Thokozani Makubu is a Senior Technician at Plastic & Chemical Trading, working on the Heuft team. His passion for all things technical and his desire to breathe life into machines has seen him working at the company for almost a decade now. His strong belief in getting things done the first time and his love for the Heuft machines is what makes him a valuable member of the Plastic & Chemical Trading team.
Q: Tell us about your background in this industry and how you came to work at Plastic & Chemical Trading?
A: I started my career at Vaal Triangle Technikon (now VUT) studying Electrical Engineering, Process Instrumentation and Control Systems. I graduated end of 2004 having completed my In-service Training at Samancor Meyerton. In 2005 I went back home and worked as a facilitator for grade 9 and 10 maths and science. I did that for a year and a half. I then decided that I needed to get some practical training because the knowledge gained at Vaal Triangle Technical was theory based. I went to Iscor training centre where I studies for 15 months, following this training period I joined Plastic and Chemical Trading in 2007. Next year I will be celebrating my 10-year anniversary with the company and it’s been quite the journey.
Q: What does your role at Plastic & Chemical trading entail?
A: As a senior technician on the Heuft team what I do on a day to day basis varies but generally my role entails carrying out installations, standing service call outs and courtesy visits. The work we do on the Heuft team is about quality control in the bottling industry. The machines we work with mostly focus on full level inspections. This includes under and over fills, missing caps, defective caps, pressure that’s too high or too low and missing labels. We also have a few machines on empty bottle inspections, which focus on inspecting for any foreign materials inside the bottle.
Q: What are some of the highlights of working for a company like Plastic & Chemical Trading?
A: Having worked at Plastic & Chemical Trading for 9 years now there have been many highlights, but the greatest for me is doing the actual work itself. When you work on an installation from scratch all the way through to commissioning and then finally receive that first bottle from the customer its always such a satisfying experience. Knowing that you were able to set up the machines according to the customer’s specifications is very rewarding. You feel as though you’ve given the machine a new life.
Q: What made you choose this industry?
A: I always knew that I wanted to work in engineering. I enjoy tinkering with things and for me engineering is about creating things. If you’re an engineer you’re able to do so much, you know you can design and maintain things and that was really the interest for me. As I mentioned before working here is very rewarding and it gives me the opportunity to do the things I love. We give machines a new life when we install them and get them up and running for our customers and that is something I honestly enjoy which is why I got into this industry.
Q: If you had to give your customers one piece of advice on running/using your equipment what would it be?
A: Clean the machine. From my side we work with things like photocells and mirrors and once these get dirty it causes a lot of problems for you and for the machine, so it’s a very simple thing and it’s the one thing people don’t do. At times you get to a machine that’s newly installed and you look at it and it looks like its years old and then you can understand why it needs attention so soon after installation. If I could just add one other thing apart from keeping the machines clean. I would definitely tell customers not to change parameters on their machines if they don’t know what they are doing. At times you will find that people change 10 parameters at a time and then they have no idea how to reverse all of them to their original values which as you would imagine causes endless problems for the customer when they aren’t getting what they want out of the machine.
Q: What is it about Plastic & Chemical Trading that has kept you here?
A: Working with the Heuft machines is one of the things that has kept me here so long. The beauty of working with these machines is that in a year you will never find two machines with exactly the same models. You will always get a model that’s going to challenge you a bit because we don’t always go for advanced training on every single model so at times you can get a completely foreign machine that you’ve got to understand with at least an application of your basics. So this constant learning is really what keeps me here.
Q: What is your greatest challenge at work?
A: The timelines we work with can be pretty tight at times which is really one of the greatest challenges for me. With a standard machine installation, we have 2 days to get that machine up and running for production, so usually we would do those over a weekend and they need to be ready for production by Monday morning. There’s an enormous amount of pressure on you when you are aware that you will not be ready in time for production because there are still a few things that need to be adjusted on the machines and it can be quite stressful but we get it done.
Q: What is the one thing that you’ve learned in your job that you carry with you into other areas of your life?
A: The one thing that stands out for me is proper planning. In our job planning in advance is essential, you’ve got to know exactly what you need to do and what the outcomes should be. This is something you can apply to any situation especially when it comes to your finances.
Q: What defines Plastic &Chemical Trading’s customer service philosophy?
A: The number one thing for me is being able to assist on time, whether its physically at the customer, over the phone or via emails. Providing a one-time service is another thing that is important to me, I don’t like doing things more than once and I prefer that when I do something I do it right the first time. This is something that the customer can appreciate because they don’t have to call you back out for the same thing more than once if you’ve done it right the first time. Being on time for any service request is another thing that I think is valuable for a customer because time is money.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in this industry?
A: The first thing is obviously to study, I recommend electrical engineering preferably electronics or instrumentation. From a characteristics perspective I would say they need to be dedicated and persevere. Patience is important when working in this industry and so is listening and understanding customer requirements clearly. Those are the basics and the rest you will pick up as you go along.