“ The engineering path is a life of learning, developing and applying knowledge to engineering solutions. Be boundless in your perspective for learning and grow with the times as the future is ever evolving. ”
- Terry Vernes, Director of Process Engineering & Composite Operations at MRAS
Based in Maryland, Baltimore, Terry Vernes oversees the Process Engineering & Composite Operations at Middle River Aerostructure Systems (MRAS) which is now part of ST Engineering.
Q: Tell us more about yourself and your career journey with the company.
I started my career 36 years ago after graduating from Florida Tech with a Dual Degree in Chemical Engineering and Environmental Engineering.
In 1997, I joined MRAS as a Senior Manufacturing Engineer and I managed the transition and start-up of a composite aerostructure programme. Over the years, I have had many opportunities for learning and development and took on several roles in Manufacturing Engineering, Material and Process (M&P) Engineering, and Manufacturing Operations.
The role of a business leader in composite manufacturing operations was an exceptional one as it gave an immersed learning experience through reaping the rewards and challenges of what I planned. My success in this role led to a new opportunity, and I progressed to an M&P leadership role where I led two M&P teams and drove areas across M&P Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering and the Lean Lab.
My current role as the Director of Process Engineering and Composite Operations leverages my knowledge and experience to support the business in areas of industrialisation of component designs, manufacturing technology, M&P development and continuous improvement of composite operations.
Q: What are the most interesting projects you have worked on?
I find most of the projects interesting, particularly in Automated Fiber Placement (AFP), Robotic Drilling and Inlet Manufacturing.
AFP is one of the most advanced methods for creating composite structures. Aside from all the technical challenges with materials, tooling and process development converting manual to machine layup, the process has a significant business impact. Together with the team, we overcame all obstacles in sight and managed to reduce the overall cycle time, cost and enhanced the culture of our business. This was also echoed on the Robotic Drilling project with both projects leapfrogging our business in technology and capability.
Another interesting project was the initial development phase of the aircraft engine inlet manufacturing at MRAS, we faced challenges including mating large one-piece of metal inlet lips with another one-piece composite inlet barrels within very close tolerances. We went through numerous rounds of inlet lip processing and tooling philosophies developments before getting the right formula to operational success.
Q: What do you find most meaningful about your job?
I am a very inquisitive engineer and I like developing and industrialising aerospace products as they have changed the world. Driving a project until it runs smoothly with positive business impact is the litmus test of meaningful work. The true validation of a product is when the design, material, process and tooling all come together to produce a quality product.
Q: With MRAS becoming a part of the ST Engineering Group earlier this year, what do you look forward to, and what is your focus for next year?
Joining ST Engineering promises a great journey for growth and new opportunities. With the synergy that brings forth a renewed level of business focus and expansion strategy, we look forward to new opportunities in technology development, MRO business and strategic alignments with the aerospace businesses.
Next year will be an exciting one as we continue to drive industrialisation and technology at the shopfloor. MRAS will be welcoming new advanced tools and machinery, and driving projects such as automated tool cleaning and Out of Autoclave (OOA) curing. We will also be digitalising and instituting visual management throughout the facility, managing the operations ramp up, and supporting the set-up of a new MRO operation for nacelles.
Q: Any advice for new engineers?
New engineers should not be afraid to ask questions; be inquisitive. The engineering path is a life of learning, developing and applying knowledge to engineering solutions. One should continue to grow their knowledge through course work, seminars and conferences, and sometimes take on the hard job that others shy away from. Be boundless in your perspective for learning and do not restrict your inquisitions to your specific field or job assignments. Build depth and breadth and grow with the times as the future is ever evolving.