Having started his career as a Finishing Operator in Production, Darran Phillips has risen through the ranks to become Operations Manager for refining and manufacturing at BLM.
We talk to Darran about his role and responsibilities to learn more about the process of refining Lead and the manufacture of Rolled Lead Sheet.
How did you get into the Lead industry?
I came from a roofing background where we used Lead a lot and I always had an interest in how Milled Lead was manufactured. Now my understanding of how and where the product is fitted is a major help to know what our customer wants and I try my best to ensure we deliver that.
What is a typical working day for you as an Operations Manager?
I always attend a team meeting with all the managers and supervisors in the morning to review yesterday’s performance and discuss our workload for the day and week ahead, and to make sure materials, machines and personnel are in place to give us a steady and efficient workflow. Otherwise, each day really is different but my duties include managing and developing the team, improving and implementing changes in our processes and working on projects concerning future improvements.
Can you give us a general overview of the production process?
The aim of our refinery is to turn scrap Lead into refined Lead that meets the British Standard (BS EN 12588). So, the idea is to create a high standard quality casting. Refinery Operatives will move the castings over to the mill shop where a Mill Operator will roll the Lead. Once the Lead is rolled down to its desired thickness, they will test it for thickness consistency all the way through until it comes off the rollers and wraps up into logs. The Lead logs are then cut to length and width by Finishing Operators to our customers’ requirements.
What is the process of refining the Lead and what is added to the Lead to achieve the right alloy for British Standard?
Scrap Lead is delivered to us by our suppliers and is emptied in to the scrap bay. We transfer the scrap into a hot kettle and burn it down. All the rubbish and impurities from the scrap Lead float to the top and are removed by the Refinery Operatives to leave us with a pot of molten Lead. We then pump this across to our refining kettles where it’s refined to the alloy required for British Standard.
To do that, we have to add chemicals and test for its composition. We test for copper and may need to add tiny amounts to bring the alloy up to spec. Depending on how much tin and antimony we have to take out; we will add further chemicals that draw these impurities out. These are removed and further tests and analysis are carried out in our on-site Laboratory until we get to the right alloy for British Standard Milled Lead.
How do we ensure that we achieve thickness consistency for British Standard Rolled Lead?
We have a gauge on our Rolling Mills which measures the thickness of the Lead sheet when it is being rolled throughout the whole process. We also gauge it by hand as well. We double check and triple check all the time.
What is the most critical factor in producing Milled Lead?
All factors in the process are critical.
How much emphasis goes in to H&S from a production perspective?
H&S is integrated in to all our procedures. It’s our No 1 priority. We give incentives for the team to report safe and unsafe acts through our Near Miss Award. If there is an unsafe act or even a safe act, team members submit details after a safety discussion of what they have seen which we keep record of so we can follow up on any resulting actions. A winner is chosen by a panel of judges (managers) who vote each month and the winner receives a prize, usually an Amazon voucher.
We also motivate people to challenge unsafe acts and also praise them for safe acts. Everyone’s working towards a healthier and safer environment.
What do you like most about your role?
Developing, motivating and engaging the operations team as well as offering flexible solutions for the business.
What part of the job do you find most challenging?
Introducing new effective procedures and processes…. I like to be challenged.