Kirsty Crofton | Feedback From the Floor, Purdue, & Toothpaste Boxes
Kirsty Crofton shares her wonderfully effective experience at Purdue training to become an engineer (definitely look into this if you’re thinking about an education in engineering!). She also tells us about how to work with operators on the floor to identify and correct problems that might be harder for the engineering team to identify, and relates a terrific anecdote about toothpaste boxes and solving problems using the KISS principle.
EXPAND TO VIEW EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION
engineer, engineering, product, purdue, operators, people, women, edwards, problem, manufacturing, big, kirsty, bit, thought, class, ideas, biomedical, year, highs, internship
Aaron Moncur, Kirsty Crofton
Aaron Moncur 00:13
Welcome to the being an engineer podcast. Our guest today is Kirsty Crofton who is a biomedical engineer with a master’s degree in engineering management. Kirsty has worked in fields ranging from test engineer to quality engineer to new product development and r&d management and is currently employed at Edwards Lifesciences Kirsty, welcome to the podcast.
Kirsty Crofton 00:39
Thanks so much for having me.
Aaron Moncur 00:40
You’re very welcome. All right. So let’s dig in here. Why did you Kirsty, decide to become an engineer?
Kirsty Crofton 00:48
Yeah. So I mean, I think it goes all the way back to high school. I just naturally had a love for STEM. I always loved math. I always loved science. And I think what I liked about it is that there is a way to solve the problem. And there’s a way to think about it. And actually, in high school, I had the opportunity. In my AP chemistry class, a speaker came in and talked about, hey, you know, we’re trying to plug some high schoolers into summer internships and to some local companies here in our town, which was in The Woodlands, Texas. And you know, my ears perked up because of the hourly rate, to be honest with you. Sure,
Aaron Moncur 01:37
nothing wrong with that. Yeah.
Kirsty Crofton 01:39
They said, You know, this summer internship would be paying, I think it was like $12 an hour, which was, you know, in comparison to my $9 an hour, lifeguarding and so I said, Sign me up. And I got into an internship at a chemical company called Huntsman. And I worked in their lab testing, I worked with their tech, their technicians and labs doing tensile testing, compression, testing, humidity, temperature, everything, you name it. And it was a really fun experience. And so from that point on, I thought, Okay, I want to be an engineer. And I really like kind of a hands on I love problem solving. And so that kind of led me to go to Purdue University, which is in Indiana, so I head out to the Midwest and absolutely loved it. And one of the reasons why I went to Purdue University is because you don’t actually declare what type of engineer you are your first year. So the first year engineering all engineers are together because you take the basics, you know, calculus, chemistry, physics, etc. And throughout the year, they kind of introduce you to every single type of engineering major that they have. And I kept going back to biomedical. I was fascinated every speaker that came in to talk to us I was, you know, I never missed a class. I wanted to hear more, I read articles about, you know, what we were doing and the medical device industry. And so, yeah, for my sophomore year, I declared to be a biomedical engineer. And then from there on, I took internships in various different fields. And I’ve never looked back since I love biomedical engineering, I love medicine, I love the idea of helping patients. So it’s been a great experience.
Aaron Moncur 03:35
That’s really cool that at Purdue, you don’t declare a specific, you know, field within engineering right off the bat, you’re exposed to all these different fields. That’s a great way of doing it I that my my experience was was different. You know, I had to figure it out. I think I started with manufacturing engineering, and then I changed it soon to mechanical engineering. But tell me, what else about Purdue because Purdue I mean, that’s kind of a big name, right? I’m sure every now and then right. In your own head, you’re like, Yeah, I’m kind of a big deal with my own horn here. But ya know, what else? What else? Purdue was maybe different or unique from other other universities? You think?
