A passion for engineering gets you everywhere
A 150 pen portrait of a Stannah employee: David Saunders – Escalator & Moving Walkway Department Manager, Stannah Lift Services, based in Warrington, but rarely there!
A passion for engineering gets you everywhere
David Saunders is the perfect example of how Stannah offers great opportunities to those people who demonstrate their passion for engineering at every opportunity.
David joined Stannah in 2001 before the days of social media. A Liverpudlian, David had a chance encounter with a Cammell Laird noticeboard displaying job opportunities in other industries, as the shipyard was in financial trouble and jobs would be lost. The notice that caught his eye was an apprenticeship with Stannah.
Dave takes up the story:
‘I really enjoyed both electrical and mechanical engineering and this job was offering both which really appealed to me. There was also the added bonus of travelling around to various sites which I thought might prove to be very interesting.’
Were you always focused on engineering as a career?
‘I really enjoyed engineering both inside and outside of school and obtained my best grades in electronics and CDT. As a child I used to build petrol remote control cars and had a motocross bike which was very high maintenance and constantly required servicing or repairing - a great foundation for a career with Stannah. Originally I wanted to be an electrician and was in education working towards my City & Guilds 236 Part 1&2 in electrical installation.
My first Job was at 16 years old at KwikSave, I applied for local jobs at 15 to ensure I had a job for when I turned 16 to help support myself through college. At the time apprenticeships were very hard to obtain so I was preparing to fund my own education, without any support. I really enjoyed my time at KwikSave and met some very good friends.’
David began his Stannah apprenticeship at the Stockport branch after successfully completing his City & Guilds Part 1 and AM1 at Hartford College in Cheshire. In 2005, having completed his apprenticeship he began work as a fully- fledged service engineer in the North West region working on anything from a Powerchair (remember those?) to large underground lifts for Network Rail as part of the Merseyrail contract.
So how did your Stannah career progress?
‘My field service manager (called a supervisor back then) went on leave to undergo an operation. The branch manager, Liam Raftery, asked if I would come in the office to cover him for a couple of weeks, this rolled into months then ended up being over a year. This was a great foundation for me to learn the administration, management and customer service required to keep the engineers in the field and customers happy. I also learnt all of the necessary process such as the SMS system, purchase orders, processing time sheets and expenses - everything I would later need in a management role.
Then the new EMW department, run by Ian Carter at the time, was advertising for a technician/project manager role and my manager put my name forward. I was lucky enough to be successful after an intense interview with the EMW team. I enjoyed working on the moving walkway equipment at the Stockport branch therefore this new challenge seemed perfect for me coupled with my new skills I picked up from the FSM role.’
David really proved his worth in the EMW installation team and certainly developed his passion for engineering escalator and moving walkway equipment.
‘Since joining the EMW department my role developed with the requirements of the business, and today I find myself running the division, of which I am very proud, particularly coming from my apprenticeship beginning. I will always remember delivering my presentation to our Managing Director at the job interview as this was so important for me at a personal level.’
With installations in stations, airports, supermarkets and other national retailers it’s no wonder David is a very busy man. His job has taken him to China several times and the projects year on year are getting ever more challenging. There are very few dull moments.
What gets you out of bed in the mornings David?
‘The very demanding clients and large LAD’s attached to each project……. Joking aside, I honestly like a challenge and enjoy the fact that every project is different. I also have two young boys who like picking up my tools, and pretending to take business calls on my mobile phone so they get me up in the mornings too!’
Tell us about your current projects please?
‘Well we have a few…
The Shanghai Mitsubishi Electrical Company (SMEC) range of products is one of the most exciting things we are working on long term. We are currently installing SMEC lift and escalator equipment at Sainsbury’s Redhill and London Luton Airport with a large order just received for the Triple A group.
We are also working on two large Network rail projects - Waterloo International and Abbeywood Station - both very demanding in their own right. One project has extreme time constraints and special bespoke designs, and the other project has its own challenges as it’s a Crossrail integrated project. There is no typical day in this job, every day brings fresh challenges and opportunities!’
David says he likes working for Stannah because of the people, the principles of the family owned business and the trust they have in their employees to help make the business a success.
When asked about his ‘dream’ project David expressed a desire to install the UK’s first curved escalator. David says his dream could one day come true in association with Shanghai Mitsubishi – he feels it’s not a million miles away. In the meantime David takes pride in the financial size of the projects Stannah has successfully secured and delivered for prestigious clients and adds:
‘It is becoming more evident in the industry that we are one of the UK leaders and feared by our competitors. That’s progress.’
Finally, have you come across any misconceptions about Stannah in the industry?
‘Apart from the standard comment that they thought Stannah only did Stairlifts, then the typical one is when I attend design meetings with the client and their architecture team. It’s the expectation that we can just deliver and plug in the escalator. If only it were that simple…’