Pat Furr FIMMM (Profile)
'I was born in a rented London Brick Company house in 1958, in the village of Stewartby, Bedfordshire. The entire village was built by London Brick for its employees. My father was a maintenance foreman at Stewartby brickworks, which became the largest brickworks in the world - at its height producing over 18 million bricks per week and employing 2,000 people. At one point I had at least 10 relations working for the company.
Early career in the brick industry
‘After A-levels, I worked at Stewartby as a forklift truck fitter's mate, before leaving to start a degree in Business Law at Lanchester Polytechnic, Coventry, in 1976. After a year I decided it wasn't for me and returned to London Brick. Twelve months later I decided to embark on a managerial career with LBC. I transferred to the production side of the business, learning the process jobs on the shop floor, and in 1978 I moved to Ridgmont Works as a Trainee Production Chargehand, looking after clay pipe production. Six months later I was appointed Chargehand.
‘At the age of 21, I became Production Foreman at Ridgmont, where I stayed until the works closed due to the 1981 recession. At the time, it was probably the second biggest brickworks in the world, manufacturing eight million bricks a week and employing 1,100 people. I transferred to the Peterborough area of LBC's operations, working at Orton (Foreman), Kings Dyke/Saxon (Assistant to the Works Manager), Beebys/Dogsthorpe/Northam (Assistant Works Manager) and back to Orton/Beebys (Production Manager).
Later career moves
‘In 1987 I relocated back to the Bedford Area when I was appointed Works Manager at Kempston Works, where we launched a new range of "extruded flettons" which were separately branded as the Kempston Range. I became Divisional Director of Bletchley Production Division, near Milton Keynes, where I stayed until 1990 when I had to close the works due to another recession.
'I spent a few months as Chief Quality Manager for LBC before returning to production as Divisional Director at Whittlesey (Kings Dyke and Saxon) in the Peterborough area. In 1992, I returned to Stewartby as Divisional Director.
‘When LBC and Butterley merged to become Hanson Brick in 1995, I changed direction completely and was appointed General Manager - Distribution and Employee Relations. I was responsible for all transport/distribution operations in Hanson Brick, which had a fleet of 152 trucks, and industrial relations. This involved establishing consultative and negotiation national and regional forums across the UK in conjunction with trade unions. In 1997, I was promoted to Operations Director, responsible for all Hanson's UK brick operations.
‘In 1998, I was appointed Business Development Director for Hanson Desimpel in mainland Europe, becoming Managing Director a year later. At that time we were operating 13 brick and block factories in Belgium, The Netherlands and France. I then moved to Belgium with my family.
‘In the middle of 2000, following a major reorganisation within Hanson's European operations, I joined Chelwood Brick to run the new Ockley Works in Surrey, but after nine months moved to the Board of Chelwood, initially as Commercial Director. Chelwood and Ambion merged to become thebrickbusiness Ltd in 2002, and I was appointed to my current position, Operations Director. This was a private equity-owned business where I remained until the business was sold to Wienerberger in September 2004.
‘The business has grown with the acquisition of Baggeridge and Sandtoft Roof Tiles, for which I am also responsible. There are 11 operational brick sites and four roofing sites (two concrete, one clay and one recycled slate).
Involvement with ICTa
‘Regarding ICTa, I have been involved since the early 1980s. I was one of the first to gain the Open Tech Certificate in Clay Technology in 1984, and was a very active member of the East Midlands Branch, including several years on the committee and three years as Chairman.
'I attended at least 15 ICTa conferences from 1988, and went on the ICTa Study Trip to France in 1988. I am now a member of the Lancashire local society of the ICTa, a member of the ICTa Management Board, and Trustee of the ICTa Education and Training Trust. Two years ago I gained Fellowship of the IOM3.
‘I am a past board member of the BDA (Brick Development Association), past Chairman of the National Brickmakers Federation, and past Chairman of the BDA Members Quarterly Forum, of which I am still an active member. I am also a member of the CPA (Construction Products Association) Networking Forum.
‘The main benefit I see in today's ICTa is the training and qualification opportunities it offers for our employees. I have been talking about this to IOM3, as I am not convinced that everyone in the industry fully understands what is on offer in terms of professional qualifications. There is undoubtedly more to do in this area.
The brick industry and its future
‘I would thoroughly recommend this industry to people starting out in their careers. Brick and tile making is full of excellent, hardworking people making a real, established, touchy-feely product, something of a rarity these days. We have of course suffered in our industry since the financial crisis of 2008, but the recovery will eventually come. We need to emphasise the benefits of clay against other building materials, which include longevity (150 years plus), thermal mass and, of course, very low maintenance.
'We remain optimistic in the longterm, and indeed Wienerberger has recently launched a new product, Porotherm - a multi-perforated hollow clay block for use in inner wall or monolithic applications. It offers a huge benefit in terms of speed of construction for the end-user. I am confident that the latent huge demand for new housing will one day be realised in the UK, and that all clay products will benefit - bricks, roof tiles, pavers and blocks.'