Jon Blake, production manager at Numill, has been named The Manufacturer’s Employee of the Month February 2018.
What are your main roles and responsibilities?
Numill is a busy tool repair, renovation and manufacturing plant based in Sheffield. We operate in the rail, automotive, aviation, offshore and food extrusion sectors, and our customers come to us to repair their existing tools as an alternative to replacing them.
Even though some customers send tools from the other side of the globe, our services still work out to be highly cost effective. Most want a fast turnaround, so my day-to-day role is making sure that orders are processed, quotes are sent out and that jobs are signed off and returned to customers.
I also visit potential customers, those with complex projects and those who are simply close to us in South Yorkshire.
What key technical skills do you have?
I have been in engineering for 24 years, the majority here at Numill. I also spent eight years away from Numill working for a specialist medical instrumentation company, where I trained on milling, wire erosion and spark erosion.
Engineering is a unique job because you are always solving people’s problems. Our customers are looking for a ‘whole-life’ cost option when investing in tooling, but we can also redesign and manufacture to add value and make their processes more efficient.
Putting greater focus on that side of the business has helped our UK and export sales.
What personal characteristics help you in your role?
I am very well organised, which is essential for a role that demands we take in a customer’s end-of-life or damaged tools and then rebuild them, and see how we can make improvements.
My ability to turn my hand to anything has become increasingly valuable as we’ve marketed our manufacturing capacity.
Anne Wilson, our MD, went all out for export growth a few years ago and that attracted customers from around the globe, which in turn created a greater diversity of projects, which is both interesting and challenging.
What are your biggest personal successes?
Becoming production manager often seemed like a long process, but as a business we are committed to professional excellence and personal improvement.
We can turn our hands to pretty much any request a customer throws our way so long as it is made from steel.
Recently, we were asked to manufacture clasps for a jewellery company in Sheffield to help them cope with Christmas demand for a fast-selling product and we have even produced bespoke aluminium light sockets.
We don’t have a routine project, they are all unique, and each one is solving a customer’s problem, which makes the job thoroughly worthwhile.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Manufacturing is integral to society and you need tools for that. One of our key strengths is to take obsolete tools and reverse engineer them for replacement or renovation.
Numill is in the supply chain and we’re asked to produce or repair tools for household names such as Rolls Royce Aviation. They were suffering constant breakages with one tool, and our team was able to refine and tweak it, thereby eliminating the problems that were causing early or excessive wear. Rolls Royce now benefits from greater longevity from their tool.
Do you have a career ambition?
I became production manager a few years ago and I work very closely with our Anne Wilson on strategy and business growth. I would like to become more involved with the management side of the business to help grow Numill.
We now train our own apprentices to ensure a talent pipeline – four in the last five years. Two have moved on, and Numill gave them an incredible engineering education. I really believe apprenticeship is the way forward for an ambitious firm like Numill.