Principal Process Engineer

Job Ref: 2773656 | Type: Permanent / Full Time

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About The Role

Rocket Lab is seeking a highly experienced, extremely motivated and dynamic Process Engineer to join the dynamic production team at their Auckland, New Zealand facility.

They will lead and mentor a team of junior manufacturing engineers (ME’s) within our rapidly growing team. This engineering group supports all aspects of the Electron production line, from the propulsion team manufacturing the Rutherford and Curie engines, to mechanical and avionic assembly and composite manufacture. They support the assembly line technicians by creating the assembly work instructions, complete quality investigations, and develop process improvements.

The successful applicant will have managed direct reports before. The departmental Production Managers will have managerial responsibility over the ME team, but the Principal Engineer will be functionally responsible for the output of all Manufacturing Engineers at the Auckland facility.

The Principal Engineer and their team will be responsible for production line support and troubleshooting. They will have considerable experience in high paced, high volume manufacturing facilities, where seconds count and the supporting engineers must resolve issues quickly and efficiently. The assembly technicians are their customers - keeping them operating at maximum efficiency is a core deliverable for this team.

This role is not for someone who likes to sit at a desk all day. It requires active time on the production floor, investigating a problem at the source and running it down. The Principal Engineer will draw on their extensive practical background to work through to the simplest and most cost-effective solution. Excellent communication skills are a must, as conflicting priorities across multiple departments will need to be juggled to achieve the best result.

Where issues on the production line occur, the Principal Engineer will use their experience in quality analysis to triage the problem and minimise the disruption. They will draw on their knowledge in 6 Sigma and Root Cause Analysis, to thoroughly investigate the issue and ensure that procedures and/or design improvements are implemented to prevent it from recurring.

The Electron launch vehicle production process involves thousands of hours of detailed hand assembly across multiple different trade skills. The Principal Process Engineer will be an expert in Value Stream Mapping and process optimisation. With a background in Continuous Improvement, they will be expected to be constantly looking to optimise the assembly process to reduce cost and takt time, and improve reliability, either with waste reduction or re-engineering.

Where a requirement to change a process is identified, the Principal Engineer will lead the Process Mapping Review and then own the change from concept through to implementation.

The Principal Process Engineer will be expected to be able to provide technical support to the design teams with upcoming design changes. Evaluation of manufacturability and production optimisation. They will be responsible for ensuring that new designs can be integrated into the production line in a planned, considered method, with a minimum of disruption to the assembly flow. This will involve attending design reviews, assisting with qualification testing and developing the production process for implementation.

The ME team are responsible for writing the work instructions that document the assembly process of Electron, ensuring repeatability and reliability. These work instructions form the backbone of all manufacturing operations, capturing all procedures, quality steps, and test results. Their consistency, completeness and simplicity will be the responsibility of the ME team, and ultimately the Principal Engineer, to maintain and update.

By having oversight of all Manufacturing Engineers, the Principal Process Engineer will be responsible for ensuring that standard practices are followed across the company. In many cases, they may be responsible for the creation of these standard practices. They will be the senior reviewer of work instructions to ensure that these practices are implemented.

The health and safety of all staff is a primary concern at Rocket Lab, and the Principal Engineer will be involved in the creation of new policies and procedures to protect staff from harm and ensuring that these policies are implemented and followed at all times.

Skills & Experience required
  • A Mechanical Engineering degree or similar is a minimum requirement
  • Practical, hands-on experience in both professional and personal environments. Ideally in one or more areas of precision mechanical assembly, avionics/electronics, additive manufacturing, or composite manufacture
  • At least 15 years professional experience in complex design and manufacturing environments. Ideally production lines with a significant proportion of hand assembly
  • Be able to demonstrate an excellent working knowledge of value stream mapping, statistical process control. A background in Lean manufacturing and 6 Sigma is a bonus
  • Experience in process analysis and re-engineering. Demonstrated history of designing and implementing process change in a manufacturing environment
  • Experience in writing technical reports and assembly instructions. Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, is a must
  • Proven experience in managing a team of direct reports

For security reasons background checks will be undertaken prior to any employment offers being made to an applicant.  These checks will include nationality checks as it is a requirement of this position that you be eligible to access equipment and data regulated by the United States’ International Traffic in Arms Regulations.  Under these Regulations, you may be ineligible for this role if you do not hold citizenship of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, the European Union or a country that is part of NATO, or if you hold ineligible dual citizenship or nationality. For more information on these Regulations, click here.

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