The Manufacturer Top 100 2021 alumni Paul Stockhill always wanted to work with his hands designing and making things. Stockhill had a five year apprenticeship and worked his way up, and left age 28 to become a self-employed toolmaker and was the general manager three years later. The company specialised in EDM sparking and wire erosion and were one of the first to introduce CNC machines in the area along with CAD design & CAM machining. Stockhill’s career highlights have been parts on the International Space Station, on Mars and being involved in designing and building parts that improved and advanced future manufacturing. His involvement with local education has also been a high point, being part of the team to bring a UTC to Doncaster to produce the future engineers the industry so desperately needs.
Click here to view the video of the full Top 100 interview with Paul Stockhill.
What is your role at Agemaspark?
I am the Managing Director of Agemaspark Ltd which is a precision engineering company that caters for all types of manufacturing.
We have 16 items in the International Space Station (ISS), and we have worked on engine casings that have gone to Mars. We specialise in machining instrumentation details in civil and military aircraft turbine engines and power generation turbines for the likes of Rolls Royce, Siemens, ITP engines and many others.
We exclusively provide tooling and R&D projects for Schlumberger, an oil and gas equipment supplier, and we design and manufacture plastic injection mould tooling for local companies such as Silgan Closures, Polypipe and Advanced Plastics and many more. We also produce extrusion die tooling for the automotive industry and food products, along with jigs and fixtures and one-off and small batch components. Because we have a fully equipped workshop with EDM and wire erosion along with 4th and 5th axis CNC milling and turning, we can machine almost anything.
We are a tier 2 member of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Rotherham and work on many projects with the local universities. We are currently heavily involved with Doncaster UTC helping produce the engineers of the future.
What does it mean to you to be part of the Top 100?
It was a surprise but an honour to be part of a distinguished group of people.
What do you think are the key attributes which led to you being nominated?
In the last couple of years, we have innovated our approach to mould tools by introducing 3D metal printing of conformal cooling and the eco environmental reduction this technology will bring.
For the last 20 years we have provided apprenticeships and now 80% of my workforce came to me from school, including my senior managers and toolmakers. They make Agemaspark what it is today.
We believe our continued involvement and belief that teaching young people at an early stage in their education will bring the best out of them and we work alongside the Doncaster UTC as a partner giving real life experiences for the students.
What do you find most inspiring about working in manufacturing and when did you realise this is the career for you?
When I was at school, I was head boy and I just liked designing and making things. I made a silver coffee pot for my O levels and when I went for my first interview for a job as an apprentice at a local manufacturing company (Crompton Parkinson) I took the coffee pot as an example and because of that I got the job.
The thing that inspires me the most is the challenges of working in such a diverse arena. I get to see how, as an engineer, we can make such a difference to many areas of life, and I get a buzz out of solving what may look like an impossible task or creating something that will make a difference.
Who or what has been the biggest influences on your career in manufacturing?
Over the years I have always been one to embrace change and new technology to help make manufacturing easier and improve the way things are made.
The introduction of CNC and CAD design has been one of the most influential things that has happened in my working life, and today our investment in an EOS 290 3D metal printing machine will be part of future leading-edge technology.
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far and how have you overcome it?
Trying to convince the education system to engage with the manufacturing sector as I am an avid believer that we need to teach our young people, as well as the academics, the reasons to learn and let them develop their design and manual skills to give them the best tools for their future.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in manufacturing during your career?
The introduction of technology and the advancement of machinery and automation.
What are the biggest challenges that are facing manufacturing as a whole and how are you and your company seeking to address this?
As a business owner in engineering the biggest challenges I have faced is the recruitment of skilled labour. The industry lost two generations of workers in the 1980s and 1990s. My company is a prime example – 11 of the 15 workforce are under 35 years old and the rest are in their late 50s and 60s. Eleven of the staff have worked for me from leaving school and have completed full apprenticeships.
What sort of growth/change has your company implemented/gone through over the last 12/18 months and how has this been managed?
We invested £500,000 in the new EOS 290 3D metal printing machine at the beginning of 2021 and for the past year have marketed the advantages that this technology can give. We know we can reduce cycle times by 20% on average and we are now seeing a very real interest in this with new orders and quotations. We see a very slow recovery at the moment but there are signs that companies are looking to the future.
What do you think will be the long-term legacy of this current period of unprecedented change with the manufacturing sector?
There is a definite change in the way companies are looking to the future and we are seeing the most important considerations being investment and climate change.
In the future we will also need an upskilling of the workforce and wellbeing to be sure we can be the country we all aspire to be in the world as Brexit and the pandemic fade away.
What advice would you have for any younger people who are considering a career in manufacturing?
A career in manufacturing can be very rewarding for both boys and girls as there are so many opportunities if they like making things or designing. The new technology that is available today is remarkable and this generation will be making and designing things we haven’t even thought of yet.
I tell my young apprentices that to be a toolmaker/engineer is one of the most prestigious jobs you can have equal to a surgeon, doctor, lawyer, scientist because without you making the tools to make the things they need to do their jobs they would not be able to do them.
Don’t sell yourself short and take all the opportunities that are offered to you even if they don’t seem worth while at the time because nothing beats experience.