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  • Writer's pictureDurham Autoclaves

Meet Alistair – The Senior Engineer with a Passion for Excellence!

Get ready to enter the world of sterilisation with one of the most seasoned experts in the field. Allow us to introduce you to Alistair, the Senior Engineer at Durham Autoclaves, and trust us, you're in for a treat!

Alistair's journey into the world of engineering is as diverse as it is fascinating – from apprenticeships in electrical engineering to setting machines in corrugated packaging factories, he's done it all! But what truly sets Alistair apart is his dedication to his craft and his knack for problem-solving.

Alistair is not just an engineer – he's a storyteller, an adventurer, and a true connoisseur of life's little pleasures.

So, what are you waiting for? Get to know Alistair a little better and discover the magic he brings to the world of sterilisation!!



Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up working at Durham Autoclaves?

I started on the Business Park where we are located now doing an apprenticeship through South West Durham Training at Hoesch Woodheads, the factory made suspension components for cars, so coil springs, anti-roll bars and leaf springs.

The apprenticeship covered a broad range of maintenance skills with an emphasis on electrical. I did this for 4 years. It was during this time that mine and Mark’s paths first crossed as he also served an apprenticeship there. On completion of the apprenticeship term, I remained there by securing a job making protype and small run batches of suspension springs.

Next I moved to Smurfit Corrugated, setting machines to print corrugated packaging. I was there for about 7 years but gradually found the 3 shift pattern harder as the years went by.

I moved on for a company in Northampton, wiring in automatic doors and access control systems, and secured the Senior Engineer role as time went by. It was during this time that I was settling down, looking after a young family, buying a larger house and all the other things that comes at that age so I was working a lot of hours to finance the necessities. The role took me all over the country, sometimes 7 days a week. It was originally meant to cover the North but I travelled a lot further, with the furthest South being all the way down to Gurnsey and the furthest North being all the way up to the Shetland Isles!

Approximately 8 years later, Mark bought Durham Autoclaves and asked me if I’d be interested in joining the company. Initially I said no, as I was happy enough where I was, I enjoyed what I was doing and was trusted in my role, but one day we agreed to chat about it. We went to the pub, and sorted it out over a pint, but had another for good measure. By this point, Mark and I had been mates for a fair amount of years, so we knew we were pretty much on the same page. After a short period of shadowing Mark and completing various training courses, I ventured out alone.

What exactly does your role as a Senior Engineer at Durham Autoclaves entail?

I mainly service, repair and maintain Autoclaves and Waser Disinfectors, as well as HTM validation of Autoclaves and Washer Disinfectors. A lot of the time, I’m out on the road keeping everyone up and running, but also spend some time in the office. If a machine can’t be fixed, or the fault is trickier to diagnose, I’ll bring the machine back to the workshop to fix. My job also involves sales, customer queries and assisting in the office – ultimately, we all work together as a team.


What are some common challenges you face in your work, and how do you overcome them?

On occasions, the distance we travel can be problematic as when attending breakdowns, I put pressure on myself to fix the machine on the day. Occasionally there could be an intermittent fault which doesn’t always show up when we arrive which is a bit inconvenient! If the fault doesn’t show during our time there, it can make it quite difficult to diagnose and fix.

We always try to be honest with our clients, and this honesty can mean we occasionally have to have tricky conversations. However, we take pride in the trust our clients have in us and would never put that in jeopardy. We get along with practice managers and staff in the decom rooms and have lots of corporates on board too.

What advancements or innovations in autoclave technology are you most excited about?

Melag are soon to release a new autoclave, called the 105, which is a 5ltr autoclave and is the worlds fastest. It should be ideal for the Podiatry field, but it could also be used as a secondary machine in dental alongside something like a 41B+ EVO.


Can you share any memorable experiences or projects you've worked on during your time at Durham Autoclaves?

I like the visits to Melag for training, as this takes place in Berlin which is such an interesting place to visit as it has so much going on and also has a great vibe about it.


How do you ensure that the autoclaves you work on meet safety and regulatory standards?

We carry out regular servicing, including a yearly pressure systems inspection and a yearly validation. When selling a machine we offer packages to maintain, service, validate and carry out the necessary tests going forward.  


What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in engineering, specifically within the realm of autoclaves?

It’s a great engineering job. Compared to some other engineering sectors, there’s many long-term benefits. Doing this job you are always dry and warm and are usually working at benchtop height, which doesn’t sound like much, but is definitely a bonus, especially as the years go by!

I have been to loads of different places, in various parts of the country, visiting some beautiful places. Ultimately, the work is not too physically demanding and instead, involves more thinking. I meet many people, some I get to catch up with once or twice a year which means it’s always good to see them and find out what they’ve been up to.

I also feel I get the best of both worlds as in I sometimes work alone, and some days I work with the other engineers, which gives a nice balance.

How do you stay updated on the latest developments and trends in autoclave technology?

With being a MELAG partner, MELAG send us information keeping us updated with any changes or new developments. Any updates do tend to be specific to MELAG though.

In the world of autoclaves, the pace of change isn’t super fast, so its always interesting when new products or ideas come to market.


What are some key factors to consider when selecting an autoclave for a specific application?

This all depends on the customer’s needs. They give us an idea of what they need, and we go from there.


In your opinion, what sets Durham Autoclaves apart from other companies in the industry?

The speed at which we attend call outs is something we are very proud of, and always aim to get sites back up and running quickly. We also have a very personal approach, and would like to think we are trusted by our customers, which is something that we are very proud of.  One of the benefits of being a MELAG partner is that we work with a brand you can trust.

The vast majority of our customers are long standing customers. On occasions, we have carried out a job at a loss because it was the right thing to do. We aren’t all about bringing in money, we are about ensuring we do a good job for you. We are customer focused, making sure we look after our customers whatever the cost. We never leave anyone stuck and our response times are outstanding. We have even loaned machines to people who aren’t customers, just so they can stay open. We won’t leave anyone stranded or stuck. 


How do you unwind or relax outside of work?

I like to run, ride my mountain bikes, and I also go to the gym.

When I am working away, I always take my bike or/and my trainers to run or ride. If I’m away for 2 nights, I do both!

Out of work, The Lake district is my place of choice for bike riding. I also enjoy caravaning. One of my favourite places for caravaning is Harrogate. Beautiful scenery and a great place to switch off and unwind.

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

I would like to go to the museum at Pearl Harbour as I’d like to see the USS Arizona which remains underwater after the 1941 attacks. They built a memorial which is dedicated to all those who died during the attack. The memorial is built across the ship's remains. I’d really like to go and see it for myself.


What's your go-to comfort food?

A proper home cooked Shepherd’s pie and veg.


Dogs or cats?

That’s a tricky one because I have both. Never thought I’d enjoy having a cat, as ive always had dogs, but we got one which has a great personality and now I’m swayed so I can’t choose…. I like both dogs and cats.


Alistair embodies the spirit of dedication and expertise that defines Durham Autoclaves. With his wealth of experience, genuine passion for his work, and adventurous spirit, he continues to uphold the highest standards of service and innovation in the field of sterilisation.

Whether he's on the road ensuring machines are running smoothly or unwinding amidst the beauty of nature, Alistair's commitment to excellence shines through in every aspect of his life.

So here's to Alistair – the unsung hero behind the scenes, making the world a safer and cleaner place, one autoclave at a time.

Cheers to you, Alistair!

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