Our people, along with our customers, are at the heart of our business. To help put faces to names, we’ve been publishing a series of ‘Meet the Team’ articles to share more on the people who make our team tick.
Rob Hudson has recently been appointed as Head of Operations for British Salt, Rob joined Tata Chemicals Europe and British Salt 7 years ago on the chemical engineering graduate scheme and has quickly progressed through the business. We’ve taken the opportunity to ask him about his thoughts on the challenges of his new role, the future of British Salt and some background on himself.
You’ve recently been appointed to this role, tell us a little about your background.
I joined Tata Chemicals Europe (TCE) 7 years ago on the graduate training scheme after I finished a Masters in Chemical Engineering at the University of Manchester. The TCE scheme provided me with the opportunity to move around the business, working in the soda ash, sodium bicarbonate and salt areas of the business. Each placement meant that I was able to learn about different facets of how TCE operates as a business which gave me a strong foundation. During the latter part of the graduate scheme, I joined the newly created Energy Team, which was a bit like being part of a start-up within a larger company.
What does your role entail?
As Head of Operations for British Salt, I’m responsible for safely producing a wide variety of salt products, from raw material mining to packaging of the final product. I manage a diverse organisation of over 120 people and my priority is to ensure the safe and efficient running of the sites and the production of a consistently high-quality product. This starts with the solution mining operation at Warmingham, then moves to the production facility at Middlewich where the salt is produced from the brine. It also includes the grading and packing of salt, its loading for dispatch, as well as the provision of energy for the whole process.
You mention a diverse organisation, can you expand on this?
The production process includes a large range of operations, for example our raw material, brine is solution mined from a salt layer over 300m below the surface of the Cheshire countryside, requiring knowledge and expertise of drilling operations and geological expertise. This is in contrast to our production process which requires a range of engineering, operations and technical skills to ensure that we produce the highest quality salt to our customers’ requirements. By its very nature, salt is highly corrosive, therefore a carefully targeted maintenance programme is crucial alongside investment for growth.
What has made the biggest impression on you since joining in your new role?
The people in the team here at British Salt have been fantastic. We’ve got a team full of experience, enthusiasm and expertise who are really committed to maintaining and improving standards and growing the business.
You’ve made great progress in the organisation, what tips would you give to engineers following in your footsteps?
I’ve been lucky enough to have great mentors and managers throughout my time in the business. My advice to people starting out in engineering would be to talk to people across disciplines and, most importantly, listen carefully and ask plenty of questions – experience and insights have been invaluable sources of learning for me. One other tip would be to get involved in more than just what’s in your job description, find opportunities to expand your breadth of knowledge even if it means taking on more work.
Can you tell us a surprising fact about yourself?
I went to school in France, to University in Manchester and ended up writing my dissertation in German – figure that one out! I also used to play drums in a metal band, luckily this was just before people had cameras on their phones so there’s no evidence of how bad we were!
What excites you about this new challenge?
British Salt at a really exciting point in its fifty-year history. With the new boiler project progressing at pace and great work being done to deliver our ongoing maintenance and continuous improvement plans, the business has really strong foundations in place to continue to grow.
Having been in role for 100 days, what do you see as the key priorities for the business?
The safety of our people and contractors has been and will continue to be our absolute, number one priority. The team here, led by Stephen Crabb before me, have worked tirelessly and taken great strides in improving this area and this must continue with renewed enthusiasm and focus. We’re implementing additional periodic focus on specific safety topics and renewing visual on the site. Examples are the safe movement of vehicles on site and continued emphasis on behavioural safety.
My second priority is the continued provision of our bespoke product offering, to the highest quality standards, whilst facilitating a challenging investment programme.
Find other 'Meet the Team' interviews here: