Graduate Mechanical Engineer, Leon Smillie, Discusses His First Year at Caley

From the University of Strathclyde to the North of Spain, since graduating from university and joining Caley Ocean Systems, Graduate Mechanical Design Engineer Leon Smillie has worked on some groundbreaking projects. Here he discusses his first year with the business.

I’d always had an aptitude for science and throughout high school I’d found aspirations to have a career at the cutting edge of offshore technology. I got a place at the University of Strathclyde to study Aeromechanical Engineering where, for my thesis I analysed the design of a tidal turbine blade. In third year, I managed a project to design and manufacture a model aircraft with the goal of performing a loop in the air whilst maximising payload. This project involved initial calculations to base preliminary designs from; the designs were then further developed and turned into a CAD model which the physical model was manufactured and assembled from. It was extremely fulfilling to take the aircraft to a local airfield and see it perform in the way it was designed to.

I joined Caley Ocean Systems as a Mechanical Design Engineer soon after graduating; I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects in both the new product and the services business. We’re a close-knit team here at Caley and I have been given ample opportunities to learn and grow within the business, I was first assigned to our major project with Balfour Beatty for Hinkley Point C to design a suitable flange for a pressure vessel for testing a critical component. I ran through an array of different designs, each having incremental design changes to acquire the best performing solution for each variation of flange design.

My biggest achievement to date has been working on the manufacture, commissioning and installation of our innovative PileProp system for our customer in northern Spain. I was appointed as project engineer, initially providing support to the wider project teams with managing both internal and external stakeholder relationships and supporting with the quality assurance of the 24 systems. Before long, I was overseeing the production of the systems in our Renfrew-based workshop with the support of the wider project management and workshop teams, this was a great step in my career, I learned how to schedule and manage production, as well as interfacing with customers and suppliers to work to a tight delivery schedule.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the Renfrew workshop and have worked on several projects both on the new systems and on refurbishment projects, we recruited some new manufacturing apprentices last year and I was fortunate to work closely with them on the refurbishment of a Caley Davit. I’d never managed people before this but I found it incredibly rewarding to be a part of their education and provide the support to them that I had had provided to me by the more senior members of staff around me. For both myself and the apprentices, it was a great feeling to see the Davit leave the workshop after what had been a great team effort to get it out.

To date, I have travelled with two major projects on behalf of Caley to provide on-site installation support, the experience this has given me has been invaluable, seeing what it takes to run incredibly busy and high-profile projects is a real eye opener.

I recently travelled out to Fene in northern Spain to provide installation support to our customer for the 24 PileProp systems we supplied for their major offshore wind farm. Not only have I developed in terms of career and site experience, but I have also conquered my fear of heights (going 70m + high each day in a cherry picker tends to help a little!).

What I enjoy most about working at Caley is the close-knit workforce we have, everyone cares about each other and strives to improve, we have a highly motivated team and that is amazing to be a part of. No-one has ever shied away from teaching me or helping me out when I have had any questions or problems.

Leon Smillie working on a client site in Spain

Moreover, the exposure you get at Caley is incredible; within just over one year of being with Caley I have worked on a large array of projects and learned an incredible amount, I have also undergone a vast amount of training including: Offshore HUET, GWO, NFPC Hydraulics 1 and ProjectWise training. The projects at Caley are extremely interesting, one day you could be working on a refurbishment for the defence sector and the next offshore wind pile gripper systems for a major European offshore wind farm, but one thing is for certain, every project has its unique challenges which are both stimulating and rewarding as an engineer.

I fly out to France in the next couple of weeks which will be my first time working offshore, I am extremely excited to be able to contribute to such a large-scale project that means a lot to me. It is still quite overwhelming to think that I have followed a project through from manufacture and onshore installation and now I will travel offshore too – after all these years it is exactly what I have always wanted to do.

I want to learn as much as I can about the different roles within Caley and one day pile all that knowledge into becoming a versatile and well-rounded engineer. I know I will give my all to any opportunity presented to me. I would like to thank all the staff at Caley who have supported me in my first engineering role. I would also like to give a special thanks to Caley’s managing director, Simon Wain, who has pushed for me to be able to go offshore and I am truly grateful for the opportunity that Caley has given to me, it is greatly appreciated.


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