The next generation

A Q&A with Lewis Wilkes, a project engineer at the UK’s Salamander Pumps, who won the World Pumps-sponsored Rising Star Award at this year’s Pump Industry Awards.

Lewis Wilkes at work at Salamander Pumps.
Lewis Wilkes at work at Salamander Pumps.

WP: How did it feel to win the Rising Star Award?

LW: It was a great feeling to even be shortlisted as a finalist for the Rising Star Award, never mind being announced as the overall winner. It was an honour to be recognised for my work within Salamander Pumps. However, for me, being able to share that moment with my colleagues in attendance, who have all played such a huge part in my career development, made winning the award so much better!

WP: Can you talk us through your career path so far?

LW: I joined Salamander Pumps at the age of 16 as an engineering apprentice. At the end of the 4-year apprenticeship, I was given the role of technical liaison engineer. I was in this role for two and a half years before being appointed as a project engineer which I have been doing for the last three years. Having been at Salamander Pumps for coming up to 9 years, I have worked in various departments including quality, manufacturing, and R&D departments. Initially my focus has been on product improvements, however, since completing my degree and becoming a project engineer my focus has shifted to new product development.

WP: How has Salamander Pumps supported your development?

LW: Salamander Pumps has greatly supported my development during my time with the company. The company funded a level 4 HNC (higher national certificate) in Mechanical Engineering and on top of that a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Teesside University. I completed these qualifications part time on a day release from work. In May 2022, I completed the bachelor’s degree with first class honours. Aside from academic qualifications, Salamander Pumps has sent me on several training courses including CAD, internal auditing, injection moulding, compliance and electric motor fundamentals to enhance my knowledge of processes used in my day-to-day role. This has been combined with the wealth of experience of my colleagues who I learn from and who support my development daily.

WP: Your first New Product Development project for Salamander Pumps was TapBoost, a single outlet booster pump, which launched last year. Can you talk about your role on the project?

LW: My role in leading this project involved designing the product on a CAD package, sourcing suitable components for the product with day-to-day liaising with the suppliers of these components, and testing and developing different iterations of design to find a working solution for the necessary applications. I was also fault finding and working with toolmakers to ensure the product was fit for manufacture. I managed meetings and worked with other departments within the company to ensure the product vision was aligned. I worked with the electronics engineer to develop the PCB which controls the product’s performance, set up product codes and component part numbers for ordering the components upon launch, created engineering drawings and cooperated with the quality department to ensure components were manufactured to standard and the product assembled and performed successfully. The role also involved organising compliance testing on the product to ensure it met the relevant standards for use in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

WP: What kind of projects are you now involved with?

LW: I am currently leading the TankBoost project which has launched in April. The TankBoost product is a further addition to Salamander Pumps’ existing mains water boosting product portfolio. What is exciting at Salamander Pumps is the fact everything is designed and manufactured on site, the TankBoost is a great example of investing in tooling so the product stands out from the crowd. This strategy is exciting, personally, as products being designed ground up means I am involved with new manufacturing techniques and processes. So, I’m constantly challenged and always learning.

WP: What would you say to any young person thinking of applying to work in the pump sector?

LW: I would highly recommend the industry to any engineer who has ambitions to develop and grow their skills. It is a highly demanding but very rewarding industry to work in with a lot of problem solving and challenges to overcome. I think it is important to mention how impactful an apprenticeship can be for a young aspiring engineer, over the conventional full-time university route into work. The workplace understanding you gain through an apprenticeship is unmatched, and you can experience this from a young age. This not only helps you develop your career early, but also matures you as a person. I would also recommend any young engineer to always be willing to learn and listen. You are learning something new from anyone you are working with day-to-day. Listen to these people and make notes – it is so important for your career development.

Lewis Wilkes (centre) receives his Rising Star Award from football legend Kevin Keegan (left) and World Pumps commercial manager David Binge (right) at the 2023 Pump Industry Awards. -


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