Kirsty Crofton 04:18
Yeah. So I mean, the main reason why I went there is because I knew I wanted to be an engineer, but I didn’t know what kind. And they have. Every every type of engineer you could possibly think of. Actually, a little side note, they even have something called imaginary engineering there, which is something that if there’s not a specific kind of title of a degree that you are interested in, I had a buddy who went into he did something like acoustic engineering, and he made up this this basically degree because he was interested of how to optimize sound and theatres and so on. was fascinated by this, this culture of engineering, but having that diversity on campus, you know, not being so just defined and the way that the biomedical program was set up is we actually took semesters or even years in different focuses. So I did basically a year of pre med, I did a semester of electrical engineering, I did about a year of mechanical engineering, and I really got this mix, which was really great. And I think they, they did a fantastic job just kind of dipping your feet in so many different areas. And then the recruiting process was really great, too. So they’re, they’re known for their engineering. So a lot of companies come to the university and, and that’s how I got exposed to some companies like Abbott and Zimmer. That’s how I got my internships. And then that kind of fell into me going out to California to work for Edwards Lifesciences. So, I mean, obviously, a little biased, but I mean, I’m a huge fan of a big 10. I’m a big fan of Purdue and I even have recruited a few fellow Boilermakers to come out to California to work for AdWords. So I’m pretty happy.
Aaron Moncur 06:22
That’s fantastic. I love the process. They’re getting to almost create your own degree, imaginary engineering, is that
Kirsty Crofton 06:31
true? I wouldn’t say very common, but it is a thing.
Aaron Moncur 06:36
But it’s, it’s accepted, at least, I’m surprised because it sounds for lack of a better term here. It sounds a little bit like hippy, New Age free world, you know, and I wouldn’t have thought of Purdue that way. They’re very, you know, established traditional organization. So how cool to hear that they have a very free open process like that. I love it. Did you have some kind of like, counselor that that kind of guided you and helped you decide this? This might be a good grouping of classes to take? Or was it all up to you to figure out which which classes?
Kirsty Crofton 07:12
Yeah, so you know, that we take, we all take what’s called first year engineering, and part of that class is getting you exposed, and then bringing in speakers from different industries, you might do class projects that are geared towards certain types of focuses. For example, I took a one credit class and nuclear engineering, just for the hell of it to say what is new, I had no idea what nuclear engineering was. Yeah. And you know, throughout that I had thought about biomedical prior to even going to Purdue. And I really liked the program there. And actually, they don’t have this any more. But to get into the biomedical school, you actually have to take an exam to get in to your sophomore year. And part of the exam, it’s not like a exam on any of your subjects is actually kind of like a personality test. And part of the exam was actually they brought in, they bring in an object and you have a certain amount of time to come up with as many medical devices or medical applications as you could possibly think of with this object. For my year, when I got tested, they brought in a Starbucks lid, like one of those plastic lids. And I firstly have like five minutes or something like that to come up with as many medical devices as you can think of.
Aaron Moncur 08:45
Anything that you came up with. I’m really,
Kirsty Crofton 08:48
yeah, you know, I patch. I don’t know you can use the little the little cut out, you know, to disperse things. Aiko, I don’t know,
Aaron Moncur 09:02
dental floss? Yeah, there’s many a lot of medical cards.
Kirsty Crofton 09:07
Yeah, and so yeah, for net then on. We had a decently small class of bmes, I think there was about 66, maybe 70 of us and in the program, and that year, and you get to be really close with those people. And I am still in contact with them today. And it’s really cool to see where they’ve kind of turned out and in the markets, and some of them went to med school. So really cool.
Aaron Moncur 09:35
Well, I’m becoming more and more a fan of Purdue here. This is this is great. If there are people out there who are maybe thinking about going into engineering, they’re not yet in university. I mean, Purdue to me, it sounded like a really great option. What are Are there any things that people can do you think to increase their chances of getting in? Because that’s a pretty competitive university.
