Executive Interview: Paul Sheerin, Scottish Engineering

Executive Interview - Paul Sheerin - Scottish Engineering
June 8, 2018

As part of Carlyle’s series of Executive Interviews and Industry Spotlights, Jamie Brown (Associate, Carlyle) sat down with Paul Sheerin (CEO, Scottish Engineering) to discuss the outlook for Scotland’s Engineering sector in 2018 and beyond, Scottish Engineering’s modernisation journey and capitalising on the industry’s innovation opportunity.

For those less familiar with Scottish Engineering, could you describe the organisation’s role within the industry?

“In my view, there are three pillars of our organisation. Firstly, we have our core member services, which focus on providing support and advice across areas such as Health & Safety, Employment Law and Shared Learning, as well as promoting collaboration between our members and external service suppliers. Secondly, we act as the voice of engineering and manufacturing in Scotland, lobbying the Scottish and UK Governments to advance social, legal and economic conditions favourable to the effective conduct of the industry; for example, with regards to growth and export opportunities for our members. Lastly, we play a key role in developing engineers of the future through collaboration with organisations who have a key aim of evolving the STEM pipeline.”

You are three months into the role, what are your initial observations on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the sector?

“The biggest issue for our sector is one that a number of industries in Scotland face – the skills shortage. There are a number of factors influencing this, including an ageing workforce, an increased demand for products, reduced appetite from qualified and skilled workers to undertake overtime (which industry has previously used to smooth out peaks in demand) and, in some instances, the impact of past uncertainty on resource planning.

That being said however, I am a persistent optimist. Although the skills shortage presents a real challenge, there is also fantastic opportunity. The gap has to be filled by fresh talent, and with fresh talent comes new ideas, innovative approaches, and ultimately, modernisation.

I also see massive potential in driving collaboration between our academic institutions, which are a key asset, and industry. We are improving in this regard, but should seek to strengthen and add to current initiatives.

At the recent Scottish Engineering awards, you spoke passionately about the circular economy and the opportunity for organisations to focus on re-manufacturing, re-engineering and re-use. How will Scottish Engineering support businesses in taking more of an active role in the circular economy?

“A lot of people have heard about the circular economy with little understanding of the detail behind it, and it is an area I am increasing my own knowledge and understanding of by the day. Scotland has been strong within this sector, without really knowing that we are part of it. We have always been good at making the most out of what we have, and the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture is doing a fantastic job driving this agenda. However, we do have to ensure that we achieve an appropriate balance: the value of reuse, recovery or re-manufacture of equipment is best achieved through investing in efficient, current and competitive equipment and infrastructure. This presents an opportunity to reduce reliance on slim OEM equipment margins, ensuring that there is a manufacturing focus further along the value chain, which ultimately increases the bottom line and profitability.

I also feel that business givers need to take a more innovative approach to contract design and supporting the circular economy. One great example of this is the contract that was awarded to Philips Lighting for the fit out and lighting provision for Schiphol Airport. Instead of a set lighting specification, they simply contracted Philips to provide ‘Light As A Service’ specified in lumens of light, and allowed Philips to design an innovative solution that delivered. Their final design both included natural light and reduced power usage, contributing to both organisations’ sustainability policies through the use of raw material resources.”

[Further detail on this case study can be viewed here.]

With modern businesses becoming increasingly digitally focused, do you feel Scottish Engineering and its members are equipped to thrive in this new environment?

“Like any member organisation, we have to ensure that we are dynamic and continually evolving in order to accurately reflect the behaviours, values and objectives of our members. Scottish Engineering has a proud heritage that is built on trust and strong relationships, and we need to protect this. But with the advance of digitisation, there is an opportunity to modernise the way in which we support the industry and meet the expectations of our members and the wider customer base. We must lead from the front and ensure we operate in a modern, fit for purpose manner. This clearly is a long-term strategy, but one we must commit to in order to move forward.

To conclude, what does the short-term look like for you?

“Talking! Talking to member companies and talking to organisations that can help our member companies and our industry as a whole. It is vital that I meet as many of our members in the first year as possible, and as I promised at our recent awards dinner, if I haven’t met you yet, I will (eventually). There is some fantastic work being done in the sector and the passion and creative talent we have in Scotland is second to none. I feel privileged to be part of it. Overall, I think the future is bright for Engineering in Scotland.”

A Carlyle Perspective

It is clear that the industry faces both current and future challenges in regards to talent. Whilst the sector is seeking to address the skills shortage by collaborating with industry bodies and educational institutions to promote STEM talent, a number of organisations are also adopting a more flexible resourcing approach in order to promote innovation, including engaging senior interim professionals who can deliver impact and value at pace. The growth cycle of a business is rarely linear, and senior interim individuals who can provide the specialist skill sets required at each different stage of the business journey can prove a valuable asset to organisations within the industry.

About Paul Sheerin

Paul Sheerin joined Scottish Engineering from Diamond Power Specialty Ltd in February 2018. 

Originally from Thurso in the north of Scotland, Paul studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering at The University of Glasgow and joined Nuclear Electric in 1990 as part of the Sizewell ‘B’ project team.  After a period of working based in the USA, he returned to Scotland and joined Polaroid at its Dumbarton base in 1996 and became Managing Director from 2005 until March 2017. Paul has been a keen volunteer and supporter of Young Enterprise Scotland, acting as Schools Business Adviser and Dunbartonshire Area Team Chair, and enjoys opportunities to promote Enterprise, Engineering and Manufacturing within schools.

About Carlyle

Carlyle is an advisory Search partnership who undertake executive and non-executive mandates across the UK. In addition to permanent Search, Carlyle operate dedicated Interim and Board & Advisory practices, which focus on identifying and attracting the best non-permanent talent for senior, Board and advisory roles.

Engineering & Manufacturing is a key and growing industry area within Carlyle. If you would like to discuss this further, please contact Jamie Brown, jamie@carlyleassociates.co.uk.

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