Adam Colwell: From Mechanic To Reliability Engineer

Mar 14, 2018 11:26:37 AM

Nowadays, many people would agree that you simply need a college degree to become a reliability engineer. While that assumption is understandable, it doesn't actually reflect reality.

An effective reliability engineer understands both the engineering principles and possesses firsthand knowledge of the equipment on which he or she works. Bluefield AMS Reliability Engineer Adam Colwell is one such team member who exemplifies these traits. Having an indomitable drive to achieve and learn more, Adam has come a long way since his early years growing up on a farm in northeast Victoria.

The foundations of an engineer

An ambitious professional, Adam has always taken opportunities to expand his knowledge of mechanics.

While many people may not give machines a second thought, there are those with a genuine interest in how they function. Adam is one of the latter, taking every opportunity he can to learn more about the mechanical world, whether that entails working on a piece of equipment or gaining formal instruction. He's the type of person who buys old, junk cars for the express purpose of working on them, turning vehicles on their last legs into dependable and operational machines.

An ambitious professional, Adam has never been one to remain stagnant; always taking opportunities to expand his knowledge of mechanics. Whilst working at an automatic transmission rebuilding company, he came to a point where he had learned all that he could at the job, prompting him to enroll in courses at TAFE.

He found the school to be an incredible resource, enabling him to acquire knowledge of automotive electronics and diagnostics as well as manufacturing technology, engineering and even computer-aided design software. There was so much to learn, and Adam capitalised on every chance he could to gain new skill sets.

Indomitable persistence

No matter what life threw at Adam, he did whatever he could to keep growing both personally and professionally. Despite a difficult economy, school shutdowns and other disruptions, the world's obstacles failed to knock him off his feet.

Adam's tenacity landed him jobs as a FIFO Shutdown Fitter and an Underground Field Service Technician for a major OEM. While the former position enabled him to travel and learn about a wide variety of heavy equipment, the latter gave him experience diagnosing and repairing mining machinery.

Every machine was a puzzle and Adam's job was to make the picture come to life.

"I loved everything about it: the travel, the variety of work one week I would be performing conveyor maintenance in the middle of [Western Australia], the next I would be two kilometers underground," he noted.

Eleven years ago, he never would have thought he'd be traveling between multiple sites, servicing earth-moving equipment and other machinery of such engaging complexity. Every machine was a puzzle, and his job was to fix each of the broken pieces to make the picture come to life.

Pursuing higher education

Life compelled Adam to relocate to Queensland, where he elected to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). His experience servicing machines had taken him far, but he knew university would enable him to grow further than he could without a degree.

Still, Adam wanted to engage in work that would complement his education. He came across a job advertisement posted by Gerard Wood of Bluefield AMS. He quickly contacted Gerard, who set up an interview.

The first thing Gerard noticed was Adam's inherent knowledge of mining equipment reliability. Despite the fact that he had no formal education in the practice, Adam could diagnose and provide solutions to problems with brevity.

"Adam has one of the best work ethics I have ever seen."

"When I interviewed Adam, I asked him whether he knew about machine reliability. He said that he did not know anything, but later in the conversation, he described the failure mechanisms of many mechanical components. Basically, he knew a lot about reliability, he just didn't have the theoretical language to articulate this knowledge," said Mr. Wood.

Gerard placed Adam in positions that allowed him to obtain the workplace learning style credits he needed for his degree. Adam's responsibilities exposed him to surface mining as well as coal and copper operations: two areas which exposed him to a new array of problems and opportunities.

What drew Adam to Bluefield AMS was the company's commitment to adding value. The focus wasn't on delivering a sales pitch but instead on providing effective predictive maintenance plans. This commitment to problem-solving correlated with Adam's desire to gain a sense of professional fulfillment. It fuelled his passion for the mechanical world, putting him on a pathway towards a professional achievement.

"Adam has one of the best work ethics I have ever seen. He could probably be more selfish and put himself before the company on occasion," said Mr. Wood.

Adam's drive has persisted throughout his four years at Bluefield AMS. Due to graduate from his degree in March 2016, there's no doubt he will continue to utilise his engineering knowledge and his experiences as a mining and mobile plant mechanic to assist the company's clients in improving their assets' reliability.