Deep in thought, Gary Dills bounces a pencil against his chin to the beat of a George Harrison track. He’s studying a set of near-finished drawings spread across his monitor, looking for any improvements he might be able to make before he passes them on to a design engineer for final approval. After touching up a few lines, he bundles the diagrams into an email attachment and sends them on to the next phase of review.
“I’ve been doing this for quite a while, but it never hurts to go slow and double check your work one last time,” he says.
With more than 40 years of experience, Dills has a unique perspective on the art of creating mechanical drawings. And for almost 20 of those years, he’s used that perspective to help engineers at Vacuum Technology Incorporated (VTI) build industrial vacuum systems and leak detection equipment. Coordinating with VTI’s design team, Dills refines drafted schematics to make sure they adhere to VTI’s established drawing standards. He also plays a lead role in designing certain components of VTI’s vacuum systems, such as weldments and flanges. In every project he works on, Dills strives to provide VTI’s manufacturing staff with a set of job orders that clearly explains how to fabricate and assemble parts for industrial vacuum equipment.
“These plans follow a job from start to finish, and I want to be sure that they aren’t missing any information our guys in the shop might need to put these systems together,” says Dills.
Dills learned to draw while he was in the Army, where he helped officers prepare illustrations and diagrams for field maneuvers. After leaving the military, Dills spent 20 years working as a subcontractor for companies across East Tennessee, including Robert Shaw Industrial Products and Boeing.
“I’ve done a lot of R&D work, and that’s been helpful at VTI for standardization. We customize a lot of our systems, so being able to illustrate novel machines is really important,” says Dills.
Starting his VTI career in November of 2001, Dills’ attention to detail and fastidious organization quickly made him a critical asset in the design department. The vacuum equipment he’s helped produce for the past 19 years has positively impacted a wide variety of industries, from industrial manufacturing to defense.
“I think I’m most proud of getting to work on our SmartStations. At the time, that was a completely new product, and we needed to create a ton of documentation from scratch. It was cool getting to put all that together,” Dills says.
In his free time, Dills enjoys spending time with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He also enjoys restoring old cars. His current project is a 1966 Chevrolet stepside pickup truck.
“I’m always tinkering with something, and I guess that’s part of the reason why I like making engineering drawings. I get to mess with gadgets all day,” says Dills.