Meet Kadant Johnson's Newest Product Development Engineer
Allen Stupica recently joined Kadant Johnson as a product development engineer. Allen has an extensive background in product innovation and design, and most recently worked as a senior design engineer at Pratt-Whitney Aircraft in Lansing, Michigan. Allen has worked with various materials in the design and fabrication of machinery, rotating products, and structural components.
Below is a Q&A with Allen exploring his perspectives on his role at Kadant Johnson and his thoughts on product development.
Q: Tell me about your career path and how you came to Kadant.
A: Early on I had a keen interest in math. Additionally, I had a creative side and loved to design and draw stuff. Then I discovered that one of the aspects of engineering was creatively designing a gizmo that did something. A gizmo requiring mathematical calculations evaluating function, stresses, and strains, as well as a certain level of creativity to have it fit somewhere. Well, that sold me. I could combine my interest in math with my creative side. I then interviewed with an aerospace firm and was fascinated by the complexity of the various designs. It seemed as if all the disciplines and sciences that were studied in my engineering curriculum all came together in these product designs. The thermodynamics, the statics, and dynamics of structure, mechanical responses, etc., were all there in one product design. And since I studied all those disciplines, I thought I may as well go into aerospace.
After many years of working in aerospace with companies such as Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, Williams International, and Parker Hydraulic Systems Division (Aerospace), I was offered an opportunity to join Kadant Johnson. After reviewing the opportunity, it became apparent that the product line was technically challenging with many creative aspects associated with it. The people are also equally very capable and committed to a quality product. With a good camaraderie, they have become an industry leader while delivering a varied, complex product line and making it look easy. Seems like a very good place for me.
Q: How would you describe your approach to product design?
A: Years ago, one of the venerable ancient ones of engineering took me aside and shared with me the 3F’s of product design. They have become my basic, overall approach. The 3F’s are: Form, Fit, and Function. In “Form”, the product is required to have a form which supports the end customer’s overall installation and can be manufactured. In “Fit”, the product is required to fit together with any other adjacent hardware in the customer’s overall installation. Without the fit, the product will certainly have a difficult time in performing the “function” part of the 3F’s. This includes the product performing per expectations and being structurally sound.
Q: What is your favorite part of the product development process?
A: The creativity. What should the product look like to perform a function, fit together, and be formed (manufactured).
Q: What is a favorite product that you've worked on in your career?
A: I had the distinct pleasure of working on the design of the space shuttle main engine. I was one of few designers to work on the rotating components of the Liquid Oxygen pump side of the main engine. The other designers were experienced engineers of whom I considered it an honor to be associated. Additionally, I rubbed elbows with folks from NASA as well as other elite engineering firms involved in the program. To some extent I was star-struck. It was a very satisfying project and many of the various lessons learned have stayed with me.
Q: What words of wisdom would you give to someone starting out in engineering?
A: Engineers are fundamental in many industries: paper, automotive, fluid motion, aerospace. Select an industry that will continually challenge and require creativity. Take advantage of as much training as a company will provide and never stop learning. Lastly, do not be afraid to fail or to have work reviewed. That is where significant learning takes place, and how personal tools for the future are honed.
Q: What do you enjoy doing when you're not busy being an engineer?
A: I enjoy taking long walks in the woods with my golden retriever. When the weather cooperates, I also enjoy jumping on the motorcycle and exploring the countryside with my wife. We enjoy discovering the different “ma and pa” diners that are plentiful here in West Michigan.