Turning the Paige: DPA’s Editor begins new chapter
Author : Paige West, Group Editor, DPA & Sophia Bell, Editor, DPA
26 January 2022
When she first started working at DPA six years ago, Paige West knew very little about the engineering world she had just entered. So, how did she become an industry-leading magazine’s youngest and first female Editor? As she prepares to leave DPA and take the next steps in her career, Assistant Editor, Sophia Bell (who is taking over as Editor) chats to Paige all about her journey and what she has learnt along the way.
Paige West, Group Editor
S: What have you most enjoyed about being Editor of DPA?
P: I think the first thing for me is coming into an industry that I knew nothing about. I came from an English Literature background, so when I started at DPA, I started writing about a whole world that I didn’t know existed. I’ve seen a lot of products go from design to production, and it’s been a real pleasure to watch that cycle happen and to be a part of it.
I’ve also had the opportunity to travel all around the world, to meet people from the engineering world and see all these products in action. One of my most notable trips was visiting Digi-Key Electronics, based in a very small town called Thief River Falls. I had to take three different flights and the plane kept getting smaller, the closer I got! It was very surreal, but it was, hands down, the best press trip I’ve ever been on.
I’ve enjoyed being a part of DPA’s growth for six years, taking it more into the digital world, growing our social media platforms and finding new ways to reach our audience. It’s been a tough time for everyone, but I’m pleased to have helped DPA through the tough times and to have been there through the good times, as well.
S: How has the industry changed during the six years you’ve been working for the magazine?
P: One of the big things I’ve noticed is within prototyping. 3D printing is now huge, but I remember, when I first started at DPA, it was quite expensive and it was only the big companies that could afford to use it. But now, you or I could buy a little desktop 3D printer and print whatever we like from home! Think about what that’s done to the design cycle: before, you’d design a product, work out its dimensions, its shape, etc, and then build the prototype, only to find out that, in reality, it doesn’t quite work, so you then have to repeat the whole process. This could take months. Now, 3D printing a component or product can take 10 minutes or half an hour (depending on your design), and you can do this as many times as you want. I think this is why you see so many start-ups nowadays: they can bring a product to market much more quickly and cheaply.
Probably the most change has taken place over the past 18 months, as the pandemic has meant that businesses have rapidly had to update the way they work. I chaired a roundtable last year, alongside BARA ((British Automation & Robot Association) and a group of industry experts on ‘Buying Automation with Confidence’, and it was really interesting to hear about the change in attitudes towards automation over the last couple of years. Whilst the pandemic has affected industry in more ways than one, it has forced businesses to use new technologies, to maintain social distancing or avoid cross-contamination, for example.
S: What have been your favourite engineering topics to explore and learn more about?
Sophia Bell, Editor
P: One of the first things that I learnt when I started on DPA was about the massive skills gap within the engineering world, and not only that, but also the fact that it was very male dominated – and still is. As an Editor of a well-established industry title (I was DPA’s youngest and first female Editor), I felt a responsibility to help change this situation by highlighting the issue. So, over the years, I’ve interviewed female engineers about the barriers they’ve faced, what they think should change, etc.
Another big topic that I find interesting is virtual reality. VR is very big in gaming, but it has huge potential in the engineering world. I remember that one of the first applications of VR that I got to explore was in medical training, in which software was used to explore the human body virtually, allowing medical trainees to pull out organs and hold them in their hands. That was a few years ago now, so imagine how far the technology has advanced now!
In the engineering world, VR can be used in maintenance, for example. Maintenance engineers can pull apart a machine or product virtually to inspect the damage before actually touching the real thing. There was an engineering business recently that, with the help of the AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre), used VR to design the layout of their new facility, mapping out where they were going to put various machines before they made the final decision. So, it’s a real game-changer for our industry.
S: How do you think the industry will evolve over the next few years?
P: Energy efficiency will play a big part in industry over the next few years. The recent COP26 conference highlighted this. Big companies and small ones are committing to lowering their carbon footprints and reaching net zero. DPA produced a special newsletter and supplement around energy efficiency when COP26 was going on and it was great to hear about so many new energy-efficient products coming to the market. As a result of this move towards net zero, there is also a lot of new technology appearing. For example, hydrogen is becoming a big player, and the electrification of cars, planes, boats – you name it – all requires new technology. With the Government promising the UK will ban petrol and diesel by 2030, this is pushing the industry to move forward and evolve.
The adoption of robotics, smart technology and automation is also growing at an exponential rate. But whilst all these ideas, technologies and concepts are out there, industry, especially in the UK, has been slow to adopt them. However, I think that, over the next few years, we’ll see a lot more businesses rapidly adopt smart technology – and we already have, over the past few years, because Brexit and Covid-19 have pushed people to invest. Overall, digital transformation is the key to addressing any new challenges that manufacturers are going to experience over the next few years.
We at DPA will miss Paige immensely but wish her all the best in her next role. I very much look forward to taking over as Editor and having the opportunity to help the magazine to grow, as the industry navigates one of the most turbulent, yet exciting, eras it has ever faced.