Author: Egor Naumov -
For my industrial placement I spent 14 months working at a product data management consultancy, Quick Release.
A placement at Quick Release offers a unique perspective on the automotive industry, working with a variety of clients, while being part of an ambitious and growing team building a profession in Product Data Management (PDM).
PDM sounds like a very niche area, and isn't necessarily something you'd be familiar with after the first two years of your engineering degree, however it is an incredibly important part of any engineering business. In plain terms working in product data management essentially means helping clients ensure that all the stakeholders have clear understanding of how the product data is structured and where to find it.
Quick Release provide a very attractive placement opportunity within a young friendly compliant, with monthly socials, annual team weekends and a 4 week training “bootcamp” at the start of your placement. You spend the first 4 weeks learning from the best people in the company across multiple client sites. There were about 12 of us there, graduates and placement students, and we went to Essex, Woking, Cologne and Leamington Spa (with all the travel, food and accommodation expenses paid for!).
After spending the first 4 weeks developing my PDM knowledge, it was time to move onto my first project in Ford Program Management, within the CMM (Change Management Meetings) team. This was a great project to get started as it was one of the oldest projects QR was running in Ford, and so the was vast knowledge and training available for anything related to it. I started in this team with another grad, so that was also a nice experience, as we both got to help each other out. The role consisted of keeping track of all BOM (Bill of Material) changes within the Ford Transit program, and running a daily meeting with engineers. This was a great opportunity to learn lots about the program, network with engineers and learn from the experienced QRians already on project.
After a few months working in the CMM team I was approached by out Essex Business Unit Leader and he told me about a new potential project within the PDL (Program Direction Letter) team. This would be a new role within a team that QR hadn’t worked in before and so it would be important to make a good impression to get more business with them later. I agreed to work on this project and started on it 4 days later!
PDL is essentially a list of options that a car will have, so imagine if you were to buy yourself a Transit van and you get to the configurator on the website, where you can for example select the sport version, which comes with either 6 or 8 speakers, or a normal version comes with 4 or 6. The PDL is a massive table that drives this configurator and the complex relations within it. The PDL team maintain these tables for each program and manage any changes within them. They also run a weekly meeting with over 100 attendees each week, discussing the changes and their feasibility.
I joined this team to help them manage their admin, manually go through the changes coming into their shared inbox, liaise with the stakeholders, write their meeting agendas and minutes etc. As I got more comfortable with this and found inefficiencies in their processes, I started learning VBA through one of the development modules that QR provide, and slowly automated a lot of the admin tasks that I was initially intended to do. Once this was completed I spoke to my manager about the PDL change management process as a whole and how we could improve it. This involved going through the previous few months of changes and learning what went wrong and where and how we could improve on it. Then this information was presented to the wider team, and we got started on reworking this process using Microsoft SharePoint, PowerApps and PowerAutomate. As there weren’t any PowerApps/Automate experts within my immediate Ford team, I reached out to one of the QR consultants who had used it on a previous project with a performance car manufacturer in Woking and he shared some of his lessons learnt from that and helped me get started on this project.
There was a slight hiccup as the lockdown started. Ford was panicking and all “non-essential” workers were put on furlough for 2 weeks, but that was the most time I’ve spent off project. The transition to working from home was also slightly more challenging for some of the team members, as a lot of them had kids that they had to take care of, so I saw that as an opportunity to take over some more tasks from them and help them out, mainly chairing the weekly global meeting, while still developing the new change management system, alongside a new QR analyst that was added to my team.
My favourite thing about the placement was that I was never treated as a “placement student," neither during the training, as we were mixed in with the graduates, nor when I actually went on project. So, the expectations for your work are as high as they would be for any other project analyst, especially when I was working in a client team on my own.
Due to the nature of QR’s work one downside of the placement is that you may get put on the “bench” if there are no client projects for you to go on. Thankfully this didn’t happen to me and I was on projects throughout all of my placement (apart from 2 mandatory weeks of Furlough from Ford), but it did happen to some of the other students, albeit I guess 2020 was a much more challenging year for the automotive industry and this shouldn’t be the case in the future.
Also, you may need to move around at short notice if a project pops up in a different region from where you are based. I would personally see it as a positive, although I did not get to do this because of COVID and stayed in Essex throughout all of my placement. This can be annoying for others, although if you are asked to worked away from your “home” region your accommodation, at least Mon-Fri will be paid for by QR.
In the end this was a fantastic placement, that I would recommend to anyone interested in the automotive industry, consulting or data analytics, regardless of degree or experience!