Kirsty Crofton 09:58
Yeah. You know, I think The obvious thing would be, you know, do well in school, you know, get the good grades, do you know extracurricular activities, sports or organizations in your community, that kind of thing. And, I mean, I had spoke about I happen to kind of stumble across an internship as as a high schooler, and I think that’s pretty uncommon. But at the same time, I think there’s ways to get involved in companies or in your community that go a little bit above and beyond other, you know, students to kind of set yourself apart. And I think, you know, make sure that you’re, you’re looking at all your different options. You know, it is kind of a scary thought that you’re 1819 years old, and you’re moving away from home for the first time, and you’re making a decision of what’s my, you know, 3540 years is going to look like in my career, it’s Yeah, right. Yeah. Right. And so you want to explore all your options, but, but also be okay to make a change. You know, I personally didn’t do it. But I have many, many friends who went into a degree and thought, you know, what, I need to make a change. This isn’t right. And that’s okay.
Aaron Moncur 11:23
So totally. Okay. Well, like you said, right. I mean, you’re 1819 years old, you’re still really young, when you’re trying to make this huge life decision. Like, I’m setting the trajectory for the rest of my life. What do I want it to be? No pressure, right. But if I know, I know. And I love what you said about setting yourself apart, right? Doing something that’s maybe a little bit unique or different. In your case, you found this internship, that’s huge. I mean, in my experience, I got a great foundational education in college, but like, I didn’t really know how to do stuff for an engineering company. Until I had an internship. That’s where I really learned, you know, the nuts and bolts of of engineering is actually doing the work. So the fact that you were able to do it that young, in high school, that’s that’s fantastic. So that was Huntsman?
Kirsty Crofton 12:18
Is that right? Huntsman? Yeah. This is
Aaron Moncur 12:21
going to probably stretch your memory a little bit, because I know it was a while ago, but one of the things I read on your LinkedIn page was you did some testing for TempurPedic. Mattress mattresses. Yeah, yeah. And I, I’m a huge fan of memory foam mattresses, I’ve never been able to afford the TempurPedic. Because at least back in the day, they were super expensive. I remember, they’re like, five $6,000 For this mattress. And I always wondered, What is so special about their foam that that warrants a $5,000 price tag, they’re not that expensive anymore. But back in the day, they were Do you remember any like really special or unique properties about their memory foam that that like other mattresses just didn’t have?
Kirsty Crofton 13:07
Yeah, no, I remember we would do temperature control. So you would put, you know, samples into some sort of oven or do some sort of humidity test, and then you would do compression testing afterwards. So you’re trying to weather it. And I’m assuming, you know, if you’re putting into some type of oven, you’re trying to age it in a way, like how many years does this mattress actually hold its properties? You know, I can’t tell you I’m any sort of expert on on those mattresses as I did that testing when I was back when I was 18. But I am assuming that it has to do with you know the quality that it can maintain this this memory after so many uses, right? You’re not bed every, every night, you’re in that same position, you’re putting compression down and that same part of the mattress, how is it going to still come back to life after all that time?
Aaron Moncur 14:04
Right, right. Yeah, we we want it to be a memory in it’s an slept on state but not in the slept on state right? After a lot of material. Yeah. All right. Let’s see. You’ve talked about being you know, in medicine and biomedical engineering. And one of the things that you’re passionate about is this paradigm shift in medicine. And I was hoping that you could Tech Talk a little bit about that. What is it that you find so compelling about this topic? Yeah.
