A successful engineering placement with Applied Automation

Fundamental to ongoing growth

After a year working in the engineering design team at Applied Automation in Plymouth, Michael Diggle (pictured) returned to Plymouth University in September to complete his final year of his BEng (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering with Composites.

With a strong manufacturing and engineering presence in Plymouth, Michael had options on where to spend a year gaining valuable real-world experience. When asked what was attractive about Applied Automation, Michael said: “I looked at other companies, but people here were very friendly and the atmosphere seemed to be what I was looking for. They’re doing some really interesting work and it just felt right.”

Initially Michael spent time with the purchasing side of the business, with frequent contact with suppliers. This experience would help him understand the components used in the design and machine build process, before being introduced to the engineering drawing team, where he would spend the rest of his year.

“I was pretty much chucked in the deep end. A conveyer wasn’t doing what it was supposed to and needed speeding up. A simple problem but it was a fairly complex solution to resolve. The gear ratios were in imperial and we were working in metric. The figures on paper looked right, but what we saw in reality was something different. We solved the problem eventually. This highlighted to me the difference between theoretical design and real-world implementation. You can really only learn that in a commercial environment.”

Michael spent time learning 2D CAD design. This often involved keeping customers updated. One piece of work for a customer in the USA, while straightforward enough, highlighted the communication challenges, with the inevitable seven-hour time lag with responses.

He added: “Doing a sandwich degree course has been hugely beneficial for me and I’d definitely recommend it to other engineering undergraduates. It brings the theory to life and gives you that real-world perspective that is hard to replicate in the classroom. Not everything goes to plan. You need to anticipate things not working as expected.”

Finding a company that is sympathetic to a student’s needs, providing support when needed is vital. That is not lost on management at Applied Automation.

Managing director, David Rowe said: “We recognise that in order to attract and retain highly skilled staff requires an investment in training; developing a culture of support among the workforce and offering opportunities to young engineers like Michael. This approach is fundamental to the ongoing growth of this company.”

Michael concluded: “A local company, like Applied can be just as rewarding as a large multi-national. I could speak to anyone if I needed advice and I genuinely felt part of the team. That made such a big difference to my overall experience with Applied Automation.”

Away from work, Michael enjoys the challenges of karate, a sport he has practised for around 20 years. “It helps me to unwind and de-stress. It works for me and I personally think it’s healthy to have some kind of hobby away from study and work.”

Originally from Manchester, Michael is keen to stay in the Plymouth area when he completes his degree. He could even one day return to work with Applied in the future!

Everyone at Applied Automation wish Michael good luck for the coming final year at Plymouth University and best wishes for the future.

If you are interested in an internship or apprenticeship with Applied Automation, email