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HotSeat – Colin Tirel, Managing Director at ARBURG Ltd

A German family-owned company, ARBURG is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of injection moulding machines for plastics processing. Colin Tirel has been at the helm of ARBURG’s UK subsidiary for over 13 years, after starting his career in plastics over 32 years ago as a Sales Engineer. He is the next PlastikCity Partner to face the HotSeat…

What trends do you think will shape the future of UK plastics?  How will ARBURG UK respond?

There are a number of trends that we can see growing, here are three that come to mind;

We are seeing an increasing interest in offline data acquisition from machines, linked to Industry 4.0. This was demonstrated by a workshop we held earlier in the year at ARBURG Ltd, focusing on our host computer interface system ‘ALS’. From this event we sold two systems and are looking to set up a working cell in Warwick for next year to demonstrate this and meet a demand that’s there. In line with Industry 4.0 we have some really innovative ideas coming through from next year onwards employing ‘apps’, that will be available for our customers.

Another growth area we have enjoyed over a number of years is in automation. This can be from a simple robot/picker, guarding and conveyor belts all the way through to bespoke turnkey cells, tailor made for customers. I have no doubt this will continue to grow as customers continually seek to become more efficient and competitive. We have a full-time automation engineer at ARBURG Ltd who is looking after this sector and meeting the demands of our customers.

Thirdly, we are gaining momentum for our Freeformer additive manufacturing technology having recently secured more business in this sector. There is no doubt there is an appetite for this technology within a number of sectors, including medical. We have some exciting plans for this technology in 2019.

How has ARBURG UK developed during your tenure?

We have focused on service and technical support as this is the core of what our customers have increasingly needed from a leading supplier like ourselves. In particular, we have grown the service team here in line with an ongoing increase in customer requests for support of all kinds. This includes complete service and calibration support, project management, turnkey automation, process and technician training in all areas of machine and robot operation from the basics, with new and existing customers. This can be followed through to advanced setting and application support.

What do you credit as the key to your success?

I have always considered myself to be a good communicator and I always treat people with respect. I have one simple philosophy, I would never ask anyone to do something I would not do myself!

What has been the greatest challenge in your career?

There have been a few over the last 21 years at ARBURG, but I feel one was managing the recession in 2008/09. It affected so many of areas of the industry and I believe we all learnt lessons. I am particularly proud of the fact that we did not lay anyone off in the UK, we worked through it and came out the other side complete! This was with our parent company’s support.

What advice do you wish you had had on entering the industry and does that differ from the advice you would give to an Apprentice joining now?

Firstly, take every positive opportunity along the journey from starting as a new apprentice to being newly qualified, and enjoy it! Life has a habit of moving quickly as you get older, I can still remember starting my apprenticeship with T.H. and J. Daniels in Stroud and that was over 40 years ago! It was clearly a completely different time back then. One important point to remember is to pay back the loyalty demonstrated by the company/ individual who gave you the opportunity in the first place.

What hidden talents do you have?

I have always tried to maintain some level of fitness throughout my life. In the last six years I have returned to road cycling, but in 1990 I ran the London marathon. This was done after a late night bet in a pub. Having no prior running experience, I applied and got in (much to the frustration of many ‘real’ runners in the running club I subsequently joined in Stroud, who had applied and had never got in). I followed a few expert runners who guided me through eight months of training and ended up running it in 3 hours 54 minutes and (please believe me) enjoyed the whole experience!! Anyone can achieve what they want to if they set their mind to it.

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