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From machinist to production team leader
SHORTLY after Yeo Kain Thiong joined Hope Technik, he went from controlling shopfloor tools to building flying machines. Now, years later, he helps their new products take flight.
At the Institute of Technical Education, Mr Yeo was trained as a machinist, dealing with CNC machines - computer-controlled machine tools such as lathes.
After graduating and National Service, Mr Yeo joined Hope as a machinist in 2010. He did not know much about the firm at the time - he wanted to "just find a job".
But after six months in that role, he moved up to become a technician, working on the firm's special projects.
For the next few years, he was doing exciting hands-on work, building drones completely from scratch - "down to the electrical wiring".
Then, in 2015, he was appointed to join the Sesto Robotics business arm, which focuses on industrial products and solutions.
"At first I wanted to concentrate on hands-on skills, to become a master craftsman," he recalls.
But the management convinced him that while skills such as welding and machining can be trained within a few years, the company crucially needed proper internal systems - which he could help to develop.
Mr Yeo agreed. Now, at the age of 29, he is Sesto's production team leader. Instead of making products himself, he manages the business unit's production of automated guided vehicles (AGVs). This includes product documentation: setting out instructions so new staff can easily pick up the work process.
He also prepares documents for maintenance, which involves highly detailed work: "You have to know the hardware in each AGV, so you can track back (any issue)."
Fortunately, as a model kit enthusiast - a hobby which involves assembling complex plastic models from many tiny parts - Mr Yeo is used to being meticulous.
Yet in his current role, he looks at the bigger picture as well, from making manpower plans to thinking of ways to improve product quality.
He has drawn up proposals on how to set up maintenance teams, and devise systems that allow for the easy tracking and tracing back of what is being done.
And he comes up with ideas to increase output or make production more efficient.
With his experience as a technician, for instance, he can propose that engineers design product parts in a certain way that would allow technicians to install them more efficiently.
From being mentored during his first three years as a technician, Mr Yeo now manages and trains the junior technicians in most areas except software, including electronics and mechanical engineering,
He also works with the many interns who do stints at Hope Technik - hoping to make their time at the firm as eye-opening as it has been for him.
"They have to go through the internship process to know exactly what engineering is about. It's not just what you learn in school."
Read more: A hope for the future
Brought to you by The Future Economy Council