After 18 years of supporting customers across the globe, Kelvin Skinner is due to retire later this month
Following a 48 year career in engineering, Paladon Systems interviews Kelvin Skinner as he prepares to retire on 22nd December.
How did you enter the valve automation industry?
After working for the General Electric Company for 28 years, the company was significantly restructured following a takeover and I was unfortunately one of the many employees made redundant during that period. During my redundancy notice, I saw that Paladon Systems was looking for a Workshop Supervisor and I decided to apply. My 28 years of engineering experience included managing workshops in the UK and Africa and subsequently I was hired by Paladon Systems in August 1999.
What was your career path during your 18 years at Paladon Systems?
Initially as the Workshop Supervisor I was responsible for managing the assembly and testing of control systems for valve actuators supplied by a third party manufacturer.
In 2002 we opened an Italian manufacturing plant to start the design and manufacture of Paladon Systems’ own range of linear and scotch-yoke valve actuators. During the early days of our Italian facility, I visited many times to help implement new work procedures that focused on the inspection and testing of our valve actuators and their respective control systems.
In 2003 Paladon Systems began designing advanced hydraulic valve positioning systems and I became heavily involved with this exciting new area of our business.
In 2005 I took on the role of Manufacturing Engineer and have remained in that position for the last 12 years. Originally the major part of my role was to provide technical and engineering support to Paladon Systems’ Contracts Department; however, sales of our new valve positioning systems grew so quickly that we had to increase our service support for these types of systems. Most of my time over the last decade has been spent providing after sales support for valve positioning systems; both from our UK facility and wherever these systems have been installed.
With regards to technology, what changes have you seen in the valve automation industry during the last 18 years?
The main technologies behind ring-main pneumatic and hydraulic valve automation systems matured decades ago and so there is not a lot of room for further development with these types of basic systems. I have seen rapid advances with hydraulic valve positioning systems, particularly with regards to their accuracy, speed, reliability and communication options. The industry has also become a lot more environmentally responsible, resulting in a reduction in systems that vent natural gas during operation, and an increase in SIL 3 certified systems where proven reliability is a key design requirement.
So you’ve done a lot of travelling?
During my 18 years at Paladon Systems I have travelled to nearly 30 countries and enjoyed the direct contact with the end users as I was able to better understand their unique operational requirements and challenges.
What did you enjoy most about your job?
Working with my colleagues and helping clients, and especially the travel. Often our systems are installed in areas of the world not seen by your average tourist and which therefore still maintain their unique and fascinating cultures. Despite being locked out of a desert work camp in the middle of night by an overzealous guard, being stuck offshore for 15 days without any outside communications or being shown around the kitchen of a café in the middle of rural China desperately trying to identify something remotely familiar to eat, I have thoroughly enjoyed the travel.
What do you intend to do during retirement?
I want to continue travelling, but this time for pleasure and not for business. My first trip after retirement will be to Australia as I somehow managed to miss it for the last 64 years. In addition to travelling, I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time with my wife of 41 years, Jill; who is also retiring this month. Although my three children have obviously all grown up, I have eight grandchildren who will keep me busy for many years to come. I have been involved with Daventry Amateur Athletic Club for 30 years, holding the position of Chairman of their Executive Committee for the last 15 years; and plan on supporting the club for the foreseeable future.
Thank you Kelvin for your time. Paladon Systems sincerely appreciates your loyalty and efforts over the last 18 years and we wish you all the best for the future; you will be missed.
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