In the fifth installment of our new series of interviews, Stuart Pope, Service Engineer, discusses all things BPES and Service Engineering! Stuart talks about his extensive experience in the field, typical challenges he faces, as well as what makes BPES stand out.
How did you get into your role at BPES?
I had spent 19 plus years working in a laboratory as a fermentation scientist and as a biochemical engineer. I realised that I needed a career change and wanted to try something new, like most people strive for when they get stuck in a particular role for too long. Joining BPES came about because many years ago, when I worked at UCL, Colin (BPES founder) was a supplier to us, one day we threw around the idea of me working with him at some point and the rest is history! BPES is like Hotel California, you can check out anytime you’d like but you can never leave, but in the best way possible!
What does your typical day look like at BPES?
Normally I’m out on site, which starts with an early rise! I might do two to three hours of work on an analyser, with 3 hours of travel either side to get there and back. Other times I can be based far away like Edinburgh where I will be for a week or two at a time. Those are typical tasks of mine, and I travel a lot doing services for clients. I identify things that are broken and I work my magic by…fixing them! I also advise on solutions and provide customer service too.
What’s your favourite thing about being a Service Engineer?
It has to be the varied nature of it, one phone call at 4pm can change your whole week, and also the challenge of fixing gear. When I visit a client and I’m faced with the problem, I really enjoy trying to track down the root of the issue and being able to go “yes, I know exactly how to fix this” through my extensive experience in the field. I also enjoy communicating with clients and having a relationship with them.
If you weren’t a Service Engineer, what would you do instead?
I’d probably go back into science and look for a fermentation job like the one I had before BPES – it’s what I’m naturally good at and I can’t see myself not working in science! If not, I’d delve into design work. I have knowledge of solidworks and I’ve designed a lot of parts and control systems for fermenters. That would be an interesting challenge and venture!
What do you think are the biggest challenges that your direct customers face at the moment?
A lot of customers, particularly in fermentation have relatively old instruments in their labs – often it’s been heavily used. Getting budget to replace this equipment can be difficult. You wouldn’t expect to still be using the same laptop in 20 years time, but it is not unusual for fermentation equipment to be a similar age – sourcing spares is like trying to find a replacement vintage car part at times!
In your opinion, which is preferable, buying a brand new, up-to-date piece of equipment or designing a solution?
I think it’s a combination of both. If we’re talking about giant, stainless steel which you will grow bacteria and cells in, I can keep them going to a certain extent. However, once you’re getting towards 20 years, it’s time to consider a new one. I understand why customers would prefer not to replace equipment outright, because it’s a struggle to get through regulations, paperwork and GMP approval to use it. At the end of the day, I do my very best to rescue things and keep them running if I possibly can.
What do you think makes BPES stand out as a business, either to work for or just in its current market?
First, we’re a friendly company. We definitely go above and beyond and sometimes projects have become troublesome and end up costing us money, we see it through until we’re satisfied that we’ve done it to the best of our ability. Supporting our customers is exceptionally important, whereas other companies may walk away from those types of situations.
Secondly, we have a lot of experience in our fields. All of us have worked in various roles like: experimental science, biochemical engineering, CID, downstream processing etc. There’s no doubt that with whatever project we are faced with, our customers can trust and rely on the fact that we have years of expertise in our pockets as well as prioritising customer satisfaction.