For Newcastle Rod Mill employee Greg Hope, this year’s 60th Anniversary of the Newcastle Rod Mill means just that little bit more.
Greg has worked at the rod mill for 50 of its 60 years, but it was major surgery and illness at the end of 2021 which gave him a renewed appreciation for life, his workplace and the people around him.
“I come to work, and every day is different. The job description is the same but Ground Hog Day it’s not.
“Coming back to work after hospital was one of the best things for me. One of the therapies the physios told me would help in my recovery was talking. So being back at work has been a sort of therapy for me.”
Following in the footsteps of his father and three brothers who also worked and gained apprenticeships with the business, Greg commenced as an apprentice in 1971 and has worked across various roles and divisions during his 50 years of employment.
It’s given him a broad, in-depth knowledge of the Rod Mill, the equipment, the operations and how much the place has changed since he started.
“When I was here in the early 70s it was a four-strand mill – using smaller billets but there were four strands going at once. That made for entertainment because there was four times as much to do. In the late 80s it was upgraded to two strands, using bigger billets, but output was faster to make up the difference.”
For Greg, it was the Lean management process which the Rod Mill went through in the early 2000s that saw the most significant changes. “It transformed the Mill – it gave everything an order”.
“With the Rod Mill continuing to maintain the Lean management changes, people have adopted the mindset – they know they must get a job done but always in their mind is to keep it clean and safe.”
While safety has always been important, Greg has noticed the safety focus is now stronger than ever.
Greg has developed a no-nonsense approach to work, speaking with honesty and wry humour about management styles, and what works and doesn’t work.
“When I first started, I used to micromanage. guess who had a bad day every day? When you micromanage, you’re not as productive.
“I can run several jobs now with the teams I work with, and I know they’re capable and have a good understanding of our rules. Most importantly they’ll stop the job if something isn’t where it needs to be. Which is what I want people to do. You’ve got to trust people.
“If you think you’re invincible you’re going to fail. Everyone brings different experiences to the table and sometimes they work better than your own. It’s a team effort as much as it’s my effort.”
It’s a tonic that has worked for the rod mill, and Greg believes its future is in safe hands. “I think the young ones who are starting in the Rod Mill now – they see things differently, they do things differently but so long as they get to the same outcomes, there’s really no problem,” he says.
“I think celebrating the 60th anniversary is a great thing. There have been upgrades and improvements and significant changes are planned which will make processes more efficient and sustainable.
I’ve no doubt there’ll be a 70th anniversary and I’ll come back to help celebrate it in another 10 years.”
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