Tony Norton is operations manager at one of East Durham’s most established and successful businesses.
In this issue’s My Working Day feature, we chat to Tony Norton, Operations Manager at Peterlee-based rainscreen manufacturing company Sotech. Tony, who has worked for the company for 10 years, tells us more about his role within the business, what turning 60 meant for him and how he unwinds away from work…
EDB: Tell us more about your job at Sotech? TN: I am Operations Manager for the company and a member of the senior management team with responsibility for the general smooth running of the factory. At any given time we’ll have around 30 projects on the go so managing the workload and client deadlines is essential, particularly as right now we’re busier than we have ever been, certainly in my 10 years with the company.
Planning these projects is important, understanding manufacturability of the product is key. This allows us to understand what route through the factory these elements will take. Daily project updates are crucial to ensure that we are on target for delivery dates. We often find that some sites may have to change installation programmes and therefore this may influence our manufacturing programme. We also take into consideration booked capacity with our subcontract partners allowing them enough time to achieve our target delivery date.
EDB: Is there such a thing as a typical day for you? TN: Not really, every day is different though there are many common elements of each day. Every morning I am in just after 6am, I walk round the factory to ensure that when the guys start at 7am they have everything in place to start their first job. I also take this opportunity to check on the production status of the projects which ran on the machines the night before.
I review the orders before they are entered onto the system, giving information on stage boundaries such as development, cutting, powder coating and anodising, the order is then authorised by myself to be sent to the next stage. I like to catch up with the estimating team on updates of potential new projects, this is to give me an oversight on what exciting new schemes and possible challenges we may be facing. Throughout the day I will spend time on the shop floor discussing manufacturability, quality and at the same time talking to the staff, updating them on the projects they are working on and how well they are going and touching on new projects.
EDB: What challenges are you facing at the moment? TN: Probably our workload, which is significant. Though equally that is a good position to be in. It means project planning and our personnel are key as every day we’re so busy and have deadlines to meet throughout the working week.
EDB: How would you describe the team at Sotech? TN: We’re like a big family and honestly, I have made some very special friends over the years. I love the job and getting onto the shop floor to chat to the guys. I wouldn’t ask the guys to do anything I wouldn’t do, and I do think that really motivates them and gets the best out of them.
EDB: You marked a big birthday this year didn’t you? TN: Yes, I turned 60 which I didn’t like, I still don’t. But I don’t feel it as I have so much energy and certainly have no intention of slowing down!
EDB: What do you like to do away from work? TN: The working week is so busy so my weekends are about switching off and spending time with family and friends. Having a work/life balance is key! My weekend starts on a Friday afternoon though I do keep a eye on the work phone for a few hours. To relax I love walking my two dogs – we have Henry, an eight-year-old springer spaniel, and Trevor, a two-year-old cocker spaniel. Honestly you might think I have a lot of energy, but they certainly help to keep me fit. Everything is looking great for my family – my eldest daughter Katie is having twin girls in September, my partner’s daughter Naomi is expecting a little boy in June while my youngest daughter Emily is in the process of moving to Hartlepool with her partner. It’s an exciting time for us.
EDB: Finally, you’re incredibly proud of Sotech’s work aren’t you? TN: Very much so yes. Throughout the UK you’ll see our work, I would drive the girls mad by saying, ‘see that building, that’s one of mine’. It is but it’s also down to the team the whole team and I think we all take real pride in seeing our work on display.