Darren Holt - Plant Manager St Helens, UK

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Darren Holt, Knauf Insulation UK, St Helens

Darren is our plant manager at St Helens in the UK. The site operates a three-line process — two cured lines and a blowing wool line — which offers exceptional flexibility to manufacture a wide range of products. St Helens also enjoys a long and successful tradition for glass making in the UK.

Since the start of the pandemic the team has become closer. We recognise the need to support each other.
Darren Holt, Plant Manager St Helens, UK

What were you doing before working for Knauf Insulation?

I worked for Exide Technologies (Battery Manufacture) as a UK Logistics Manager after taking an industry-sponsored education programme that offered experience at all levels of a large manufacturing organisation.

When did you start working for Knauf Insulation?

I joined the company in 2010. After four years as manufacturing manager at St Helens I was transferred to our Cwmbran site as plant manager before being appointed plant manager at St Helens.

What have been the greatest challenges of 2020?

Maintaining a safe and efficient manufacturing operation during a period of global pandemic crisis where the UK COVID-19 death rates were among the highest in the world. The teams were extremely concerned about operating the plant during the early stages of the crisis.

How did your plant overcome these challenges?

It was vital to offer continual reassurance, communication, leadership and empathy. Ultimately, we came together as a team, operating as one, supporting each other and recognising the importance of people within our organisation.

What learnings would like to share?

Make yourself accessible to the team, be visible and empathise with personal circumstances. Communicate continually, share information and recognise that people will follow your journey at different speeds.

How has your plant been changed by COVID safety requirements?

The team is closer, we recognise the need to support each other and take more time out to talk about the well-being of friends and family. There is a greater focus on health to balance with the plant priority of safety. In all areas of the site we have physical distancing measures, we have increased our hygiene measures and we have supporting documentation clearly visible in all areas.

What key measures were introduced to keep your team As Safe As Home?

Measures have included the implementation of segregation markings, Perspex screening, information points and weekly/monthly updates. There are cleaning routines for shared equipment, an audit process to reinforce best practice and maintain standards as well as sanitising stations and cleaning equipment in all areas. The canteen has been closed and face coverings issued to all employees along with personal sanitisers. We have reduced the number of people attending meetings and many meetings are now held online. Office staff is working from home and we have improved our rest areas by replacing surfaces.

What is the ambition of the site?

To be the highest performing Glass Mineral Wool plant in the Knauf Insulation relevant portfolio. We want to be the plant that operates with the highest Continuous Improvement (CI) Maturity and ensure that a culture of CI is embedded and accepted by all.

What have been your proudest career achievements?

For me personally, receiving a Knauf Insulation Leadership award in recognition of the improvements carried out at the Cwmbran site during the first few years of my plant manager role.

Which examples showcase teamwork at your plant?

Every day I see continual examples of teamwork at St Helens. The team work collectively towards a common goal and recognise the importance of teamwork every hour of every day. To highlight individual examples would be unfair, I see teamwork evident at all levels of the site to solve problems as well as improve and reshape plant performance.

What successes would you highlight in connection with safety?

Our site is currently operating with a zero-harm culture. Hazard spotting processes are fully functional with all hazards identified and tracked daily until completion, the plant closure rate is currently 92%. Plant teams recognise that safety is the number one priority and this has translated into zero recordable incidents at the site for more than eight months.

How does your plant contribute positively to the local community?

We support the local community through sponsorship events and charitable links. 

What recent sustainability successes have been important to the plant?

St Helens site recently engaged with Siemens to partner an energy improvement programme which — in conjunction with Cwmbran — enabled extensive investment across two manufacturing plants and is now achieving energy savings of over 10,000 MWh/year with a yearly reduction of over 5,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.   

What messages would you have for neighbours who are concerned about the environmental impact of your plant? 

At Knauf Insulation we operate with a continued focus on sustainability and recognise our input in creating a better and more sustainable world for all. Our plant teams are focused on minimising waste and maximising opportunities to limit our carbon footprint. Our employees are passionate about improvement and take a responsible approach to operating the facility.



Plant Managers Knauf Insulation
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