As one of the longest serving members of staff at Redhill Manufacturing, Works Manager, Kevin Balcombe, has seen a lot of change over the years. Here, we catch up with him and see how he has helped the company evolve.
When did you start working at Redhill and what was your position?
I joined Redhill on 1st August 1983 as a 17-year-old apprentice, learning the basics and redrawing all 50 products in the range. This was organised through local company, Segta. After six months, I went on the shop floor and spent a couple of years learning how the company operated.
How did you progress?
While on the shop floor, I worked in the ‘prep’ section, learning about paint spraying and assembly, and gaining a forklift truck licence. By 1985, when I was 19, I was helping to run the shop floor. As an apprentice, I worked four days at Redhill and attended college for one day, gaining a City & Guilds qualification in engineering in 1987.
What came next?
In 1987, I was offered a position as a buyer and moved back into the office. In 1989, I was promoted to Works Manager, assuming responsibility for running the shop floor and updating drawings of the now hugely increased product range. Over the next few years, I helped resource the workplace with new machinery and new ideas.
What impact did you have on the company at this time?
In 1992, I went to Italy to look at a new tube-bending machine made by Pedrazzoli. On 5th January 1993, we took delivery of the first CNC tube-bending machine in the UK. This was a turning point for Redhill, as I was able to program the machine from a computer in my office and later linked to the main server and eventually all our buying was computerised. I learned about spreadsheets, today operating literally hundreds to control the manufacturing process.
Did you introduce any other new systems?
I helped set up Redditek Systems, introducing new units and helping each department to improve and grow. In 2007, Redhill took over Redditek, which involved Andy Colley, Operations Director, and myself moving all machinery, equipment and staff into our current factory units.
Any other achievements & qualifications?
Yes. I took charge of the design and development of prototypes, which I still do today; introduced new Health & Safety standards; helped set up a British Standard quality system; and oversaw maintenance schedules for all machinery, security and fire systems. I’ve also gained NVQ qualifications in management, health and safety, and forklift truck driving. In 2017, I also gained an IOSH qualification.
Any other game-changing introductions?
In 2016, I was involved in the purchase of our current fibre laser machine. This was a real game-changer, as it completely transformed the way we manufacture products, introducing new levels of efficiency, accuracy and speed.
Are there any future improvements planned?
In 2019, we will be introducing the Solid Works 3D CAD drawing package, enabling me to bring Redhill’s drawings up to the latest specification.
How would you describe yourself?
Very positive, I like to lead by example, always look on the positive side and learn from mistakes. I treat the company as if it were my own and remember to laugh at least once a day!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Being one step ahead of everybody else. This is possible thanks to my 35 years’ experience, and knowledge gained during this time.
Can you sum up your role in three words?
Involve. Improve. Encourage.