was called to work on a new small stock abattoir being built in western New South Wales. While I was working there, I met an Irish company who were installing all the meat-works equipment which they had manufactured. I was very interested in their products and wondered what their workshop would look like and how they could produce such a large and diverse range of equipment for an international market. Thanks to my BBM scholarship I was able to secure a work placement with them and not only increase my professional skills but also gain invaluable insight into production line processes and business operations. During my time overseas I also secured work placements at other businesses in order to learn new skills and broaden my outlook on my industry.
GM Steel, Dundalk, Ireland
On the 17th of June I began my work experience at GM Steel. GM Steel specialize in the design, manufacture and installation of meat factory (abattoir) equipment. GM Steel fabricate complete slaughtering systems, which is, more or less, everything you see inside and outside the plant. I was very excited upon arriving, after all the planning I was finally here. I caught up with my manager, Sean, who I met in Australia and who had arranged my work experience. He was happy to see me, and it seemed quite strange and exciting for me to meet someone I already knew, on the other side of the world. He proceeded to introduce me to key people in the business including Jared, the owner of the company, and his sons Martin and Patrick. He also introduced me to some of the 138 employees whom I was to be working with. Everyone was very friendly during my time here (seems to be an Irish thing) and I felt very welcome.
My first week was spent in the boilermaker workshop. As I was shown around the factory, I was fascinated by the state-of-the-art equipment and the strategic layout of the workshop floor. My initial job was fabricating a sheep rotator. As I was welding the circular plates, I noticed they were beginning to bow at alarming rates due to its structural integrity. But a talented tradesman taught me a special welding technique and sequences to prevent the bowing. After manufacturing the main frame and two circular plates we went ahead and assembled the rotator. Working on this project from start to finish alongside a talented team meant I saw the complete process and procedures for manufacturing the job and was able to ask questions along the way. Everyone was only too happy to answer my questions and explain to me how and why they do things a specific way.
The next week, Anthony showed me how to operate their CNC press brake. This new state-of-the-art machine can fold up to a 25mm thick plate and has an automatic adjusting back stop. It was interesting using this machine as it was far more sophisticated then what I’m used to and is overall far more productive then the equipment I use back home. All the dynamics are preloaded into the machine before operating, so, material thickness, material length, material type/density and the angle to be folded. Then the software will calculate the pressure needed to make an accurate fold. Learning about using this machine was thrilling as I could see how much productivity can increase by using modern equipment and software. Anthony also showed me around the high-definition CNC laser cutter. A lot of the components for jobs at GM are laser cut. The laser cutter is essentially the beginning of the production line, jobs come from the office and are first cut and then folded in this building. I helped Anthony as he loaded one of the beds with a new stainless-steel sheet. This laser cutter has been fitted with a double bed rotating system so as one sheet is getting cut, a sheet can be loaded on the other bed. I observed how the laser cutter produces a very precise and straight cut, this is great as it leaves no room for error as the parts are being assembled. Also, the cut requires very little clean-up which saves time and money in the long run.
The following week at GM I was in the two stainless steel workshops. This was the area that I was most interested in and where I want to specialize, so I was keen to learn as much as I could. The workshops were very busy with many different projects. My first stainless job was some carcass track sections. Some of the components were already laser cut and folded, the other parts I had to cut out of stainless-steel stock. The laser cut parts had all been engraved with a part number and the job number the part belongs to. I found this very interesting as it would save so much confusion trying to figure out which component goes where. This is exactly what happens back home so sometimes we manually write job numbers, but even then, it can still rub off. After gathering the components together, a tradesman showed me how to go about assembling and welding them in an efficient manner.
After finishing the carcass tracks Sean set me up over in the other stainless workshop where I worked alongside a skilled team of tradesmen. Together we worked on a batch of conveyor systems. I welded the bearing housings and was given pointers along the way including how to position my arm to maximize my weld length using the welding technique ‘walking the cup’. Afterwards I fabricated the feet for the conveyors.
At GM I was also involved in the manufacture of a slaughter-man platform, proximity switch for a transfer machine, Securing plates for the animal rotator and other equipment components. I also went onsite to a skin processing plant which was a great experience. We had to repair and modify a conveyor that was too low at one end and needed an extension chute.
I really enjoyed my time at GM Steel and am so very thankful to them for the experience and lessons along the way. Also, for them accommodating me in the business and giving me a taste of all the workshops, they truly went above and beyond which I am truly grateful for.
Masters Choice, Silverbridge, Ireland
Jared knew that I was overseas to broaden my knowledge in the metal fabrication industry, so he arranged for me to work at another business he owns, Masters Choice. Masters Choice is a small business which specializes in the design and manufacture of acoustic partitions, they also install and service their products. Acoustic partitions are used to split a single room into two or more rooms, essentially it is a soundproof, removable wall. Practical uses include hospitals, schools, hotels, pubs, corporate offices, restaurants, function venues etc. I had not planned to work for this company, but it was a great opportunity, as I learnt a lot about the construction industry and the opportunities niche markets present.
While here I learnt about the mechanisms inside the panels which allow the expanders to extend and contract and how to fabricate the components for them. I also witnessed how the panels are assembled and the layered materials used. Since we were only ever at a worksite for a day, I got to travel a lot and see many different project sites throughout Ireland. Some of the construction projects include; a school at Derry, a hospital at Belfast, a hotel at Bray, a hotel at Dublin airport, a Crown Plaza hotel at Belfast, a school at Galway, a pub at Belfast and a University in Belfast. It was a real eye opener working at all these sites and watching different tradesman at work. Also it was great talking to the project managers about the jobs and brainstorming different strategies and processes to complete the task.
Grand Gates, Perth, Scotland
My time in Ireland had come to an end and it was time to move on to Scotland. While in Scotland I managed to secure work experience with a small business called Grand Gates. They manufacture custom ornamental gates, mainly for private homes. While here I broadened my knowledge and skills in blacksmithing and metal craft. On one set of personal gates I was taught how to roll flat bar into a ‘W’ shape and weld it inside a rolled RHS arch. During my work experience here I got to make a couple of sets of automatic gates and picked up a few tips and tricks along the way.
This experience of travelling overseas to practice my profession has really benefited me in so many ways. I feel that my trade skills have improved, and I now have more experience and confidence from working in different environments and workplace settings. Also, while working overseas I observed how different businesses operate and the systems and strategies which they use.
I’ve not only benefited on a professional level but also personally. I’ve found that I’m more outgoing and able to network and communicate with people better. Also, upon arriving back home I can better understand what I want to do with my career. I would like to develop my skills and eventually begin my own business.
After arriving back to my job in Australia, my employer mentioned that he’s noticed that I’m more confident in my work practices and has seen an increase in my productivity and work quality.
It was great sharing with my community, friends, family and colleagues about the differences over in the UK and Ireland, also chatting about the different work practices and culture within the workplace and the society.
I want to give a massive thanks to BBM for this scholarship. I think its fantastic that there are means available to help young people to ‘get ahead’ so to speak, regarding their professional development. It gives young people the tools to achieve their dreams and goals. Not only that, but helps to create a prosperous and more sustainable future for Australia.
Thanks to the businesses I worked with In Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. I worked with five different companies during my travels and learnt a ton. Everyone was great, helpful and friendly, this certainly will be an experience I’ll never forget.