EMR’s longstanding commitment to innovation requires a team of dedicated engineers capable of delivering the advanced technologies and solutions to drive the business forward.
As Engineering Programme Manager, Stephen Allen is responsible for building this market-leading team.
“My duties fall into two camps. Firstly, I look after the people in EMR’s engineering department on a day-to-day basis, but I’m also responsible for recruiting new people into the team. This ensures we have the required skills needed to keep EMR at the forefront of recycling and that we are on the path to decarbonising our customers’ supply chains.”
Stephen also evaluates up and coming projects and one way he does this is to check that there is a good business case for investment in a new process or technology before a project begins. “This tends to mean we look for a payback to EMR within a few years, after which the project provides profit to the business.
“In other cases, a project might be driven by a new piece of legislation, regulation or Environment Agency policy,” he adds.
Stephen says his team usually operates at three main levels of technology development.
“We will often get involved in government grant-funded projects, in which EMR will join forces with partners from different industries and academia, to work out if a new technology or business model is going to work successfully in practice.
“We then have our Research and Development facility at EMR Landor Street, Birmingham, where our engineers can reproduce some of the separation processes at our bigger plants around the UK. Here, we can take a small amount of material, categorise it and evaluate its properties. This allows my team to develop pathways to further innovation or process efficiency improvements.
“The final level for the Central Engineering team is our Project Delivery Group, where project engineers and project leaders take a proven idea and engage with equipment or plant suppliers. Their job is to take the idea through to installation and commissioning and then hand it over to the operations team,” says Stephen.
The breadth of experience required to lead such a key team within EMR is something that Stephen has been busy building since the beginning of his career. “I started off as a graduate trainee with a firm that would ultimately become Cummins Turbo Technologies. I went through a student graduate induction programme and took on my first job as an applications engineer, advising customers on how to use the company’s systems and products.”
A number of roles in research and development and product delivery followed before Stephen was appointed Chief Engineer of Global Development for the business. “I spent two years setting up a team in India during this time,” he adds.
A career change then saw Stephen working for a much smaller SME where, he says, he learned the importance of delivering to a far more restricted customer base. “Being at an SME, it was very fast paced. We were very reliant on the few customers we had whereas, at Cummins, we had so many customers. Because of that I became a lot more customer focused, developing our products and services to keep that business moving forward and delivering what they need.”
This mixture of experience – and track record of delivery – has seen Stephen contribute a huge amount in his role as Engineering Programme Manager. Yet he emphasises that this is a role which requires an ever-expanding team of committed EMR engineers to succeed.
“Five years ago, the Central Engineering team comprised four people and now we’re at the point where we have 22 people. A lot of things are changing in the marketplace, driven by a lot of new regulations and innovation. The challenge at the moment is just having enough people to make things happen.”
With EMR continuing to expand and adapt as it moves towards a strict 2040 net-zero target, it’s clear that these achievements will owe much to the dedication and hard work of Stephen and his growing band of EMR engineers.