In 1964 I was looking for a change in job which would take me out of the laboratory environment and into manufacturing, preferably via process development. My interview at Common Road during October of that year seemed to offer that sort of opportunity.
It was only on joining the company in January the following year that I realised that any future personal development in that direction would be left entirely to me.
It was only after several years employment that I realised the reasons for my appointment. I had been left very much to my own devices with a brief to get to know the various processes and establish in my own mind the key points regarding the manufacturing of virtually all products produced in the Adhesives Factory. The reason for this was the fact that in those days many of the mixing/blending processes were controlled by factory personnel who resented any laboratory control over their “skills”. Very little was written down, and that which was, was not always adhered to! In those days I was not the most popular man on the factory floor.
The manufacturing side of the company (excluding Vik, where I had little or no involvement) was, in those days a little behind the times, most of the plant being second hand. Dr Simon’s philosophy regarding the buildings themselves however ensured that they were something of a showpiece with one well known exception (Building 36) for which I believe Dennis Poole (Chief Engineer) was never forgiven and eventually paid the price.
I am sure that pages have been written about Elias Peak and his team of factory supervisors, great characters many of them, but totally against change and modern production discipline, after all they had run it successfully themselves for years!
I well remenber in my very early days (circa ’66) long before production planning/control had been heard of, order processing decisions were made regularly at the Red Lion, Derrington. This was where Elias & John Mowells (Sales Manager) would meet on a regular basis. Their decisions would then be fed by Elias to the supervisors in their canteen which doubled up as Elias’ second office. He was rarely seen in his first one.
R. J. Edwards (Joe Edwards) was the first modern manager to take on the challenge of change. He was a man for whom I had the greatest regard. He was to be followed by many others over the next 30 years, all making their own contribution to the factory environment. One sensed that Joe and Elias worked together within an uneasy truce, Joe trying to introduce change, a discipline which Elias and his team of supporters fought hard to resist.
I spent some time in northern France working at a sister company carrying out process development work and a much longer period in Toronto at the Ercona factory. I returned to my relatively new department (Mastics) and started to cut my teeth on line management. Joe Edwards gave me the opportunity to study at the company's expense for three years part time for which I was always grateful.
Joe eventually resigned and John Binks (then Chief Engineer) took his place. Elias retired due to ill health and Colin Cooper took over as Production Manager. I was to become Colins deputy and temporary replacement in 1973.
The years were sometimes stimulating always frustrating trying to introduce changes, which were not welcome. A particularly stimulating point was coping with the three-day week when employment legislation did not exactly give the manager an easy time.
During this period the company underwent considerable change, some of which was caused by increased competition and costs. Inevitably this filtered down to factory level bringing about long overdue changes in its method of operation.
I eventually moved into Technical Service work which proved to be an excellent move from a personal point of view. Whilst it was perhaps not a ‘colourful’ as my earlier career in the organisation it did provide for a greater degree of job satisfaction and considerable travel opportunity.
2 August 2000