When Emma Sisman joined Niftylift two years ago she had ‘little to no experience or knowledge’ of engineering and manufacturing.

She’s now the second highest skilled person in her department heading up a waste reduction project that cuts the cost of lost-in-production parts by 80%, saving the company on average £29,000 per month.

“That shows the power the apprenticeship programme has in developing and progressing individuals,” said Ms Sisman, who has completed a three-year Technical Support apprenticeship and is now a first year degree apprentice employed by the Barnsley-based company, which is one of the largest manufacturers of mobile elevating work platforms.

It is the blend of practical skills and knowledge gained during her University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre apprenticeship, coupled with a progressive company like Niftylift that values its human capital, which has seen Ms Sisman lead project teams tasked with improving the business. “My greatest achievement to date during my apprenticeship has been to head up a waste reduction project where we achieved a reduction in lost-in-production parts cost by 80 per cent, saving the company on average £29,000 per month,” said the 21-year-old.

Martyn Gannon, quality assurance manager, Niftylift, said Emma has become an integral part of the quality assurance and wider departmental teams.

He said: “Emma has increased her skill versatility in the company from 63% to 76%, making her the second highest trained of all the Quality Engineering team. These skills include automotive core tools which she has used to determine root cause, corrective and preventative actions in process deficiencies.

“She has taken on several projects which make an impact on the bottom line of the business. The most recent being the reduction of lost-in-production parts, reducing the cost from £39k per month to a current level of £8k per month. To enable this Emma had to organise investigative, collaborative cross-functional teams, root cause analysis, and designs of experiments to prove out theories and improvement initiatives.

“She has also taken on the planning and organising of external training and development of the quality technicians, improving overall skill versatility of the Quality Assurance technicians from 55-66%.”

Ms Sisman, whose aspirations are to become a qualified engineer and be professionally recognised within industry, works as part of a team that covers engineering, manufacturing and machine assembly for Niftylift. She’s also taken under her wing the quality administrator training department, educating the team in the company’s systems, processes and products.

“As part of this I have the responsibility of the quarantine area, site 5S housekeeping audits, and documentation and process systems. I also cover and provide advice in weld inspection for manufacturing processes,” said Ms Sisman.

“The team’s objectives are to reduce non-conformances and response time to customer defect reports. I contribute to these by containing, investigating and resolving these issues.

“The part I have played has been to implement effective and efficient systems and processes to ensure compliance to customer requirements and thus reducing rework and rejects and overall throughput of parts.

“Niftylift’s business objectives are to increase output and turnover by 40 per cent; reduce poor quality costs; and transform from a quality control to a quality assurance, no-fault forward manufacturing business.

“I’ve contributed by effectively implementing and managing corrective and preventative processes to mitigate non-conformance issues; maintaining the sites calibration tooling system by implementing an access database to control and identify requirements. I have also taken part in cross-functional project teams to identify process efficiency improvements which to date have enabled process improvements of 10% per year.”

Ms Sisman’s main goal is to manage and drive resolution to internal and customer non-conformance issues. At the start of the year these were taking in excess of 20 days for resolution. However, due to her management and coordination, and utilising quality tools, these have reduced to under five working days, with recurrence reducing consistently.

“I also manage the audit and calibration systems on site, improving the adherence of these from 50% to 95% per year, to date,” she said. “The skills, knowledge and behaviours I have gained and developed have benefited the company by increasing capacity and versatility in weld inspection, enabling product verification throughput to be expedited quicker.”

Nikki Jones, director of the AMRC Training Centre, said Emma is an apprenticeship champion and a credit to her employer. “Emma is a perfect example of how industry can harness the fresh-thinking, skills and new ideas apprentices bring into company and use those to help them innovate, drive productivity, become resilient, recover and regrow.”