Barden bids farewell to longest serving employee
03-06-2011 | BARDEN CORPORATION | PLYMOUTH UK
After more than 48 years of service, Product Engineering Manager Trevor Morris, has announced his retirement from The Barden Corporation (UK) Ltd. Here, he recalls his fondest memories at the company, how the industry and the bearings it produces have changed over the years, and his plans for retirement.
Looking back over the last 48 years of my working life, it's been an incredibly happy time for me," recalls Trevor Morris, Product Engineering Manager at The Barden Corporation (UK) Ltd based in Plymouth. He continues: "I've particularly enjoyed working with such an experienced team of engineers here at Barden and helping to build that team into what it is today. Solving a diverse range of engineering issues for customers, supporting internal and external customers, being part of the management team - these are the aspects that have made the job here so rich and rewarding for me over the years.
On the 20th April 1963, at the age of 16, Trevor began his working life at Barden as a mechanical engineering apprentice. At that time, the company was based in Bracknell, Berkshire. The apprenticeship scheme included a six-month probationary period, which Trevor passed with flying colours. The five-year apprenticeship scheme involved working in every department at the company: shop floor, inspection & quality, the drawing office, scheduling, manufacturing engineering, and design. As Trevor puts it: "The aim was to give the apprentices an opportunity to learn about working in each area of the business. After the five years, it was then up to the individual to decide which part of the company they wanted to work in. I suppose this was a bit of a luxury when you consider how most engineering firms have to operate today, with fewer employees and far fewer apprentices."
For the first four years of his apprenticeship, Trevor attended the local Technical College in Bracknell on day-release and night school, where he studied for a City & Guilds in Mechanical Engineering. Trevor spent the final year of his apprenticeship studying on day-release at Reading Technical College.
In 1968, after completing his apprenticeship, Trevor was asked which department at Barden he would like to work in. "I decided to try my hand in the quality department at Bracknell," he states. "There, I learned all about inspection standards and methods, as well as how to investigate manufacturing defects. At the same time, I also went back to college [Slough Technical College] n the evenings to study Statistical Quality Control and Inspection Methods."
Trevor has fond memories of working for Barden's Quality department, which he eventually left in 1972. By this time he had been promoted to Senior Quality Engineer. He was then offered the chance to work in Barden's Product Engineering Office. "At the time, the product engineering team at Bracknell comprised five engineers. I accepted the job and started as a product engineer, helping to solve customer application issues. I really enjoyed dealing directly with customer and helping solve problems, which is why I've been involved in this area of the business ever since."
After being promoted to Senior Product Engineer at Bracknell, Trevor was then offered the role of Product Engineering Manager in 1988, which he duly accepted. During this time, Barden had moved its premises from Bracknell to its current home in Plymouth. "Surprisingly," says Trevor, I was the only one out of five product engineers who made the move from Bracknell to Plymouth.
When the company moved to Plymouth, this represented a wonderful opportunity for me and my wife, not just in terms of my working life, but also our home life. It's such a beautiful part of the country to live and work in.
By 1992, Product Engineering at Plymouth consisted of just three engineers including myself. We grew the department steadily over the years to what it is today: a closely knit team of 12 engineers, with incredible experience and knowledge.
But not everything has been rosy for Trevor in his time at Barden. As well as having been witness to two rounds of redundancies at the company over the years - "which are never easy for anyone to have to go through" - there was one particular event that Trevor remembers vividly. "In 1998, I visited one of Barden's customers based in Russia. The trip got off to a terrible start when I arrived at the airport in Russia only to discover that my luggage had been misplaced. I spent the next four days in Russia without any of my personal belongings in freezing temperatures down to minus 20 degrees. It wasn't at all fun I can tell you!"
Two months later, at home in Plymouth, my luggage arrived on my doorstep! In 30 years of business travel, that was one of my least enjoyable experiences.
Change is good
As far as working with bearings for almost 50 years is concerned, Trevor says the industry has changed dramatically in this time. Not only in the size of the bearings now being supplied to customers, but also in their capabilities. "30 years ago, the largest bearing we manufactured had an outside diameter of about 25mm and most of our customers were from the aerospace sector. Today, the largest bearing OD that we produce is 140mm, sometimes as large as 180mm on specials. As a company, we've also had to expand into new markets and industry sectors. We now supply bearings to the medical sector, Formula One, machine tools and vacuum pumps. We've also become a specialist provider of custom engineered, low volume bearings for unusual, demanding applications and our exports have increased significantly over the years."
There have been two very important milestones for Barden in recent years, says Trevor. In 1990, the company was acquired by FAG, another manufacturer of bearings. Then in 1999, The Schaeffler Group acquired FAG and so became Barden's new parent company. These two events, says Trevor, were significant because, as a company, we suddenly had access to a vast array of resources at Schaeffler. We were able to tap into these resources in order to improve our own offerings. These resources included support and access to information on bearing lubricants, new materials and coatings, the use of new bearing calculation software, and so on. Not to mention Schaeffler's multi-million pound investment in new machine tools here at our Plymouth plant, which has improved our manufacturing capabilities significantly."
From bearings to mechanical wind-up clocks
As for his retirement plans, Trevor says he hasn't quite finished yet at Barden. "Although I officially retired at the end of May, I've agreed to help out in the company on a part-time basis. This will include product training and helping to ensure that the knowledge that I've stored up in my head over the last 48 years is passed on to other engineers at Barden."
After retiring, my plans at home [which is in the village of Yealmpton, 10 miles from Plymouth] are to catch up on two to three years of neglecting the garden and DIY projects, he laughs. However, I also love walking and have an ambition to walk as much of the South-West coastal path as possible.
Trevor also has a keen interest in mechanical, wind-up clocks and astronomy, so expects to be able to devote more time to these passions during his retirement. He concludes: "I would also like to help out with some of the cooking at home, which should be a lot of fun!"
Want to stay up to date with Barden's latest news, case studies and technical articles? Subscribe now to receive email alerts!