B.S. in Welding Engineering from Ohio State University in 1995
M.S. in Management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2004
I am a Welding Engineer for Ford Motor Company in the Vehicle Operations division. My job is to help design and develop the equipment and processes to weld sheet metal together. Sheet metal is the material that covers the outside of the vehicle such as the doors, fenders, roof, etc. and provides the structure and the appearance of the vehicle. The most common material used is thin sheets of coated steel. The best way to join pieces of steel together is by welding them. Welding is a process of melting the parts in a small area and allowing them to cool, fusing the parts together. There are a lot of different welding techniques and processes, but the main process used for automotive sheet metal is called resistance spot welding.
In an automotive assembly plant, there are several areas or shops dedicated to specific operations, like the Body Shop, the Paint Shop, and the Final Assembly Area. The Body Shop is the first step in the assembly of a vehicle and is where all the sheet metal is joined together. In the Body Shop, the different metal pieces are loaded and welded together on an assembly line. The completed sheet metal unit is referred to as a "Body in White". This "Body in White" is then sent to Paint and from there it goes to other areas to complete the assembly. When people ask what a Body Shop is like, I tell them it's like the automotive television commercials where you see large robots carrying welding equipment and a lot of sparks. We try to avoid sparks even though it can happen as a result of the welding process. Although the sparks do look cool on television.
Spot Welding Robots at the Dearborn Truck Assembly Plant Body Shop. Courtesy of Ford Motor Company.
I first became interested in engineering when I was in grade school. My favorite classes were the science classes and I always wanted to understand how things worked. In high school I took a lot of science and math courses to get ready for college. To be an engineer, you have to take a lot of these classes. I decided to go to Ohio State because it had a good engineering program and it was close to home. In fact, Ohio State is one of the only schools in the country with a Welding Engineering degree. Welding Engineering covers a lot of other engineering disciplines like electrical, mechanical, and metallurgy (the study of metals).
The best part of my job can also be one of the hardest parts. My department works with all of the Assembly and Stamping Plants in North America, as well as suppliers. This means we travel a lot to work with these plants, especially when Ford is launching a new vehicle program. I enjoy getting to meet other people and traveling to new towns, but it means spending time away from my family and friends. On occasion, we also get to work with engineers from other Ford divisions in other countries. Ford Motor Company owns car companies like Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, and Mazda, so we get to meet engineers from these companies as well. It's a lot of fun working with these engineers and getting to learn about their countries and cultures.
For me, the most exciting part of my job is working on the brand new vehicle programs. It can take a long time to design a vehicle and the tools to build it. We get started on the design years before the public gets to see the finished product. We get to see the prototypes, which is always exciting. After all the hard work, it's rewarding to see the final vehicle roll off the assembly line for the first time.
I have been with Ford Motor Company almost ten years and as I look back, I've seen a lot change. One of biggest changes I've seen in my job is the increased use of computers. Today, we do almost all of our vehicle and tooling design in a 3D, virtual environment. We can simulate so much on computers that it helps us reduce our time and costs. There will be a lot of changes in the automotive industry in the next ten years. I think we're already starting to see the changes in the market. I think we'll see more alternative fuel vehicles, such as some of the new electric hybrid cars. We'll also continue to see changes in fuel economy requirements and safety requirements. There's always going to be a need for lighter, safer cars, which will affect my job as we look for new materials and welding technologies to accomplish this.