In his own words: Hunter Lilly, Manufacturing Engineer, Greenleaf Corporation
What or who fueled your interest in manufacturing?
Growing up in the rural part of Western Pennsylvania, you fix something yourself when it breaks and you are always trying to come up with a new way to make a certain task easier. My father and I would constantly be fixing/improving something together. Whether it was basic maintenance on vehicles or repairing things around the house, we would always being working on something. Stemming from this, I knew from an early age that I wanted to work on/around equipment. I did not know the specifics of what I wanted to work on, I just knew that this was going to be my goal. During my time in school, I was fairly good at math and science, so I figured going to college for engineering would be a good fit. Since I was intrigued by any type of mechanical equipment, mechanical engineering seemed to be the right option. Mechanical engineering is involved somehow shape or form in our everyday lives. Likewise, manufacturing is also involved in our everyday lives.
What is your current role in manufacturing?
I currently work as a Manufacturing Engineer. My job is somewhat difficult to describe, simply because I do not do the same exact thing every day. Often times, I feel like I wear multiple hats throughout the day. For instance, I might start out my day measuring something on the coordinate measuring machine (CMM), then I may move onto designing components/programming a robot for an upcoming automation project, and finally, I may attend meetings to discuss justifying the purchase of new equipment. I work hand-in-hand with both fellow engineers, operators, plant managers, and higher management on a daily basis. I do not do one particular job, I do a variety of jobs. Much of the manufacturing team does a variety of jobs, but this is what makes the manufacturing industry so unique.
Describe your path to get to where you are today.
I graduated from Wilmington Area High School in 2016 and I immediately enrolled in college for Mechanical Engineering. I went to Penn State Shenango for my first year and I then transferred to Penn State Behrend. During my senior year of college, I went to the career fair to try and get a job once I graduated from college. I ended up meeting Greenleaf there and after a couple of interviews, I was offered a job. I graduated in May of 2020 and that was the same time that I started at Greenleaf.
When I first started out at Greenleaf, I was tasked primarily with design/layout work. After proving myself capable, I was given progressively more challenging projects/tasks. I started to learn how to use the CMM and various different machines. I began to learn and develop skills that I thought mechanical engineers wouldn’t necessarily need, such as programming, project management, and even social interaction skills. I then began to understand that regardless of what your job title may be, you can never learn too much or stop learning. Manufacturing provides a wide variety of problems that need to be solved and not one person can solve these issues by themselves. This is why it is important to diversify your skill set and make yourself as valuable to whatever company you make work for.
What is your Superpower?
My superpower relating to my manufacturing role is my work ethic. I believe that work ethic is something that you have to develop over time. It is not something that you can read from a book or learn online. Whenever something difficult needs to be done, the team at Greenleaf often tasks me with it. Regardless of how difficult or quickly they need this task to be done, I am able to get it done because of my work ethic. This quality of mine allows for me to play a crucial role at Greenleaf.
Why is your role important to others – like to customers or end users?
My role is important to Greenleaf customers because I help make up one part our manufacturing team. Regardless of what your job title is or what your exact job entails, if you are employed by a manufacturing company, you are part of the manufacturing process. You could be a machine operator, part of the maintenance team, an engineer, or even part of an IT team and you would still be part of the manufacturing team. I believe that most people do not realize all the different people/backgrounds that it takes to make up this team. I do not think that there is one particular role that is more important than another role. Each individual role helps feed the next role and at the end of the day, these roles help create the product that is sold to our customers.
What do you think the future holds for your career or others you inspire?
In the future, I do not see my specific role going anywhere. Manufacturing related jobs are moving towards figuring out how to make the same quality of part, but in a more efficient/cheaper way. Typically, this lends itself towards automating current equipment or getting new equipment entirely. People will think this means that engineering related jobs will be in demand for automation and they are correct in this assumption, but these will not be the only jobs in demand. There will be machinists needed to produce the parts for these machines, maintenance technicians to repair these machines, and at the end of the day, there will still be a need for operators/programmers to run these machines. Manufacturing has always employed a wide variety of jobs and it will continue to do so in the future.