In our latest interview in the ‘Meet the Team’ series, we speak to Lostock Plant manager, Uche Umekwe, who tells us about the recent record-breaking heavy ash production performance and other developments at the Lostock Works.
When did you join the company? What’s your current title and your primary responsibilities?
I joined TCE in May 2018 as a Plant Manager leading and improving day to day plant performance of the Dryside & Heavy Ash Plant.
Where did you work previously and what has this previous experience brought to your current role?
I previously worked for Teva Pharmaceuticals where I led the production and packaging teams for a range of blow fill seal products. Key aspects of that role I’ve brought to TCE include a structured approach to problem-solving, utilising tools like the CAPA process and implementing process improvements.
What are the key initiatives you’ve been involved in since you joined TCE & what are you most proud of?
I’d say optimising and increasing reliability of the heavy ash plant. Over the past year we have removed several potential plant vulnerabilities and have implemented process improvements which have made an immediate impact. A high point for me is the record- breaking heavy ash production performance during the second half of 2019. This was a great success story.
What improvements have you introduced in relation to safety, health, environment and Quality?
I’m currently developing a package of work for the upcoming soda ash plant shutdown to improve process isolations. Most notably a double block and bleed system to achieve a proven steam isolation of our Secheurs (rotary dryers). Recently, I’ve been involved in revising planned preventative maintenance for dust extraction units across the Dryside plant.
What’s your personal vision for Lostock?
It’s exciting times for Lostock with the recent announcement of the £30m+ investment across the site. It’s great to see a plant like Lostock, with such a long manufacturing history, continue to cement its place as a key pillar at TCE now and in the future. Demand for our soda ash is strong due to continued demand from key sectors such as glass and detergent manufacture, in addition to increasing demand for bicarb from export markets, as well as closer to home with the long-term contract to supply Briskarb for flue gas treatment at the planned Lostock Sustainable Energy Plant all underpinning our future production.
Why did you want to become a Plant Manager and what would you recommend to young people considering a career in manufacturing?
I enjoy the fast-paced nature and varied technical challenges presented daily as a Plant Manager. No two days are the same, especially with the number of different unit operations on site and scope for improvements. My recommendation would be to identify your passion and find your niche within manufacturing.
There’s a wide range of opportunities available, all of which serve important functions within manufacturing, so it’s virtually guaranteed there will be a specific aspect in which you can enjoy working in and ultimately excel.
Tell us one surprising fact or hidden talent about yourself?
It’s not quite a hidden talent – as I stand 6ft 5” tall - but I am a keen basketball player and have competed nationwide at a semi-professional level. I’ve also been nicknamed the “cookie monster” at Lostock due to my affinity for biscuits and my contributions to our biscuit club.