Breaking The Stereotype - Maura Blaney Interview

On International Women's Day we took time out to interview Cost Accountant Maura Blaney on women in manufacturing. Take a look at Maura's interview here.... #breakingthestereotype

Please tell us a little about your job and what your working day looks like.

I work within the financial department here at MML Marine Head office in Coatbridge where we have a large production shop floor. Primarily my job is to manage all prime production costs, e.g. design, prototype, production all the way through to installation. My role is essential in the running of production as everything we do has a bottom line impact on cost and profitability. As we are very much a bespoke company, my days are always varied working on analysing past costs and working on new projects that arise. This very much involves liaising with sales and engineering, discussing customer specifics & lead times and integrating with production with regards to capacity planning. Often, I'm on the shop floor looking at throughput and checking with all involved with regards to methods of manufacture and process improvements, all of which, is about supplying our products at a competitive price.


How did you arrive at your current position?  What attracted you to a career in manufacturing?

Having decided to move into accountancy as opposed to teaching my first job was with a manufacturing company working within the cost department.  My remit was to advance their ERP (Enterprise resource planning) system which involved integrating planning, purchasing, manufacturing, inventory etc. From then and throughout my career, I have seen my role as ensuring that production is carried out in the most cost-efficient manner. This led to looking at cost effective ways of providing the shop floor with labour saving processes such as material nesting, kitting areas, etching etc. After many years in a large manufacturing organisation I went on to work in similar roles which varied from large global manufacturers to smaller family firms before joining with MML Marine as their Cost & Management Accountant. After 7 years with the company there are still new challenges, new product applications and new technologies.


Many people think of manufacturing as being a predominantly male industry, workplaces are dirty and dangerous and that the field and skills required are a better fit for men.  Have you encountered stereotypes like these in your education or career and how did you overcome them?

When I started in this industry the shop floor was exclusively male and females were mainly confined to the office with little integration on the factory floor but over the years this has changed. When working on the shop floor in my early career I found there were a few problems around males accepting my level of engineering and costing experience. This was overcome as I stood my ground and proved my competency for the job that I was doing but I think there are still issues where females in the manufacturing environment need to be assertive.


Research shows that women, succeed and excel if they have a mentor.  Has mentorship played any role in your career?

Yes, I think it is very beneficial to have a mentor that you trust and respect at any stage of your career, although when starting out in your working life a mentor can prove to be vital to help shape your future.  The cost accountant in the first company I worked in took me under his wing and sold me on the path of cost accounting and gave me the opportunity to continue my studies.  Without him who knows what career path I may have gone down!


What is your biggest achievement so far?

Within work, I would say my biggest achievement was implementing the planning and manufacturing side of an ERP system within a company which previously relied on manual spreadsheets and product knowledge. That role unlocked many opportunities for me, including becoming a company's 6 sigma deployment champion and working and training people in Europe.  About 12years ago I went back to university to further my education where I achieved a BA in Management.  A hard yet enjoyable time of my life I had to complete my studies at night while continuing to work full time having to adapt my studying at around my career.


What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in manufacturing?

Clearer lines of communication about the industry would be helpful. Jobs fairs and school/college visits are a good way to promote the industry, allowing more young women to have exposure to the manufacturing opportunities available to them. And as with any industry it’s so important to continue to educate yourself, keep up with times / new systems / personal development / training and continuous learning are so important.


Would you recommend a career in manufacturing?  And, if so, why? 

Yes- It’s a varied and interesting environment with no two days being the same. Manufacturing provides a way to use analytical problem solving skills, creativity and improvements on a day-to-day basis. There is constant change and room to learn in this evolving industry. For me, I get a great satisfaction in knowing that our products have been manufactured in the most cost effective way that maintains the high standard of quality and protects the ongoing employment of the workforce at MML Marine.