As fuel costs rise, industry must find ways to reduce its energy costs in the short-term and introduce efficiencies that protect it against future price hikes. The Energy Centre at Siemens Ireland is helping customers all over the world – from Cork to China – to do that, and heading up this operation is TCD engineering graduate Jean Malone (2006).
The Centre in Ireland is set to be at the heart of Siemens’ strategy to be a strong local partner to its customers by providing energy savings for them despite the relentless rise in fuel costs as the demand for fuel increases, and the taxes on their use – greenhouse gas taxes – likewise increase. At the heart of this is Jean Malone and she is proud of what’s been achieved so far for Ireland.
‘We are gearing up at the moment.” said an excited Jean. “Our system can handle a couple of hundred customers right now, but we are planning to add around 1,000 new customers per year.” Siemens Ireland is engaging with local branches of Siemens in Turkey, the Czech Republic, Italy, Holland, Portugal as well as Germany, and as far away as Chengdu in China, to help a new manufacturing plant.
Jean, who is from Clane in Co Kildare, recalls loving maths, technical graphics and all the technical subjects when she was in secondary school. She was specifically drawn to the medical device sector, as it combined engineering with some direct human benefits. However, after her Leaving Certificate in 2001, she decided that it would be best to select a general engineering course to begin with, and she chose engineering at TCD.
She enjoyed college life at TCD, but after Jean completed her second year, she began to have some doubts as to whether engineering had been a good idea. “The course was tough, but rewarding – but I couldn’t foresee what my future job or career would be like,” recalled Jean. “I wasn’t sure if it was right for me – and I took a year out between 3rd and 4th year.” She needed some time and space to go travel, and figure out exactly what she wanted to do. Her parents were okay, she said, but wanted her to do work experience, for at least part of the time she was out of college. She agreed to do that.
Jean applied, and was accepted to do six weeks of work experience at a company called Chiroxia, based at Citywest, which had been set up by Jim Coleman, a vascular surgeon, who had returned from the US full of ideas for various kinds of medical devices. The company employed engineers to realize Coleman’s vision. It was an exciting place to work, and Jean immediately felt at home there, and enjoyed her work immensely.
Her profile at the company increased when she observed a particular behavior of a substance – at high and low temperatures – that was being prepared for insertion into the human body, which hadn’t been observed by any of the full time engineers at Chiroxia. This was a technical breakthrough for the company, which led to some design changes.
Jean was offered a nine-month contract, which she accepted. In that time she applied knowledge that she had learned in her first three years of college. This work experience changed everything, and any doubts she had about a career in engineering disappeared. “I went back to do my final year full of energy. I was so excited about the topic when I got back, and it completely changed how I viewed the course as well,” said Jean.
When the Irish property market crashed ‘almost overnight’ the Irish arm of Siemens AG – the massive engineering and electronics corporation, headquartered in Munich, and employing 370,000 people in some 190 countries – started to look at how existing, or old buildings could be improved or upgraded, as the ‘new build’ market had evaporated.
Siemens put a toe in this market when they developed an energy efficiency plan for a large Ireland-based customer. The idea was to conduct a complete ‘audit’ of the energy usage at the customer’s manufacturing plant. This was done by strategically placing energy meters at key locations in the production plant, and gathering a data stream. That data was then looked at by a team of energy engineers at Siemens Ireland, who made recommendations to the customer on how to improve energy efficiency.
Siemens Ireland decided to set up an Energy Centre locally, so that this large customer could go online at any stage and look at how it was consuming energy. Once the Centre was up and running, it made sense to offer similar services to other companies base in Ireland. Eventually, what had started as a local R&D project attracted the interest of Siemens HQ in Germany, who have supported the development of the Centre to provide energy efficiency services for its customers across Europe and beyond.
Success at Siemens
Jean completed her degree at TCD in 2006. After that she worked briefly as a waitress in Belfast before returning home to Co Kildare, where she lived again with her parents for a short time and got a temporary position with Green Isle Foods in Naas. She was glad to be back home, but was keen for a job that would allow her to live more independently.
She started to look for work in Dublin, and an opportunity came up with Siemens. Initially, her job involved working with customers to identify the exact product that they required; to help them find the right product, and the correct complementary products. The idea was to refer customers to websites and give them the skills and knowledge to be able to source new parts themselves. She did that successfully and then moved on.
The next role was more interesting, as it involved working with a customer to develop an energy efficiency solution. First, Jean worked with a sales person to design a solution suited to the customer’s energy needs, then she worked with a project manager who would roll out the solution for them. It was a challenging, diverse and interesting job.
It also helped Jean’s career and she was offered the role of Siemens Energy Centre Manager. In this role she deals with some very large customers in Ireland, in energy intensive sectors such as pharma, chemicals, food and leisure. The Irish Centre is also responsible for meeting the energy needs of Siemens’ customers based in Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as a growing number of customers across Europe and beyond.
“I enjoy the diversity of the role, each site different challenges, and you have to adapt to those challenges,” said Jean. “Within Siemens there are so many different opportunities. I do enjoy the idea of working towards something that will create more jobs for engineers in Ireland. We have a plan to expand and we have just taken on 4 new people recently under the Job Bridge scheme,” she added.
This article was first published in Science Spin, Issue 56, January-February 2013