Greece has been the front page news around the world for different economic and political reasons. Yet we know very little about what is going on in the engineering industry. Manolis Theofilos is one active GrabCAD community member and Greek, a perfect combination and reason to learn more about his background and home country.
GC: Greece is famous for its shipping industry and maritime companies. Does the same apply to engineering as well? What are the most developed engineering fields in Greece (marine? civil? mechanical?)? The biggest companies that have big engineering teams?
Manolis: Engineering in Greece is a very interesting subject but for the wrong reasons. Although the maritime industry is indeed developed, there are very few shipyards still in operation. 10 to15 years ago Greece was capable of producing tankers, cargo ships, passenger ships, frigates for the needs of the military and also
upgrading ships. Nowadays the majority of Greek ships are being made in Korea and Scandinavia. This has taken its toll in engineering as well. Marine engineers, who are highly qualified, are mostly unemployed and searching for jobs abroad.
Another area in which engineers could find jobs was construction. Construction was booming from 1980 until 2008 and this meant that Civil, Mechanical and Electrical engineers could work in construction. The unemployment rate for civil engineers in 2006 was almost 0%!!! This meant that a small office with two engineers, an intern and a secretary could make a profit. A young engineer could start his own office. Now in the crisis days these small offices are closing but large companies are not doing better either. Companies like AKTOR, J&P Avax, and Edrasi are reducing costs and firing people, mostly engineers due to lack of big projects and funding.
The only area still in development is energy and in particular renewable energy. Greece is lucky because there is sun even in the winter and wind even in the hottest days of summer. There are large solar parks in the making and wind farms in the islands but unfortunately there are not enough jobs to keep all engineers occupied.
GC: How is engineering profession perceived in Greece? In many developed parts of the world good engineers are in demand, yet it's not as popular degree to study compared to IT, business, law, sciences etc. What's the situation in Southern Europe?
Manolis: In Greece engineering is not perceived at all because of ignorance. The majority think that engineers are civil engineers. Mechanical engineers are thought to be working on garages fixing cars and electrical engineers are being confused with electricians. The salary of an engineer nowadays is rarely above 1000 euros, even for a good one. Popular degrees here in Greece are medicine, law and economics. This is sad for a country that has produced some engineering wonders in the past. The only comforting thing is that when Greek engineers work abroad, they are considered to be good engineers.
GC: How has your career evolved? How does your work today differ from 10 years ago?
Manolis: Well 10 years ago I was still a student working part time as a bartender so my career has made leaps forward!!! I am still a young engineer, I graduated in 2008 but my engineering days began before that. I was an intern in a consulting company. There I learned some very useful stuff like QMS and safety engineering. After a month or so in my internship I was undertaking CE marking projects for client’s products, and ISO 9001 systems. After my degree I started working in automotive safety. I started as an inspector and six months later I was promoted to quality assurance manager. Two and a half years later I am technical manager.
GC: What are the most interesting trends in engineering that you are witnessing as a professional? How do you think Greece differs from the rest of the world?
Manolis: The introduction of QMS in businesses is surely one of the most interesting trends here in Greece. I was always interested in quality control and ways to improve quality in all aspects of production even from the stages of designing the product. QMS was introduced later than the rest of Europe so there still is a large market for QMS consultants. In my job we implement ISO 9001 and ISO 17020 and we are preparing for ISO 14001.
3D cad is also a new trend here. 5 years ago very few businesses considered 3D cad and FEA testing as a way to reduce costs. Now the demand for 3D cad software is increasing. Also renewable energy arrived late but is a very popular trend. I had 3 courses regarding renewable energy in university and at the end of each course we had to present a case study.
Greece differs from the rest of the world in many ways but one of the most profound is that we adopt new technology a bit later than others. I strongly believe that Greece could be a leading country in areas such as renewable energy, because we have the engineers and we have the climate, but we also have bureaucracy. Also we are a little laid back as a nation. Never expect us to be on schedule.
GC: Describe some of the more exciting and interesting projects that you've had a chance to work on?
Manolis: One of the most interesting projects I worked on was back in the days I was serving for the navy. We had to do some serious FEA testing as we needed to replace some cast parts with machined ones and replicate some other parts. Also another project which unfortunately was never finished, was to make a more efficient inverter for solar parks. But the most interesting project is the one I am working on now which is the development of an extreme lightweight electric vehicle for the Shell EcoMarathon competition. We are a team of four engineers working together on this one. Our goal is to build a vehicle which will go around the track for as long as possible with 1kWh of energy.
GC: What would be your dream job/project?
Manolis: My dream job would be being part of an engineering team (or leading one) that designs and builds amazing machines. This could be anything from the world’s best car, the world’s best train, ship, armored vehicle etc. A job that I would be proud saying I am doing.
GC: In your opinion what is the best designed and engineered product out there?
Manolis: I have a lot of stuff in my mind and for a lot of different reasons. An Audi R8, the space shuttle, the list can go on. But my first choice would be the AK47. It sounds odd but from an engineering point of view it is perfect. Why? Because it is simple, very reliable, easy to produce and reproduce, easy to maintain and cheap. This is a fine example of great engineering.
GC: Can you name some companies and persons whose engineering work you admire?
Manolis: Bosch. They have changed the way cars are made with their innovations more than any other car manufacturer even though Bosch is not a car manufacturer.
GC: And finally, what is you preferred software or system to work in? Any software that is exceptionally good for some specific type of engineering work? Any recommendations?
Manolis: My preferred software is Autodesk Inventor. I started by using AutoCAD 2000 and still use AutoCAD for a large part of my work. Later I started using Inventor mostly because the transition from AutoCAD was easier. In the last 6 months I've used Autodesk Simulation Multiphysics for the development of some parts. For HVAC studies I used software from a Greek company called 4M. I have also used PVSYST on one occasion for a solar park project.
Big thanks to Manolis for the interview. What can we say, if Greece had more people with expertise and attitude like him, surely most headlines would be about a lot different news than we've been hearing lately.