Kirsty Crofton 14:35
So this is a little bit more personal. It’s not so much from like an AdWords and AdWords is obviously looking into a lot of this. And right now I’m actually working in a department of Edwards Lifesciences called advanced technology. And the reason why I was so interested in going to this department versus some of the other ones and within AdWords is because of law. looking at, what are potential things that we can come up with, in terms of really pushing the boundaries of medical device, medical therapies that are that are going to be the market shifts in the future. So if you think about, you know, going to the doctor when you were a child versus going to the doctor, now, some of the changes that are happening with patients is, is we’re more inclined to do research on her on her own right, if you feel sick, or you have some type of symptoms, what’s one of the first things you do, you go on your phone? You go on, you know, web, MD, and you’re Googling it. And usually it says something like, you have cancer, you know, and it starts to starts to freak you out. But, you know, all jokes aside, patients are becoming almost, you know, quote, doctors on their own. And I say that very jokingly, because I think some patients think that they know what’s going on when they don’t. But you know, I think this idea that we have so much data at our fingertips, and patients are more in tune with their health, I think, you know, especially this year, health is a big deal with COVID. And people are starting to, to understand that knowing your body is really important. And so how do we as a medical device company, coming up with therapies, knowing that shift and patience? How do we tune into that? You know, actually, right now I’m wearing an Apple Watch, right? I know exactly how many steps I’ve, I’ve taken today, I know exactly how many calories I burned in my workout? How can I use that information, and apply that to you know, my, my, my physician, and use that sort of information to tailor individualized therapies. And I think that’s a fascination of mine, I think in the past, you, you go to a doctor, you go, you know, to a specialist, and you say, here’s all my symptoms, and they might treat you like they would treat anybody. Right. But maybe that’s not the right treatment for you as an individual. And I think the the power of data, and what to do with the data is going to be a very interesting shifts, and how we think about medicine.
Aaron Moncur 17:31
Is there anything that you can share that Edwards or not even Edwards, necessarily just kind of the healthcare, medical device industry in general, is starting to work on that, that we might see, you know, 2345 years from now that that fits into that kind of cutting edge technology category?
Kirsty Crofton 17:49
Yeah, I mean, I can’t talk too, specifically about any projects I work on, but I think it keep your eyes open for digital health. I think that’s a big, kind of, you know, change, even looking at Apple looking at Google, what are they doing? Where are their patents going? And it’s a change from a regulatory sense to look at the FDA. How are they trying to change how we approved devices and prove technology and apps? It’s fascinating. It’s fascinating work, because where do you draw the line in terms of therapy? So for example, if all of a sudden a patient is monitoring their own health, and it gives them alerts, let’s say you have diabetes, or something like that, it gives them alerts. Does that mean that they need to make their own medical decision to increase or decrease a certain medication? Or do we still need to make that loop back to the physician? Or do Do we just validate that treatment from a from a software standpoint? Yeah, it’s it’s a very complex conversation. And I’m just fascinated to see where it goes. Because I think there’s a lot of benefits to have I think the digital world has moved way faster than medicine has caught up with yet. That’s
Aaron Moncur 19:15
yeah, yeah. Yeah. Very cool. I’m gonna move on to kind of a different subject here. So, you, you were in what I hope I can fairly describe as a predominantly male oriented industry, what has your experience been like as a woman in engineering? Have you seen you know, much male chauvinism or gender based? Just one way or another? How has that been for you?
Kirsty Crofton 19:51
Yeah, you know, so I would first start by saying biomedical engineering to actually has a lot of woman it at Purdue. I’m pretty sure My class was about 60%. Woman. Yeah, yeah.
Aaron Moncur 20:04
Why do you think that is? What? Why are all the female engineers flocking to biomed?
Kirsty Crofton 20:09
I think it has to do you know, medicine, nursing, you do have a lot of females kind of moving in that direction. I think it’s a sense of the science kind of STEM. But it’s not like this. And I want to be careful, highest tariffs, I don’t even know if this is what I mean. But it’s not this, like scary big machinery, kind of dirt, my husband’s a civil engineer. Right, and he doesn’t work with any females, it’s a very, kind of very male dominated. And I also think when when, you know, some women start to go in a certain field, other women follow, right, those those kind of mentors, or people that kind of say, Hey, you should try this out, you know, come over here. Yeah. Right. So I think that’s part of it. But yeah, I mean, you know, even with that being said, I would say it’s still very male dominated in, in the industry, especially, so I used to work in manufacturing, engineering. And that is, for sure, very male dominated, I mean, just to, you know, give an example, to go on a cleanroom, you’re not allowed to wear makeup, you’re not allowed to wear jewelry, no perfume, no skirts, or dresses, you can’t even have your feet showing, so flats, you have to wear socks. Anyway, it’s a very, not what you would think, as a woman, you know, going, you know, into industry. And so, you know, saying that, I think there’s some struggles that you see, you know, women, and not all, you know, I definitely want to put that out there, not all, but I definitely see some woman being a little bit quieter, or maybe a little bit more reserved. Or maybe if we have a big meeting, Edwards has these conference rooms where there’s a big table in the middle, and then there’s kind of like an outside bench. Now a lot of women just will go to the bench, they don’t go to the main table. And and you know, at Edwards, we have kind of created some network of women groups, and we’ve encouraged women to make more of a presence, make your voice heard sit at the table, you were invited to the meeting, we want to hear what you have to say. You know, and I think the higher that I go up the ranks, the less and less I see. You know, just just to give you a crazy statistics, there are more CEOs in the world with a CEO named John, than there are women CEOs. You’re kidding. No.
