"I have seen a lot of challenges and rewards that reflect the effort you put in"

David Birdsall

David Birdsall, Inorganic Chemistry PhD from Loughborough University. Joined Johnson Matthey in May 2001. Based in Billingham, Cleveland, UK.

I joined the Emission Control Technologies (ECT) business as a graduate process chemist in 2001, assigned to the scale up of new formulations for diesel engined cars. After a couple of months I was asked to supervise the transfer of an important new product into production in the newly opened autocatalyst plant in Royston. During the next six months I visited several other ECT sites, on three continents and successfully validated numerous other new products.

After 12 months, and with this newly gained experience, I was given the opportunity to manage the team of people that provided technical support for the ECT manufacturing plants in Royston. Together we introduced over a hundred new parts and worked with the resident process engineers on improvement projects throughout the plant.

Bringing a new technology to market

Early in 2004 it became obvious that diesel particulate filters (DPFs) for diesel engined cars were likely to become a big part of ECT's future revenue. At this time I was given two main objectives. Firstly, construct a Pilot Plant and assemble a team of people to manufacture these parts and secondly, design the process to make these parts in full scale production! Nothing too tricky there then! After 18 months of hard work the Pilot Plant was a 24/7 operation employing 40 people and was a crucial part in gaining the confidence of our customers to this new technology. The other half of my team had successfully developed the new DPF manufacturing process, and were busy with plant commissioning.

With the first DPF plant being commissioned I felt my job was done, and applied for a transfer to the Process Technologies business of Johnson Matthey based in Billingham.

New challenges in a new division

In October 2005 I was appointed Technical Development Manager and led a team of chemists and engineers to develop new products for the Syngas market. This was a new set of people, customers and science, so a very steep learning curve for me.

After two years building this team and developing a very exciting new product, I was assigned a new role. This was to lead a project team to commercialise this new product. Since then I have been working as the link between commercial, manufacturing and R&D to enable the strands of the project and product development to come together successfully.

Thoughts on Johnson Matthey

If I were to summarise my career so far at Johnson Matthey, then the words dull and boring would not be on the list! What I have seen are a lot of challenges and rewards that reflect the effort you put in.