Ian Myring, an experienced engineer who works within the AMS Engineering Workshop gives us his background in the woodworking machinery industry, his experience and the changes that he has seen in the industry in the last 50 years.
Q: How many years have you been working in the woodworking industry? When did you start and why?
I first started in 1965 as an apprentice, so that is over 50 years ago. I started at the main Wadkin Factory in Green Lane Road Leicester,and really I worked most my working life at Wadkin and in the wood working industry.
I don´t know why I chose this industry. Nobody in my family was working there but when I finished at school the apprenticeship seemed a good opportunity, I came through an interview at Wadkin and they liked me, I liked them and so I joined.
Actually, I didn’t even know what they made there, but I needed to work and so I applied to Wadkin for a job. They said if I worked hard they would give me the right opportunities to progress. So, that was why I went to Wadkin.
Q: When you were apprentice, did you go to the college?
Yes, I did day release on a technician’s course for 5 years.
It was different to today’s apprentices, as the engineering companies had their own training’s schools, so for the first year of my apprenticeship I worked purely in the training school at Green Lane Road, with 30 other school leavers.
After the 1st year, you came out of the training school and then you moved around different departments in the company for the next 5 years. I worked in the Machine Assembly Shop, the Drawing Office, the Research & Development Department, CNC programming and the Machine Shop.
You could choose a Craft apprenticeship, which was the standard Mechanical Apprenticeship or you could do the Technical Apprenticeship with HNC. I was enrolled on the Technical Apprenticeship, which took 5 years to complete.
At the end of 5 years they gave you the opportunity of applying to work in whatever department you liked best of all, from all the different places you have experienced.
I chose the Research & Development Department and I worked there for the next 25 years.
Q: How did you start working at AMS?
I was 63 years old when Wadkin Ltd finally closed its doors. At that time, there were very few jobs around and I thought that I wasn´t going to get another job, so I decided to take my Wadkin pension early.
I thought that I would just be relying on my pension and maybe some part-time work, but I saw Steve Foster, one of the founders of AMS, at a Rugby match and he asked that I was doing; “not much” I said.
He offered me around 10 weeks of rebuild work at AMS and I thought it sounded good to me, and during that 10 week period I rebuilt a large Wadkin moulder with another former Wadkin employee, Dave Rhodes…
We worked for 10 weeks completing that machine and they called me to back again for another 10 weeks work on another machine. And then, when this machine was finished they said: “Would you like to help by servicing the machines before they are shipped to customers?” And I said yes and I am still here, still doing a full time role in the business
We have 5 apprentices in the workshop and I like to help them
Q: What are you doing in AMS?
I work on refurbished machinery and rebuilds as well as servicing machines at more local customers. I also use my experience to carry out installations and commissioning on the new Wadkin Bursgreen equipment, customer demonstrations of the new machines in the showroom and now I am teacher as well. (He laughs)
We have 5 apprentices in the workshop and I like to help them and teach them what I know. I have 50 years experiences in the woodworking machinery industry, so they ask me a lot of questions and I try to answer and help them. It is fantastic to see that AMS is totally committed to training these youngsters, and it is very satisfying to see them develop and gain these new skills
Q: Which machines do you usually work on in the AMS Workshop?
Usually, the machines that we rebuild are Wadkin Limited machines even though we have the skills & experience to rebuild any brand.
The Wadkin Moulders and the Wadkin Grinders are the most popular products to rebuild, although we also rebuild smaller machines like spindle moulders.
The AMS service is very good because we know everything about the Wadkin machines as we bought all the Intellectual Property and Design Rights to the Wadkin Leicester machinery. This means we can rebuild to As-New condition, even offering a full 12 months factory guarantee
We originally manufactured them in the Wadkin Green Lane Road factory some years ago when we were all working there; we are the only genuine source of Wadkin Rebuilt machines as we know them perfectly. No one else has our pedigree.
Do you think that the people rebuild the machines because they can’t get a new machine with the same quality?
Possibly true! The Wadkin machines are designed and built to last for a long time; also the excellent Spares availability of all the Wadkin equipment from the AMS Website, allows you to get your machines serviced and repaired properly, enabling you to keep them for much longer than those from other manufacturers who stop supplying spares after a certain time. Probably for these reasons some people prefer to refurbish or rebuild their machines.
Having said that, the new Wadkin Bursgreen equipment is excellent. Added to that AMS’s commitment to providing full support of spare parts for both new and rebuilt machines means that any machine downtime is kept to and absolute minimum.