Aaron Moncur 23:00
Wow. That’s a crazy statistic. Yeah.
Kirsty Crofton 23:04
John’s as a CEO, than woman. So, you know, it’s, I don’t think anyone you know, argues the fact that it’s not a problem, it is a problem. It’s almost an every single industry. And how do we address it? And how do we diversify? You know, those top leaders, and it’s not just, it’s not just male and female, it’s, it’s, we need diversity, you need people to not be looking like you, if you’re sitting on a table with a bunch of us around,
Aaron Moncur 23:39
you’re gonna come up with the same ideas that you come up with, right? Yeah, we had a guest out a month or two ago, Margaret Cougar Ward on the show, and she was talking about the same issue. And I think that she’s done quite a bit of research just into the anatomical or biological differences between men and women. And one thing she mentioned was, there’s this connection, I don’t remember what it was some bundle of nerves in your in your brain that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain. And she said that, anatomically, it’s larger in women than it is in men. And as a result of that women tend to be better equipped to connect different thinking spheres of their brain than men. And, you know, as a result of that, they’re able to come up with different ideas, not necessarily better or worse ideas, but different ideas than than their male counterparts might come up with. So I echo what you said for sure. Diversity is just going to make Product Development and Engineering and brainstorming and creativity that much better.
Kirsty Crofton 24:46
Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. I mean, the more diversity you have, the better the innovation, for sure.
Aaron Moncur 24:53
Well, this is a good time to take a quick pause and remind the audience that the being an engineer Our podcast is powered by pipeline design and engineering, where we work with medical device engineering teams who need turnkey custom test fixtures or automated equipment to assemble, inspect, characterize or perform verification or validation testing on their devices. And you can find us at test fixture design.com. We’re speaking with Kirsty Crofton, who currently works at Edwards Lifesciences as an r&d associate manager. We’re gonna go back just a little bit from before you were at Edwards, you mentioned manufacturing, you had a role in manufacturing. I think one of your roles when you’re working at Abbott was to promote safety within the manufacturing groups. And I wondered what what were some of the common safety issues that you found? And and how did you resolve them? And and another thought on this is, it seems to me like, like changing those behaviors is really an exercise in adjusting human behavior. And I wonder, was there was there an element to that? And how did you incorporate that?
