RTA Articles

A day in the life of roof tile maker’s longest-serving employee

Written On by RTA Member

A Day in the life of –

Will McGinnis, Works Manager for Tudor Roof Tile Co Ltd. based in Lydd, Kent.

As Tudor’s longest-serving employee, Will describes how he started with Tudor, and his typical working day.

“I started working for Tudor in 1991 at the original factory in Ashford, Kent.

My side of the building trade had been badly affected by the recession, making it difficult to maintain regular work. My uncle and brother both worked for Tudor and encouraged me to apply for a job.

My first role was making gable tiles by hand. My intention was to work for a few months until the building trade picked up again, but shortly after starting I moved to working on the kiln. This was shift work as our tunnel kiln runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but I didn’t mind the shifts.

In 1992 a freehold site was purchased, and we moved all our equipment and production to that, (our current) location in Lydd, Kent.

Tudor as a business grew quite rapidly and the tiles produced at the factory at Lydd continued to be made by hand.

I enjoyed what I was learning and had a keen interest in how the firing process worked. I listened when consultants, managers & supervisors explained the various stages of the processes, and eagerly absorbed this knowledge, which eventually lead to me becoming the overall kiln supervisor.

In 2004 I was appointed works manager, responsible directly to the managing director for all aspects of the production, past, present, and future.”

“My typical workday starts on my arrival at the factory by 6.15 am. I like to get in early. As works manager my job contains things that are repetitive, but each day usually brings unexpected things that will need my attention.

I first head over to see the kiln supervisors as the shifts change to check if there were any problems during the shift, and to check and log what production has come out of the kiln overnight. I check the firing condition of the kiln, the quality records of the production and the type of tiles ready for the warehouse. I like to provide up to date stock information every day so that the office knows exactly what is available for our customers.

On every shift the kiln staff will take a few sample tiles from every kiln car and put to one side where they will be taken for quality checks- water absorption, permeability and flexural strength testing. Each of these tiles will have been marked with identifiers so we can keep track of any potential problem.

Nikki our office manager will update me each morning with a breakdown of what tiles need to be made to fulfil orders received each day. I work out what we are required to make, and when, to fulfil orders on time. If something comes in that is needed urgently, being a relatively small team and very flexible, I can change what we are making very quickly. We at Tudor pride ourselves on supplying customers on short lead times.

I work closely with the supervisors and staff from each part of the factory covering all other departments including clay mixing, moulding, drying processes, engineering, despatch, and of course raw materials.

Health & safety is a vital part of my daily routine. We still have a lot of the precautions we put in place for distancing to prevent Covid 19 spreading in the factory, to try and minimise disruption to production should somebody unintentionally bring it to work with them. It is really disappointing that the number of infections nationally are again on the rise.

Whenever a new member joins our team, I personally take them through comprehensive induction training. I like to do this as it shows the new person that they, and all our staff are important to our team.

I monitor raw materials deliveries and the checks to ensure that they are correct.

On the engineering side, I try to serve all aspects of maintenance in-house. I have a very good engineering team and we endeavour to maintain a stock of spare parts for critical equipment to minimise down-time should a breakdown occur.  If we don’t have the spare part, I will work with the engineers to assess if we can get replacement parts quickly, or if we can more readily make in-house. It is often the latter, and I have learned many skills from the engineers over the years, so I am often involved if this is a larger job. All our roof tiles are handmade, and a good deal of the equipment we use is naturally older/pre-computer controlled, so almost every aspect of our work is very hands-on.

I am always trying to anticipate where things could go wrong and build solutions to prevent this happening again in the future.

Sales are as important to me as every other part of the business. and I regularly talk to our sales team to discuss a particular aspect of a potential job or a bespoke tile requirement.

Last but not least, there are approximately 3 hours of paperwork for me each day to make sure that every aspect of the production, all staff attendance, safety & quality records are all properly recorded. I’m particularly proud of our accident record of no serious accidents in the workplace each month

My day doesn’t always finish when I leave the factory, as the supervisors know to call me at any time if a situation at work occurs.”

“As regards to the future of Tudor this is a subject of great importance to me. When I started with Tudor back in 1991 there wasn’t really any handmade clay roof tiles imported into Britain.

British tile manufacturers do not have the advantages that some imported manufacturers enjoy- such as lower labour rates, less health & safety legislation to comply with, and in some instances, regular government subsidies for those that are exporting to the UK.

With the added effect of the recent Covid pandemic, energy cost skyrocketing, and the general rate of inflation, the future of our business does give me concern. All I can do is to keep trying to give customers a great handmade tile which will give them pleasure and pride for years to come.”

Posted In RTA articles