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Fine Tubes celebrates 60 years in Plymouth - An interview with Kay Friend

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Fine Tubes celebrates 60 years in Plymouth - An interview with Kay Friend

An interview with Kay Friend, Logistics Co-ordinator at Fine Tubes, about building her career over an impressive 43 years at the Plymouth-based precision tubes manufacturer.

This interview is part of a series marking Fine Tubes’ 60th anniversary of moving to purpose-built premises in Plymouth in 1962.

How long have you been at Fine Tubes, Kay?
I have been part of the Fine Tubes team for 43 years now!

What was your first job at Fine Tubes?
When I finished school at the age of 16, I applied for a job in the finance department. At the time working with numbers seemed appealing and a good challenge as I had passed all my exams for mathematics with great marks. I was very nervous, obviously, and then I found out that I got the job, so I started working within a month of leaving school.

How long did you stay in the finance department for?
I worked there for around seven or eight years. I enjoyed the job but I really wanted to work in a more customer-facing role.

Then your career progressed into another department of the business?
Yes, I then moved to the sales department for about six years. Then, one of the ladies who was working in logistics at the time left on maternity leave and I picked up her tasks. And, I have now been there ever since. At that point, logistics also involved customer service. So, in my current role now dealing with freight forwarding and our external customers is what I enjoy.

What is involved in your current position as Logistics Co-ordinator?
I organise the logistics and shipment tracking of our finished and quality-tested precision tubes. I produce the paperwork for the despatch of the tubes and ship them to our customers around the world. I work alongside production, actually the majority of all of the factory and the laboratory. Every completed job goes across my desk including material certifications and I check all the details are correct before I arrange shipment. I then handle the freight forwarders and the movement of goods including customs which is currently very challenging.

What inspired you to join Fine Tubes?
My mum worked here in production. She was here for a long time and always enjoyed her job. So, there was a connection. I also have a stepbrother who worked here too at that time. And, he still works here too. He started as an apprentice and has now been with Fine Tubes for 44 years!

What is the proudest moment in your career at Fine Tubes?
I would say when I was involved in Lean manufacturing a couple of years ago. Six Sigma (or Lean) involves studying and implementing various techniques and tools designed to improve processes within manufacturing. This enhances quality by identifying and removing causes of defects, as well as minimising variability and unpredictability on manufacturing operations. As part of my Six Sigma, I did a project which incorporated health and safety and we even set up my our virtual factory!

Tell me about some of your favourite ‘firsts’ at Fine Tubes that you have been involved in?
There are just so many! About 20 years ago, we implemented our ERP system. I was involved in the setting up of that. It was the main manufacturing computer system for the factory. It was set up to work alongside our sister company Superior Tube in the States and was an immense challenge. Going from no technology to having an abundance of information was exciting and rewarding.

What were some fun moments you’ve had at Fine Tubes?
There’s been so many over the years. The main takeaway is that I have made some wonderful friends here at Fine Tubes, past and present.

What direction do you see Fine Tubes going in the future?
I expect that we will be going more and more global, especially in Europe and the Far East. I can see there being more demand for highly specialised tubing and that’s what we are best at. We partner with our customers to find the perfect tubing solution for their needs. Everything is becoming more niche and high-tech and we have some amazing metallurgists and engineers in the team, plus we can ship our products wherever our customers are based.

What have learnt from your career?
Everything I know I have learnt here. After I finished school, I came straight here! I feel I have learnt so much because of the three different jobs I have had throughout my employment at Fine Tubes. I pretty much know the facility inside out.

Has Fine Tubes been supportive in continuous training over the years?
Yes, I have been on numerous courses over the years, such as logistics, freight-forwarding and more. It’s always interesting to learn new things and stay up-to-date with the latest developments. That’s how we stay a leader in precision tubing globally, from ordering the raw materials to shipping the finished tube to our customers.

What makes Fine Tubes unique?
Our products and people make Fine Tubes unique. They are made to last and operate in mission-critical environments, such as aerospace, defence and oil and gas. There are few to no other tube manufacturers that can process the exotic alloys we do to the quality and precise specifications of our customers in both seamless and welded and redrawn forms. And most importantly, everyone here in the team is very dedicated to their work and committed to the highest quality in all we do.