Kirsty Crofton 26:03
Yeah, so I went out to work for Abbott, in my early years in college, and I went out to work for a nutrition plant. And so this is where Abbott makes Pedialyte, PD Asscher and zone bars, those energy bars. And so this was my first kind of taste of massive types of manufacturing. I mean, the automation, the big lines, you have day shift and night shift, it was fascinating. I still love it. I love factoring. And, you know, as an intern, you know, having my summer projects, one of the things was to Yeah, evaluate safety. And I think the most important thing, you know, as an engineer, working in manufacturing is making sure that you spend the time to get to know the operators get to know the technicians get to know the people running the equipment, running the lines, on that particular lines a little bit harder for me to actually run a product. At Edwards, for example, as a manufacturing engineer, I would go and build my own product. Because how am I supposed to be an engineer, and come up with better processes or change procedures or whatnot, if I don’t physically know how to do it myself, I would start there. And some of the things in terms of safety, of course, you have your ergonomics. And you have, you know, in big production like that, you know, the safety of the operators is very important. You have big machinery going through, you have people walk, there’s certain ways to walk, that kind of thing. And so you really have to make sure that you’re living the life of an operator, and why are they doing the practices that they’re doing? You know, there’s, there’s some kind of stories of people getting hurt, or maybe doing a motion continuously, you know, that hurts the wrist or something like that. And the only way you’re gonna fix it is if you watch it and observe it and talk to them and ask questions, and what are their ideas to make it better? You know, there was this one story, and I hope I don’t butcher it, but there is a toothpaste manufacturer. And you know, those little travel toothpaste boxes. Sure, you have a little tube of toothpaste in there that one of the manufacturers was having a big issue with accidentally shipping out empty boxes. So when, you know, the customer opens the box, there wasn’t a toothpaste in the box. And so they they hired a third party kind of consultant to come in and do this massive process optimization, and they came up with this really fancy scales. So you know, they would be weighing the product before it got out to the customers to make sure that the the tube of toothpaste actually had the product in it. Yeah, I mean, the box of toothpaste had the product in it. And after a few months, the CEO was like, Hey, did we fix anything? And they said, No, actually, we haven’t caught any. And and they said, well, there’s no there’s no customer complaints. There’s been no empty boxes sent out and so the CEO goes down to the line and one of the operators just has a little fan sitting at his station. That is you know, spinning the air. And so as the assembly line goes down with the cardboard box with the tube of toothpaste in it, it just blows off if it’s too light $5 fan, that an operator just that well. Nobody asked me how to fix
Aaron Moncur 29:48
a consultant agency wasn’t much more expensive than that.
Kirsty Crofton 29:54
So I tell that story, and I love it just because it tells you You sometimes as engineers, we tend to over complicate things, we go down, we want to fix all these problems. We have all these grand ideas when something so simple from somebody who does that operation every day has had the idea start there.
Aaron Moncur 30:20
I couldn’t agree more. I think that as engineers, there’s almost this inherent, conflicting motivation where for our company, and for the product that we’re developing, we, of course, want to develop something that’s as simple as possible, as easy as possible. But then, as engineers, we’re kind of geared towards looking at a complexity and and creating solutions for complex problems. And so there’s almost this this itch that we want to scratch of, like, let’s do something hard, you know, let’s do this, like, really complicated. Put some sensors in here and a bunch of motion control and some automation, because that’s awesome. And we love it. Or we could do a fan,
Kirsty Crofton 31:04
right? Yeah. Right. Now I know. And I’ve seen that I’ve seen engineers do that from like, a product design standpoint. Sometimes, you know, they’re, they’re designing this fancy handle or fancy catheter that does XYZ. And it’s like, well, have you asked the customers? Does that matter? Do they care about that? Yeah. Oh, no, you know, and it’s like, Why? Why are we doing?
Aaron Moncur 31:31
This is fun.
Kirsty Crofton 31:32
Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Aaron Moncur 31:35
All right. Let’s see, I’m not sure where this was, but you did some studies on on gauge r&r hours. And I wanted to dig into that a little bit. Because a lot of what we do, has to do with gauge on ours, we do a lot of test fixtures and equipment and that kind of thing, kind of run us through the process of a gauge r&r, and then maybe speak a little bit to during the study that you did did, did you find any, like, common gauging equipment to be more or less reliable than than other types of equipment?
