We sat down with three of KMF's longest-standing employees to find out how things have changed at KMF over the last 45 years. We discuss everything from nicknames, automation, advancements in sheet metal technology and the changes in health and safety.
Role: CNC Laser
Time at KMF: 26 years
Football Team: Port Vale FC
Hobbies: Fishing & Gym
If you could go to dinner with anybody in the world, who would it be? The Queen
Role: Manual Drill & Spot Weld
Time at KMF: 45 years
Football Team: Stoke City FC
If you could go to dinner with anybody in the world, who would it be? Buddy Holly, or Louis Armstrong
Role: Advanced Solution, Forming
Time at KMF: 32 years
Football Team: Stoke City FC
Hobbies: DIY (Or whatever chores my wife leaves me!)
If you could go to dinner with anybody in the world, who would it be? Jesus
Each of you has worked at KMF for over 25 years. How have things changed since you first joined the company?
Kenny: It has to be technology, oh and safety! The CNC machinery is so advanced and less labour intensive compared to the manual machinery KMF had in the '70s when I first started. There were also no light barriers or control systems. I remember the days when we would smoke while operating the Strippit machines!
Chris: Probably culture. Before we reached 100/150 employees, everyone knew everyone's name, well nicknames, because that's how we knew each other. I worked with some guys for over ten years and still don't know their first name! There is a lot more production now, and people move around departments a lot less, so you don't get to know people the same.
Dave: I agree with Chris! On a Friday afternoon everyone, from management and directors to operators from different areas, used to pitch in and spend hours packing. Even though the company still has a friendly family feel, the banter is different from how it was years ago!
What were your nicknames?
Chris: I never had one (that I know of) but my dad was always called Zippy, I think because he always got straight to the point.
Dave: People used to call me shaggy (From Scooby Doo!), but my favourite nickname was Kenny 'Clamp-edge'. He was a character – Kenny is Gary Sutton's dad, another second generation employee.
Kenny: I still know Mick (Higgins) as Penguin, I'm not sure there is many of us left who still call him that or dare too!
Is there any old machinery that you remember?
Kenny: I think our first punching machine was a Strippit fc1000 and I remember the first 2503 laser. The Strippit could only punch one hole at a time, so batches of even 50 would take hours. The increase in productivity since then is huge!
Chris: The Trumpf 500 was our first major punch. It was revolutionary at the time because it was the first machine we had without the turret so you could see what was happening.
Any other memories?
Kenny: Working at KMF during the 1974 mining strikes was memorable because we only worked a three-day week. To save electricity, the government restricted commercial electricity use to three specified consecutive days and prohibited us from working longer hours. It was a busy time, attempting to manufacture the same amount as we did in five days, but we managed it.
Is there anything you are particularly proud of over your years of working at KMF?
Dave: I met my wife Marianne at KMF, she used to work in accounts and so I have the company to thank for that! Also, even though the group has grown substantially, management has maintained closeness to the employees, always approachable and that is really nice.
Kenny: Keeping my job! 2021 will be my 50-year work anniversary at KMF and that is a huge achievement. I've also always been impressed with how the company has never stood still. They have consistently invested in people and machinery and continued to grow. When I first started at KMF, I was on 50p an hour, and we had less than ten employees. It's a bit different now!
Chris: I'm proud of staying loyal to the company throughout all of the changes and ups and downs. Monthly turnover averaged £90k and now it's over £3M. It's a completely different place to work now. Four generations of my family work at KMF (I'm the second) and I have always valued the security.
With 240,000 sqft of manufacturing facilities in the UK and Slovakia, over 500 employees and generated sales of £38 million we are one of the largest metal fabricators in the UK.
We specialise in the manufacture of large volume commercial products from design through to delivery.