Thato Molapisi is a Technician at Plastic & Chemical Trading, working on the Heuft team. His passion for all things engineering and his desire to keep learning has seen him grow from strength to strength during his more than three-year tenure at the company. His strong belief in being hands on 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’ve been with Plastic & Chemical Trading now for 3 years and 6 months. I started back in 2013 after completing my studies in Mechatronics engineering at the Tshwane University of Technology. After my studies I was looking for somewhere to do my experiential training and Plastic & Chemical Trading came up. I joined the team and after 6 months I qualified as a technician. Most people would wonder how I landed up here because mechatronics engineering is focused mainly on the automotive side of things and is really outside of the scope of what we do here, but for me it does fill the void of what I studied at varsity because I am still working within the engineering industry.
Q: What does your role at Plastic & Chemical trading entail?
A: As a 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 fill 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 over 3 years now there have been many highlights, but the greatest for me is the travelling because it really broadens your mind and the way you think. The second highlight is the constant learning. There are people here who have been in this industry for over 20 years and they have a wealth of knowledge to share which is important for the younger technicians like me.
Q: What made you choose this industry?
A: Where I was raised we believe that men need to be very hands on which is why I have always been passionate about engineering. At first I wasn’t sure that I would cut it because my interest was in genetics, but after I saw my first year’s marks in varsity I decided to give it a go and it was the best decision I’ve made yet.
Q: If you had to give your customers one piece of advice on running/using your equipment what would it be?
A: The biggest issue we encounter is dirty machines, so my advice would be to keep your machine clean. We sell quality machines and cleaning them improves their capabilities. We have customers who follow this advice and we have seen how they have benefitted. They don’t require spares as often and their machines are running without any issues. Cleanliness is especially important for the bottling and pharmaceuticals industries which are the industries we deal with.
Q: What is it about Plastic & Chemical Trading that has kept you here?
A: For me the working relationships, the experience and the exposure are all things that have kept me here. Honestly speaking two years’ experience in engineering is nothing at some other companies. I would be a trainee or apprentice for three years and then the fourth year they would say okay we can rely on Thato to do this or that but, here things are different and we are entrusted with a certain level of exposure or responsibility. We are made to feel like we add value.
Q: What is your greatest challenge at work?
A: At times you need to work on a machine that you have never worked on before and this is quite challenging but it’s also exciting because you are learning in the process. The real challenge comes in when you are working on this new machine and the timelines are tight but knowing you have the backup of the more experienced members on the team helps you to get the job 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 the importance of being understanding. When customers call us they are usually stressed out because something has gone wrong. So, when we get there they can be a little hostile towards us. This is where being understanding comes in because it helps you to respond in an appropriate manner and not take anything personally. Most people change their tune by the time we leave because we have solved their problem so you can’t hold grudges or take any of that anger on board.
Q: How do you work with customers to get the best out of their machines?
A: The best thing you can do for customers is to share the best of your knowledge with them. Share the simple stuff that will help them better understand the machines so that they feel empowered.