From plants to buying plane parts: Alfred’s early career as an aerospace buyer

From plants to buying plane parts: Alfred’s early career as an aerospace buyer

Extraordinary people join Marshall at all stages of their careers – whether they’re apprentices starting out in the world of work or mid-career hires with years of experience under their belt.

Sitting somewhere between the two is Marshall Aerospace’s Alfred Burton, a recent graduate in Business Management, who joined Marshall in July 2023 as a trainee buyer.

Despite coming to Marshall straight from university, Alfred had already racked up two years of experience as a buyer’s assistant in the fast-moving world of retail before starting his studies.

We talk to Alfred about his initial experiences at Marshall so far – and how he has made the transition to aerospace.

Tell us about your role at Marshall

Currently I'm a trainee buyer, so I'm in the supply chain team. I'm operating under the repair and overhaul side for two of Marshall’s key European customers. I'll be expanding the scope of my work to additional customers as I progress through my role.

What does a typical day look like for you?

As I’m a new trainee, I’m still learning, so there’s a lot of attending client meetings and taking lots of notes.

Operators send their orders or requests related to aircraft parts that need to be fixed, inspected, or generally overhauled. I then analyse what needs to be done, and then send off the details to our suppliers for repair and inspection.

Obviously I also need to stay on top of whether the parts I've ordered have come in.

What made you decide to become a buyer?

Before I went to university, I spent two years working as a buyer's assistant for a company called QD. They're a retail shop and garden centre brand that operate in primarily East Anglia and other places in the country.

It was a similar role to the one I do now: on the trading floor, dealing with purchase orders, data input, and stock levels.

I’ve always liked trading or buying and selling things - that appeals to me. The idea of having multiple clients and communicating with people all over the planet, I think that's really, really cool. I’m dealing with people from Canada and United States to Europe.

How does being a buyer for Marshall compare to doing a similar role in retail?

In retail, I was dealing with huge volume, thousands of pieces of a product all the time, whereas now I'm dealing with one or two parts.

But surprisingly the value is the other way around. The value of these one or two aerospace parts are worth more than anything I was dealing with before.

As you’re new to aerospace, how easy is it learning all the different parts and what they do?

I'm learning a little bit every day. With some of them, it's obvious, like an oxygen mask is obviously an oxygen mask, whereas I have also purchased an APU – I’m not too sure about that one yet!

I’ve had a full tour and got to go on a few planes so far, which was exciting. The engineers have taken me around and showed me all the various bits and pieces, which was really cool.

I’ve also been able to handle parts directly, including a few really expensive ones, like a gyroscope. I felt very powerful when I was holding it!

What’s next for you in your role?

It’s still early days for me – but I will hopefully grow from just dealing with the parts that have been sent in for repair to overhaul to ultimately managing the whole cycle of parts for several of the operators we work with.

What made you want to join Marshall?

I’d lived in Cambridge for three years for university and stayed living here after finishing. I’d heard about Marshall, and I have always been fascinated by anything to do with aerospace and defence, so when I saw this job come up I knew I had to apply for it.

What have been your experiences of Marshall as a company so far?

As a company I've been really impressed by Marshall. The opportunities that I've been given so far have been great - the induction meetings, the tours of everywhere, the coffee meeting with the CEO.

I also like how Marshall diversifies its operations into so many strands. Seeing the theory side of business that I learned at university in operation has been really interesting.