A Day in the Life Of… Michael Hilton, Product Engineer


At Petards Rail, we appreciate the skills, experience and attributes of our team of experts – which spans Software Engineers and Service Engineers to QHSE and System Architects. To showcase the talents of the team behind the technology and provide an insight into their expertise, we are sharing ‘A Day in The Life Of…’ articles with you.


Here Michael Hilton, Product Engineer at Petards Rail, shares an insight into his role and guidance for those considering progressing a similar career.

What does your job involve?

I am still quite new to my role, so at the moment it mainly involves creating technical proposals and managing requirements for tenders. I also prepare technical information for new bids and customer support, and I provide input into innovation projects within the innovation hub group.


What is a typical day in your role?

It typically involves reviewing the latest tender information and customer requirements and subsequently documenting a response, primarily the system diagrams and equipment specifications for commercial costing. My role also involves talking to suppliers, where needed, to confirm componentry so the technical response is as accurate as possible. I also liaise with our business development manager, commercial manager and chief architect to review the latest opportunities and technology applications.


How did you get into this profession?

I’ve been an R&D design engineer for about 10 years working across automotive, safety, and oil and gas industries. My work has been split 50/50 between project and requirements management. I have also worked on some large innovation projects over that time such as Nissan vehicles or firefighting pneumatics. Having done so much NPD (new product development) work, product engineering seemed like the best next step. What’s more, it combines the elements of my work I enjoy the most into one role.


What do you enjoy most about your job?

I’m still fairly new to the role so at the moment adapting to the rail industry is proving really enjoyable. There is a lot of potential for innovation across the industry and setting up the requirements and seeing through some of these projects is the best part.


What is the most challenging part of your job?

The requirements management is the most challenging. On one hand customer requirements and standards can have a lot of existing complexity so organising these to make the development of the project as simple as possible and ensure that the customer gets the right results is involved. On the other hand, innovative projects have a complete new set of requirements, and starting from scratch has its own challenges.


What advice would you give to others looking to move into this field?

Understanding how to translate a customer problem into customer requirements and then into technical requirements is critical. Learning about waterfall, V-model, and agile approaches go a long way for product development, as does problem solving techniques such as the five whys or Ishikawa diagrams. In addition, root cause analysis is something that will help in any role.


Is there anything else you would like to add about your job that makes it interesting / special to others?

Absolutely. The most fascinating part of being a project engineer is the opportunity to bridge a gap between creativity and practicality. Taking a problem and turning that into an idea and subsequently into a product that addresses a real-world need doesn’t occur very often in most careers. It’s a very interactive role that’s allowed me to collaborate with people throughout America, Europe and Asia and visit some amazing places.


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