With over 23 years of working experience in the manufacturing industry, Todd Wells has served as principal consultant for Engineering Drawings for Machining and consulted on Measurement Concepts. Read on to find out about his career journey, passion for learning, and more.
From retail to manufacturing
After kick-starting his career as a supervisor in retail, Todd Wells went on to work with CNC machinery at a factory before realizing his passion for CAD software. “I took some courses at Rock Valley College and ended up taking every course they offered for CAD,” said Wells. After learning CAD, his job transitioned to a support staff role in manufacturing engineering.
“They had me making all these process prints, so I spent thousands and thousands of hours just creating blueprints specific to each machining operation. I was also sent off-site to learn CAM software. I hand wrote programs, and utilized CAM software for creating more complicated CNC moves from 2D CAD files. I eventually migrated towards utilizing 3D CAD models in CAM to create complete CNC programs,” said Wells. Working in a small engineering department, Wells and his colleagues were responsible for a wide variety of tasks, attending seminars and reading books to ensure they remained in compliance with the automotive industry’s quality management requirements. Wells then shifted into a quality engineering-type of role, helping to develop countless process control plans through advanced product quality planning (APQP) efforts.
Years of hard work
Soon after, Wells took the position of Quality & Manufacturing Engineer at the SPX Corporation’s Hydraulics Technology Division. “After four years there, one of the suppliers called me and asked me if I wanted a management job. I had interviewed for quality management at SPX but I did not have my degree. So they would not consider me for the position.” He then moved to Neosho Trompler, Inc. to work as their Quality & Manufacturing Engineering Manager. “They initially hired me as the manufacturing engineer manager. After I was there for a very short period of time, they asked me to assume the quality manager role also.” Wells then moved to his current job as the Quality & Manufacturing Engineering Manager at Cotta Transmission Company, LLC. This year alone has brought great change to Wells’ professional experience. “This year I have assumed responsibility for design and as of this year I am the director of engineering and quality,” said Wells.
Wells has been passionate about learning his entire career and understands the importance of education and sharing manufacturing knowledge. “In my first year at Cotta Transmission, I finished my Associate in Science with high honors in manufacturing engineering from Rock Valley College. My pursuit wasn’t for a degree, my pursuit was for the knowledge,” explains Wells. After receiving an Associate in Science for Manufacturing Engineering, Wells’ pursuit of knowledge continued. He just graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Management & Technology through the Northern Illinois University engineering program.
It’s all about precision
“I’ve seen companies that I’ve worked for rework things that may not have been bad, but just because the measurement wasn’t right.” Wells finds that it is common in the industry to put money into fixing problems that were really problems with the measurement in the first place.
Talking about the forthcoming companion course to the Measurement Concepts course he helped develop with THORS, Wells said, “The course’s intention is to be applicable to anybody in manufacturing. There’s a lot of useful information in there about precision and measurement, and about different kinds of gauges that are out there.” He said it is important that a buyer, for example, understands the technology side of the supply that they’re after. Studying this course content would help a buyer understand what suppliers try to do every day inside of their four walls and give them an appreciation for their work. The content is equally valuable for the machinist apprentice developing their blueprint reading and measurement skills.
Todd remarked that THORS course material provides relevant knowledge that would have been nice to have had access to when he was starting out in manufacturing. “There are things in the course offering that I needed to know earlier in my career and I wasn’t getting that information from work,” said Wells.
Careers in manufacturing
Talking about the different ways companies can generate awareness about manufacturing careers, Wells suggested active participation in volunteer groups and events. “Companies should also have a very robust training program,” he said. “It is crucial that companies also acknowledge the success of these programs. Small gestures like certificates, t-shirts, or the like can also go a long way in helping engage employees.”
Learning and manufacturing go hand in hand
Wells firmly believes that there is plenty of opportunity in manufacturing to do amazing things. “You can learn something new every single day, and I can’t imagine anybody going to work in a manufacturing facility and not being able to realize that there’s so much going on there that you could learn about any day,” he said. He added that society today doesn’t know enough to glamorize the manufacturing industry like it does with sports, media, and medical industries.
He said that the working population should be receptive to the idea that a factory job can be rewarding and that it can provide for your family very effectively. Talking about job satisfaction in the manufacturing industry, he said, “From my end, I have never gone to work feeling like I knew too much. I have always gone to work thinking something today is going to catch me off guard and make me feel like I don’t know enough. Regardless of my twenty-plus years of experience, I still learn new things every day at work, and THORS has done a great job capturing some of this experience so that it may be shared with others.”