Personality Profile: Debbie Mellor, MD Keighley Laboratories

Debbie Mellor, MD

Debbie Mellor, MD Keighley Laboratories

Could you give us a brief insight into the company background and explain the current position of the company?

Incorporated in 1920, Keighley Laboratories was founded by local businesses to support their metallurgical requirements. The aim of the collaboration was to provide a test laboratory facility for local engineering firms and foundries, which would be as efficient as the in-house facilities of larger companies, at competitively favourable rates to other sub-contractors.  The Heat Treatment department was later added to the services provided in 1926.

Currently, the company has a large-scale Heat Treatment department, offering a wide range of services, including carburising, case hardening, hardening and tempering, induction hardening, Tufftriding, annealing, normalising and stress relieving.

The Laboratory Services side has expanded over time to offer a full complement of metallurgical services, including spectrographic and wet chemical analysis, mechanical and physical testing, corrosion analysis, failure and problem investigation, foundry consultancy, PMI/alloy verification, weld examination and non-destructive testing.

I took over as Managing Director in September 2008, just prior to the very challenging economic downturn, which has certainly tested all my management skills!

Is there a particular product that you regard as being key to the success of Keighley Laboratories and why?

As we do not produce a specific product, I think the key to our success, is the capacity to offer a ‘one stop shop’ for heat treatment and metallurgical requirements.  We have a wealth of in-house knowledge and experience and offer a high quality personal service.

As Managing Director, how do you see your role within the company and what are your key responsibilities?

As Managing Director for two years now, I see my role as developing senior personnel within the company, overseeing quality standards, continually reviewing investment in plant and equipment and, of course, making certain our customers receive the best service possible. Since I am one of relatively few chief executives in the engineering market, I would also like to encourage more women to join the industry, through the apprenticeship and graduate recruitment routes.

In an ever more challenging market, how are you positioning the company to continue its success in 2010 and beyond?

We have an investment plan in place to further expand our Heat Treatment facility, which will involve erecting a new building to add new facilities to our already extensive services.  We also continually re-evaluate our Laboratory Services, so as to enhance the overall service and continue adding major industry accreditations.  We have increased our transport fleet too, as we see a need to provide an efficient collection and delivery service.

Metallurgical technology moves at a rapid pace, what is Keighley Laboratories currently doing in terms of R&D for the future?

Along with preserving and developing our existing knowledge base, we are looking to forge collaborations with universities, in order to develop ongoing research projects.

Has Keighley Laboratories recently won any awards or industry accolades?

Not recently, although this year I was appointed a director of the Contract Heat Treatment Association, the lead industry body, which was quite an accolade for myself and the firm.

Where do you see the growth areas for Keighley Laboratories in the steel industry and what plans have you put in place to capitalise on them?

Given that a lot of material is now being imported, our Laboratory Services side offers material overchecks, both mechanical and chemical, to confirm the validity of the specification stated on material certificates. In addition, we seek to expand our Heat Treatment range and capacity, to meet current and future industry needs.

What drives you to be successful?

I care about the company and its staff.  Having served Keighley Laboratories for 24 years, it is safe to say that I have grown up with the company.  I believe that we offer a high quality service and I would like to see that continue and develop.

Do you delegate well? Do you prefer a more hands on approach to business?

I have had to, since the role was passed to me at short notice, due to my predecessor’s illness. There was no option but to delegate to other capable people in the organisation, although there are still more duties that need to be reassigned.

Have you set personal goals for the future?

I would like to obtain an MBA and spend more time visiting our customers.

What is your mission?  Where do you hope the company will be in five years time?

For the company to be THE ‘one stop shop’ for heat treatment and metallurgical solutions.  I hope the company will have doubled its turnover by then, yet still offer a quality, personal service.

These are a few of my favourite things ……

Food: A beautifully cooked Rib Eye Steak
Drink: Chateauneuf du Pape
Sport and team: Not very sports orientated, but if I had to pick, rugby union … and whoever!
Film: Grease!
Book: Anything by Peter Kay
Singer or group: Kings of Leon
Car you drive: Audi A4
Dream car: Aston Martin
Holiday destination: Airlie Beach, Australia

And finally, who is the person you most admire and given the choice, the person you would most like to meet?

I admire Richard Branson and would like to meet Barack Obama.