Kirsty Crofton 32:06
Yeah, yeah. So gauge r&r is, you know, especially I did a stent in quality engineering. And in making sure that your tests methods are valid for whatever you want to do. You got you got to start there, right? If you’re trying to measure something, or or trying to use it as a, you know, a sense of this product is good, or this process is good, but you haven’t really evaluated the test method, then then it’s, it’s not helpful at all right? So I think whenever you’re looking at some sort of testing, you know, doing a simple gauge r&r, and you don’t have to overcomplicate it, either just look at you know, pull three operators, have them do the measurement three times three track trials, you know, etc. And doing it pretty quickly get a sense, get a ballpark of how reproducible is this? You know, if you know, I’m measuring it, versus you’re measuring it, and we’re getting completely different, then then there’s a problem. Right? And, and again, I kind of go back to I’ve dealt with some test methods, again, that we have a grand idea of how to measure something, you do a gauge r&r, and it’s, it’s not as good as you think, ask the operator again, you know, get their input. Why is that? Why are you getting outliers? I’ve done it to where it’s okay, we looked at a test method, and it’s three operators, and one of them was way off. But the other two were spot on. Why? Why is that? Did you spend more time with the other two training? Did they have a certain technique? are they holding the measuring equipment or the sample differently? You know, if you’re gonna do it I videoed before, just to look at you know, simple things of how a person lays a product on a table can make a big difference. How do you make sure
Aaron Moncur 34:14
a lot of what I’m hearing from you is is really interesting, it almost sounds like like, you have the the inner spirit of a human factors designer or a few human factors engineers that and that’s something that you’ve looked into or even Yeah, played a role in in the past for sure.
Kirsty Crofton 34:33
Yeah. This is kind of how I think about it. You know, people talk about leadership and you know, they talk about how important listening is. And I think turning that to engineering, I think the kind of synonym of of listening is watching. Right, like the power of listening in a meeting. It’s kind of similar to like if you’re dealing with design I interact or operations or manufacturing is just watching that that’s your type of listening. Listening to the process listening to the product is watching. Yeah, seeing how it’s, you know, being held seeing how people are using a fixture using equipment. From a manufacturing standpoint, from an r&d standpoint, I think watching your product, you know, for me, watching my products in the cath lab, you know, in and hospital is so different than being in the lab. I’m like, Oh, why would they hold it like that? You know, like, oh, that’s where we need to make this shorter, you know, this, this TAVR device, we need to make it shorter. It’s too long, you know? Yeah, things like that. Very simple, but very easy to be overlooked.
Aaron Moncur 35:53
What are what are the problems that you most enjoy solving? And if you can think of one maybe share an experience or a story in which you got to solve that kind of problem?
Kirsty Crofton 36:03
Yeah. Oh, man solving problem. I mean, that’s just the bread and butter in which I write I mean, I personally love investigations, I get this weird, you know, sense of adrenaline when we have a problem, we got to figure it out. I love to do it. And you know, it some, some are very serious, I’ve had to deal with pretty serious investigations and medical device, you know, launching a new product, you in turn learn things, right, that this product is being used for the first time, we’re challenging the design, we’re giving it to new physician. So I’ve dealt with anything from a very simple investigation that takes one day to think that I’ve been on an investigation that took me three years to figure out. Yeah. So one, one example, I’ll let you know, as we started getting complaints about one of our products and from the fields. And so we quickly, you know, call some of our hospitals, hey, can you can you send back some of the product from that same lot? Let me look at it. So we go, and we take this product, and I immediately again, I go down to the floor, and I show it to my operators, you know, I’m looking at him like, it looks fine. Give it to my operators. And they’re immediately Oh, but this is this is a problem, we forgot a step like a skiving step. And we were like, well, why How did this happen? And we found out that this lot was coming from another location that Edwards has, we have different manufacturing locations. And so you know, fast forward a lot of investigation, why were we only getting it from this one manufacturing site versus the other? It turns out that was in in California, where it kind of like the r&d product development. And what we do is we transfer the manufacturing process to our big manufacturing plants. And in that transferred, manufacturing, knowledge was lost, right. So we had an operation step. And it was it was called out in the procedure, but not really well defined. And so in Irvine, and California, all the operators were trained by the the operators who had been on that product for so long, so they knew to do it. But when we transferred it, that knowledge got loss, interesting, you know, it just shows you the importance of you have to document things, you have to miss mistake proof things, you have to make sure that you’re most skilled operator technician is not going to be the person that makes every single product, you know, bringing in someone new off the street needs to be able to pick up your procedure and make that product. So something so simple, can turn into two year investigation.
