Sara Ridley, Head of Production Engineering & Quality, MAHLE

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What does your job entail?

I’m responsible for all production engineering and quality for MAHLE Powertrain at four sites. This includes overseeing manufacturing & quality engineers, technician teams, machining and assembly processes, and quality control & analysis for those sites.

My day-to-day includes managing the teams, strategic planning, head count, budget, process improvement, health and safety, as well as planning for quality assurance and meeting with the senior management team.

Basically, I problem solve to build in systems so we don’t make the same mistakes. These days, 20% of my time is on the shop floor and the rest is focused on management and systems.


Why do you enjoy working in manufacturing?

I’ve always loved the process of making parts – taking a dirty bit of metal and turning it into a high precision, exciting component. I still find myself feeling the thrill of machining and looking into the CNC machines and being amazed at what we can make.

And I love the variety: no two days are the same.


How did you get into manufacturing?

My parents didn’t believe in sending women in university, so I went into a four-year engineering technician apprenticeship, working in factory production.

From there I worked for a business services contractor, working with architects to create technical specifications for contractors. 

I then went to university to get a BSc in engineering. After that I worked at Caterpillar in re-manufacturing, which meant developing safe and clever ways of working to re-use old components where we didn’t use as much energy and raw material to produce new products. While at Caterpillar, I got my PhD in sustainable engineering as well.

Three years ago I joined MAHLE.


What challenges have you overcome in your career?

Unfortunately getting other people to believe that a woman can be technically capable in engineering is still a challenge.

What’s sad is when I started my training, I was the only female engineer in my class, and when I visit classrooms as part of STEM ambassador outreach, there still aren’t many. There’s still untrue stereotypes about what manufacturing is. It’s not low-skilled or dirty.


What advice would you have for women thinking of a career in manufacturing?

Women often can provide a different take on things. I work with really clever male engineers as well, but often women can have a bigger picture, holistic view which is hugely important. Every one of my experiences have been enriched by multi-gendered teams.

Visit our Women in Manufacturing campaign page to find out more.
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