Ross McGregor, a Metallurgical Services Engineer at Pyrotek’s research and development center in Milton Keynes, U.K., is committed long-term to helping grow and develop Pyrotek’s advanced Metallurgical Services Group (MSG), adding value to the company by helping its customers achieve their goals. In the process of helping customers in industries like aluminium and glass, the group will be helping the environment, too, as it supports critical research on improving refractories.
As a member of the MSG team, McGregor is inspired each day at the R&D center by the opportunity to work on projects touching many different industries and seek to improve the performance of a vast range of products and processes.
“A role this varied can lead to transferable ideas and new products that could improve efficiency,” he says. “The role also has the scope to allow myself to develop into a world-leading consultant, providing technical assistance within the aluminium industry.”
Q & A
As a Metallurgical Services Engineer, what does a regular day look like for you as part of Pyrotek’s Metallurgical Services Group?
McGregor: Everyday is different depending on the progress of a task, and the type of project, product, and industry we are working with. This is what makes the role exciting and challenging. My wife often says that I “troubleshoot aluminium,” and in order to do this we can be conducting trials or testing new products or preparing and analyzing failed components for a root-cause investigation. Many of the tasks have a similar process route: initial observations, micrographic preparation, imaging techniques, and finally report writing. We then internally review our reports as a team before sending them out to customers. We have daily meetings between the team, so we all know the progress of each task and can share ideas with each other.
What is it about the Metallurgical Services Group that drives you daily in the lab?
McGregor: I love to solve puzzles and working in the lab can feel like one huge jigsaw, piecing together all the analysis that we do to create our reports. It’s a fast-paced environment, but the attention to detail is critical. It’s really satisfying when a report can help a customer to locate an issue or help them sell their products.
What types of projects regularly come through the lab? What have you been working on recently?
McGregor: It’s hard to describe a regular project as we service such a variety of different materials, products and industries. I would say that they generally fall into three categories: product development and prove-out a via PoDFA metal cleanliness; root-cause failure analysis; and quality assurance. Recently, I have been working on several tasks, but to name a few: product defects in wine bottle caps and how they relate to metal cleanliness, identification and qualification of a glass industry insert, and PoDFA metal cleanliness assessments.
Pyrotek has hundreds of sales engineers around the world who work closely with customers to increase metal quality and improve their processes. How have Pyrotek customers seen or benefited from the work of our Metallurgical Services Group?
McGregor: MSG operates as a value-added service. We offer our customers, both internal and external, the technical assistance they require to sell. Technical assistance has come in the form of root-cause failure analysis, inclusion identification and elimination, proving out new and improved products, and confirmation of metal cleanliness. The assistance has helped to develop our Rigid Glasweve fibre, non-phosphate filters and a myriad of other components, especially around castable refractories. We aim to improve and develop our Pyrotek product and MSG capabilities to suit our changing customer needs. We do this while looking to deliverer a high-quality and reliable service.
What sets Pyrotek’s services apart from others from other companies?
McGregor: Pyrotek have an MSG facility that has been specifically developed to aid our customers with technical analysis. The equipment is some of the best I have had to work with in my career, and we are flexible in finding the right equipment for the right job. The MSG team has been assembled with a wide range of expertise and is constantly gaining new knowledge. We aim to provide customer-focused, high-quality, useful and timely reports. The MSG team also has access to industry consultants and world experts within the business, so, if we don’t know we can find someone who does. Further to the services we currently provide, we are constantly looking to increase our testing capability, while improving and developing our internal processes based on customer feedback and needs.
How can customers gain access to the services you provide?
McGregor: Simply enquire with your Pyrotek sales engineer. We have a link on our internal systems (soon to be made more accessible) this will raise a request with ourselves. Your sales engineer will also be able to communicate with us prior to this formal request to discuss what testing and facilities are available to best suit your needs. MSG and Pyrotek can also often help you understand what your needs are or where to look—you need only ask.
How did you start at Pyrotek?
McGregor: Finishing my graduate scheme and starting a family, I wanted to find a challenging, long-term career with a good work/life balance. Pyrotek advertised the role of Metallurgical Services Engineer—a role that suited my interests and prior experience with the potential to travel, a need for understanding of processes across multiple industrial sectors, and a bias towards materials and failures. Coming for the interview, I was really impressed by the facilities that have been developed and saw the potential for a long, interesting career in the industry. I joined the team excited to learn, grow, and add value for such a global company.
What was your background before joining Pyrotek?
McGregor: Prior to joining Pyrotek and the MSG team, I finished my Graduate scheme Mercedes AMG HPP where I undertook a variety of roles in manufacturing, design and materials; helping the team to win two F1 Constructor and Driver titles. This came after completing my master’s degree in materials science and engineering at the University of Sheffield, achieving a first class honors. Throughout my degree, I had worked with a variety of materials from nuclear, to glass and aerospace, with my dissertation focusing on FASTforging of Nickel Superalloys. In the summers between semesters, I completed two internships; in paint engineering at Toyota TMMUK, and in brake engineering at Jaguar Land Rover. I have been interested in materials and engineering from a young age, completing several programs from the Engineering Development Trust (Headstart, EES, and a Year-In-Industry at Rolls-Royce PLC). I also received an Arkwright Engineering Scholarship while at school, who I support now as an alumnus.