As with all industry sectors, very little equipment is manufactured in the UK anymore, and only listed for sale on websites, However, whilst AMS also have a website full of new equipment for sale, you can also still come and touch the machinery in our fully operational Showroom, and be totally convinced that any machine bought is supported by a full team of engineers & technicians.
Q: Do you think that the woodworking industry has changed in the last 50 years? How? Why?
The looks of the machines is changed.
When I first started the machines were all the same colour. They were green machines and they weren´t very user- friendly. Health and Safety was also not taken seriously, with very few guards in place, the customers used to say: “You weren’t a proper machinist unless you had lost part of a finger”, not a very good test of anyone’s ability.
“You weren’t a proper machinist unless you had lost part of a finger”
If you look at the machines nowadays, they look really colourful, they are definitely safer and easier to operate, and produce a consistent quality of product. You can’t even open the machines if it is working keeping the operators away from danger, and there is more attention to the “look” of a machine rather than merely its functionality. In this respect, safety, design, colour, and quality of output are the way’s they have progressed greatly.
Operation is also easier than it was. Now, with proper training, anybody can use these machines, but of course the automation of factories has seen a reduction in the number of bench joiners & carpenters, making these skills highly sought after.
Q: Do you think that the internet has had an affect on this industry?
Yes, obviously because you can buy machines, tooling and spare parts on Ebay or many better Websites, for example and you can look at the machine you want on You Tube or similar sites, see the machine working and decide whether to buy it.
I know that the industry has changed with the internet but in my case I particularity appreciate the technology changes where you can programme machinery from the office computer. It was unthinkable some years ago.
The worst job that I did was in Iraq in 1983
Q: What is the worst experience that you have had ever in this industry?
The worst job that I did was in Iraq in 1983. I went to commission some Wadkin Moulders machines and it was an awful experience.
If you wanted to call home you would have to book a call in the post office. You would have to wait 2-3 hours in a sweaty hot queue and after that you could talk for just 10 minutes by phone.
We had a visa for a month. When we finished the job, we went to the capital Bagdad to book the flight, and the flight was the last day of my visa.
I used to take some smalls tools and put them in my pocket or in my hand luggage just in case I lost my cases, but on this occasion, they saw them on the scan and they said that I wouldn’t be able to take my tools through.
I didn’t understand why and I thought I would come back and try again. I tried 3 times without success, but on the final attempt a policeman put a gun in my face and I thought: “Okay, maybe I don’t want these tools after all” so I went back to the transit lounge to throw all of them into the rubbish.
At that moment, an air hostess was on the same flight home as me and he helped me. Success, he passed throw with my tools, but this was a very scary moment, and I never tried it again.
Q: Which has been your best experience in the woodworking industry?
Whilst travelling to Iraq was the worse experience I have had, the opportunity to travel the world installing woodworking equipment has generally been an excellent experience. I travelled around the world with both Wadkin and AMS.
Australia, America, Egypt, Scandinavia, Germany… anywhere really.
The best experience was Australia where I was working for 10 weeks, and I’m certain that without Wadkin & AMS I would not have been able to gain such excellent experiences travelling the globe. It has been absolutely fantastic.
I really enjoyed working in the Development Department for 25 years
Q: What is your favourite job within the woodworking industry?
Anything that makes you think. I really enjoyed working in the Development Department for 25 years. It is very interesting when you don’t know the end result or whether a project would be successful, and you could spend days and nights working on certain projects to meet the company deadline.
The apprentices think that I’m mad and make fun of me. I tell them that If I have a problem that I cannot find an answer to I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with the solution in my head (ha ha) and they cannot believe it .
Q: What do you think about the 10th AMS anniversary? How is AMS nowadays?
AMS after 10years has improved massively year on year. We have progressed in all areas and are constantly investing in improving the workshop facilities, our products, we have quality machines, and an excellent fully equipped showroom. Added to this excellent suppliers and a dedicated and experienced team across the company.
The experienced workforce that has been assembled at AMS is its real strength whist its investment in the showroom and workshop facilities make for excellent working conditions.
Q: Can you advance the AMS future?
AMS is constantly working to expand in all the areas of the business. I think it is excellent that we continue to train our own apprentices so we pass over our years of knowledge about woodworking machines to the next generations.
Now, we are also looking for Field Service Engineers in the South of England, so if you are an engineer or wood machinist looking to move into a Wood Machinery Support Role or you would like to learn a lot about wood working industry, don’t delay and contact us 08448449949 or firstname.lastname@example.org