Aaron Moncur 39:17
That’s a great story. Thank you for sharing that. What are a few of the biggest challenges that you encounter in your role?
Kirsty Crofton 39:27
Challenges? You know, for me, I tend to take things very personally. So you know, I’m, you know, I kind of joke I’m like married to my products, I care about them a lot. And so when they go out to the field for the first time or launching a new product, it’s very stressful, you know, going into that first patient, that second patient you know, it I think for me, that’s a challenge because if something goes. And you know, for the most part, we’re, we have these quality systems set up. So our products are safe. But let’s say manufacturing issue gets slipped out or, or maybe a design, you know, flaw comes up that we should have optimized. I take that very hard, almost too hard, you know, and it really gets down. But um, so I think that that’s a big challenge for me in this field of work.
Aaron Moncur 40:27
Yeah, being so emotionally invested in this this baby, right, this product that helped create, yeah,
Kirsty Crofton 40:34
it’s a class three medical device. But then, you know, on the other end, it’s what motivates me, right? That’s what gets me out to work every day. It’s what makes me want to work harder, you know, it, it naturally has that motivation, because you’re helping people. Yeah. So
Aaron Moncur 40:57
you could choose to have a role or a career where, you know, everything is kind of even keel, right. There aren’t huge peaks and huge valleys, but you don’t get maybe down very often. But you also don’t get those highs. Or you could choose something like you where you’re really emotionally invested, which means you have these high highs and these really low lows, right, when things go wrong. That’s a big deal. And but when things go, right, that’s also a huge deal. I’m guessing that your preference is towards the latter.
Kirsty Crofton 41:29
Yeah, and for the most part, it is, you know, like the the, the amount of people that we save is so much larger than the amount of cases that don’t go as well. And even when I’m talking about don’t go as well, the case may have been fine. You know, the patient got a therapy and walked away. The patient may not even know that anything went wrong. But maybe there was something that wasn’t optimal, you know? Yeah. And so yeah, if you take that you take that hard. Yeah.
Aaron Moncur 42:00
Great. All right. Well, well, Kirsty. I don’t want to keep you too long here. But this has been a delightful conversation. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to talk with me. Before I let you go, how, how can people get a hold of you?
Kirsty Crofton 42:13
Yeah, yeah. So, um, you know, LinkedIn is a great platform. Ya know, I think it’s awesome to kind of see different articles, different professionals on there. So that’s a great avenue. And then if you have any specific questions, I’m totally open. You can always email me my personal email. It’s Kirstycrafton@gmail.com. So that’s Kirstycrafton at Gmail.
Aaron Moncur 42:44
Excellent. All right. Well, Kirsty, thank you again, so much for being on the podcast.
Kirsty Crofton 42:48
Thank you. Bye, have a good day.
Aaron Moncur 42:54
I’m Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design, and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please leave us a positive review. It really helps other people find the show. To learn how your engineering team can leverage our team’s expertise in developing turnkey custom test fixtures, automated equipment and product design, visit us at test fixturedesign.com. Thanks for listening.
We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Being an Engineer Podcast.
Help us rank as the #1 engineering podcast on Apple and Spotify by leaving a review for us.
Find us under the category: mechanical engineering podcast on Apple Podcasts.
Being an Engineer podcast is a go-to resource and podcast for engineering students on Spotify, too.
Aaron Moncur and Rafael Testai love hearing from their listeners, so feel free to email us, connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and subscribe on Apple Podcast and Spotify!
About Being an Engineer
The Being An Engineer podcast is brought to you by Pipeline Design & Engineering. Pipeline partners with medical device and other product engineering teams who need turnkey equipment such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation equipment, assembly jigs, inspection stations and more. You can find us on the web at https://teampipeline.us
You’ve read this far! Therefore, it’s time to turn your headphones up and listen now to this episode to learn all these. Don’t forget to tell your friends who might like this too!