Brennan was fortunate to have two Kenston High School seniors, Lily Peters and Sophia Mighton, spend the week of May 16th with us for their Senior Experience.
They both plan to pursue a career in engineering and were able to spend time at BMG as well as Brennan's corporate headquarters to see each step of the manufacturing process. They also visited the Ohio Aerospace Institute for a tour with Tim Hale, Program Manager for the Ohio Space Grant Consortium and a lecture with the Great Lakes Biomimicry's Biocene event.
They learned from OSGC Program Assistant Em Williams on her personal journey with research and development, as well as an Aersopace Engineer with NASA Research & Engineering, Beau Compton!
The following is Lily & Sophia's first hand account of their week at Brennan:
When asked to state the goals we wanted to reach through this week-long mentorship project, we said we wanted to get a taste of what working in the real world is like and to gain insight into the responsibilities of engineers in a field we may pursue. During our time here at Brennan Industries, we had the opportunity to meet with several people working in sales, marketing, manufacturing and engineering. Through each encounter, we’ve not only achieved our goals of learning about our field of interest, but also acquired a well-rounded understanding of the company as a whole.
To start our week off, we spent the first two days at their Solon headquarters located at 6701 Cochran Rd. Here we had the opportunity to interview Rob Custer, Marketing Communications Manager; Rob Ward, General Manager; and Chris Homan, Corporate Lab Technician. From these interviews, we were able to learn a little more about the job of the sales/marketing team, as well as the purpose of the Lab. One aspect of the company that stood out to us was the dedication to providing each customer with every benefit possible. Brennan’s 4 Programs: BI Verify, BI Identify, BI Perform and BI Supply cover everything from pulling material from multiple suppliers to guarantee the required parts will be in stock, to customizing and organizing parts specific to the client’s needs.
Part of the manufacturing process at Brennan is the inclusion of their own testing room coined “The Lab”. Here, Corporate Lab Technician Chris Homan spends his time verifying the cleanliness of the company’s parts before they’re sent out to their clients. This is a meticulous process involving the full inspection of the particles located inside the fitting after being produced. During our interview, Rob Custer mentioned the importance of verifying that the number of particles present meets the company standards when he explained, “Think of farmer Bob. If his tractor includes parts with particles even the size of a micron, his machine could fail-- which could cause him to miss the short time frame he has to harvest and result in economic loss as large as bankruptcy.” Custer’s explanation highlights the importance of Homan’s role and gives even more accreditation to the extra steps Brennan takes to provide their customers with the very best products.
To test the products sold by Brennan, Homan spends about 2-4 hours per part. He first receives the parts in a sample size of around 5-10 parts depending on the order size. He takes extra precautions when transferring the parts into the Lab. He does this by placing them into a pass through, which contains purified air. He then continues his process by suiting up. He expressed the importance of using proper lab attire when dealing with the testing process in his interview. He recalled the idea that the largest hazard in a lab is actually the human. Once he is suited up and the samples are safely in the Lab he removes the capped ends of the samples, placed there to further prevent the contamination of parts, and takes a before picture. He then places the samples into a petri dish and enters it into a wash chamber with a cleanliness rating 6. After washing, he removes the filter from the drain and examines it under a microscope to verify the number of particles per square unit.
Even with all this testing, however, nothing would be possible without the availability of material. With the pandemic, it is no surprise that companies have been struggling to provide people with the necessary parts due to a shortage of material. Brennan takes the time to buy what they need from multiple suppliers. This way, they are sure to always have stock available on hand. We also saw this briefly when touring the manufacturing floor. Diane Brewster, Product Manager at Brennan Manufacturing Group (BMG), also mentioned to us the importance of overstock of special fittings if a client has a need for them.
Our primary focus for this mentorship was centered around engineering, but our mentors at Brennan knew it was important to learn about the marketing aspect as well. We realized that for the company to thrive, they not only require the engineering and manufacturing side, but also sales and marketing. Brewster described what it takes to keep a well-regarded company like Brennan at the top. She was bought onto the Brennan team about 5 years ago to bring the company into the aerospace industry. She’s responsible for acquiring clients and confirming transactions. Without her efforts, Brennan would not be able to manufacture and sell products to large aerospace companies. Brewster also highlighted the certifications required to manufacture these parts. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) certifies that the production of special products (like those for arms or aerospace) is protected against potential threats. This includes confidentiality required of the process, down to the actual design of the parts themselves.
At Brennan’s Solon headquarters, we learned more about marketing through Marketing Manager Caelin Mills and Marketing Specialist Tamara Seghetti. They ensure the Brennan name reaches every potential client and inform the industry about everything Brennan has to offer. To get an idea of the marketing side of the company, we created a brochure about The Lab. Through this activity, we were able to focus on certain aspects crucial to successful deals. We used the brochure to highlight the benefits of having their own in-house lab to test products, and the ways Brennan goes the extra mile for their customers.
Switching over to engineering, we also had the opportunity to tour the manufacturing floor at BMG and see the process of creating the actual fittings from start to finish. We talked with Engineer Nick Wolfhope to get an idea of the requirements to create custom parts specific to clients’ needs. To create these parts, he must order the specific materials for the situation. For example, when producing aerospace parts, they must use material that is light yet as functional as possible. He then must create the part through a CAD modeling program. Here he specifies the measurements and transforms it into a sketch for the programmer to enter into the machines. One step they take to ensure the credibility of their products is to etch both the part number and the BI logo into every part. This gives the part traceability, and the company accountability. Before their products can be sold, they also must go through cleaning and inspection. Here, workers must remove any burrs left from machine drilling and the measure every hole and groove.
Our senior experience here at Brennan Industries has provided us with an opportunity to explore what it is like to work as engineers. We learned the entire manufacturing and sales process from designing and creating products, to getting them into the hands of consumers. One takeaway from this mentorship was the importance of networking. We were fortunate enough to meet with several important people well versed in their fields. Through them, we were introduced to a multitude of opportunities available to us in the future. We are so grateful to have been involved in this project and to have gained the necessary knowledge to succeed in the engineering field.