A look at some of the the organisations or projects with which I’ve been involved.
After graduating in metallurgy from Nottingham University, I took time off and worked briefly in the publishing industry (Blackwells in Oxford) and then took a post-graduate course in the emerging field of Information Science.
The Metal Box Company – Intellectual property
Most work for the 2 years I was there related to the technique of wall ironing for producing aluminium cans. The experience did not leave me as in later years while at BP I was visited by a patents agent about the details of Metal Box’s patents as a dispute had arisen about particular claims.
Metal Box was a highly successful packaging manufacturer owning (by the 1960s) ten subsidiary and 13 associated companies and employing more than 25,000 staff. It was an acquisitive company diversifying into domestic heating by acquiring Stelrad in 1973 and adding Ideal Standard in 1976. Into the 80s and 90s it went through various incarnations. After selling the plumbing parts of the business under the Caradon Brand in 2000 it became Novar plc in 2005 which was bought by Honeywell who oversaw the breakup of the various operations, thereby effectively becoming defunct.
British Gas Engineering Research Station – Head of Information Services Group
The British Gas Engineering Research Station (ERS). It was designed by Ryder & Yates in 1965 and was Grade II listed on 27 January 1997 by English Heritage.
The gas industry was faced with the scientific and engineering challenges of converting the UK transmission system from coal gas to natural gas and needing to recruit those with the necessary expertise – materials, measurement and control, thermodynamics, and design – most drawn from other industries and Universities.
It was a hotbed for developing new ideas and directions for solving the myriad problems of conversion and hence a stimulating time for me to develop from scratch a range of information gathering and dissemination services to support the work of the specialists and get the information out to those who would put it into practice. These services included the use of emerging online scientific and technical databases, establishing means to index and retrieve relevant information and managing a team providing high speed photography for the work on pipeline fracture – as well as the standard library service round books and journal circulation.
ERS grew to well over 500 staff and led to the creation of the world beating online inspection activity used to monitor and ensure integrity of the high pressure gas transmission system – itself employing over 300 staff. Most of the work at ERS was research and development and was due at some time to come to an end as the results of its work were transformed into day-to-day operations. With all the expertise that existed, and the teamwork that had developed over the years, there was interest in preserving this – and ideally in the locality. Thus four senior engineers from ERS formed Macaw Engineering in 1996 which later became part of the Rosen Group, privately owned with a team of more than 4,000 employees, operating in more than 120 countries – thankfully the DNA of ERS lives on.
In April 2016 I attended the 50th Anniversary of the Station’s creation, met some of the old hands and chatted to the female staff I worked with about old times. From what I learnt if the ‘#MeToo‘ movement had been around then some might well have been in serious trouble. How times have changed!
‘For a detailed history of the work and people at ERS go to here and a shorter summary here.
British Petroleum (BP) – Head of Group’s data and records services; then as a Consultant
After 10 years at ERS the opportunity came to move back south to join BP Headquarters managing the group’s central data and records management consultancy teams and introducing one of the first major corporate text retrieval systems – unusually written in Fortran.
This was a time when BP was divesting itself of a range of their businesses (e.g. coal and nutrition) that they then considered peripheral to their core – oil and gas.
Change was in the air with the Chief Executive John Brown stating in a speech in 2002 ‘we need to reinvent the energy business, we need to go beyond petroleum‘.
BP is accused by some of ‘greenwashing’, but it has moved strongly into renewables and such areas as charging points for electric vehicles. Fossil fuel companies have to be part of the solution to climate change.
Later I moved to their IT consultancy arm (Scicon) conducting a range of consultancy assignments for clients outside BP. The consultancy side was then sold by BP to System Designers (SD-Scicon) which in turn was acquired by General Motor’s Electronic Data System (EDS) – in so doing making one’s pension arrangements that more complex! Much later after I departed, EDS was swallowed by HP.
Redundancy beckoned and was in fact welcomed as I was undertaking a documentation handover study for an oil company in Aberdeen and the client was content to continue with my services as an ‘independent’.
Independent Consultancy – operating under various guises – one being Cura Consortium
From 1990 I ran my own consultancy company and sometimes working with others conducted over 60 assignments in the UK and abroad, ran courses on records and document management, and authored ‘Document Imaging’ published by Meckler in 1994 which morphed into my current book ‘Effective Document and Data Management’ now in its 3rd edition, published by Routledge and supported by this website here.