World Aluminium Day Reflections

World aluminium day…reflections

I’ve been fortunate to have worked in aluminium (extrusions) for over 50 years. In this time starting from the lowest entry position, I’ve been a director of an extruder, a stockholder and a processor which makes me unique within the 000’s currently working in the UK aluminium industry.

My fascination with aluminium extrusions began in the longest harshest winter on record. I was 7 in 1963 it was the year the snow never went away, and it was way before you could buy a ready-made sledge from Tesco for three quid. If you wanted one you made it yourself or got your dad to do it. As my dad worked on the shopfloor of an extruder he had access to aluminium extrusions, thus mine was adorned with aluminium runners (originally destined for Harrison Drape as curtain track) but doctored to a level worthy of “Cool Runnings.” It was the then equivalent of the current Formula 1 DRS.

I was then photographed by the local newspaper going down Crouch Hill with everyone in my wake. Years on after I had done a speech at an Al Fed event in the Lords one of the Lords who lived in the adjacent county recalled the photo.

Over the years there have been quantum changes in the industry there are now just a fraction of the extruders from when I started, names such as Alcan, Midland Extruders, Ashley Aluminium, Almetex, James Booth, and many more now long gone. There have been huge advances in die making, die design, alloys, finishes, inspection, production methods and e`iciency. Indeed, there was no mention of sustainability back in the day, but now it is rightly one of the defining mainstays of our industry.

Throughout all this time the Al Fed have been a constant. It has been transformative in recent years in how it engages more conceptually with its members and the students and design engineers who in time will be the next generation of specifiers. I was proud to play a part in this, supporting many Al Fed events during the “noughties” and long may it continue this path.

There are always threats to aluminium, we would be unwise to ignore the potential that composites o`er and the rise in nano technology, but as an industry we remain in great shape, I believe, ready for all the challenges.

I’ve worked with amazing people over the years (thank you Liz at Inal in particular) I often introduce us as the Phil and Holly of aluminium though since his fall from grace I am currently rethinking this!

I’m enjoying the final chapter of my long and undistinguished career working with the Sherwood Group one of the few places where the owners, both industry titans, are older than me (thank you Paul and Terry). From winning awards to working with Apple, to speaking at the The House of Lords, to being held at gun point by the IRA, it’s been a journey….