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Meet the team: Neil Kanagaratnam

This month’s Meet the Team feature is an exciting one, as we had the chance to interview Neil Kanagaratnam, Operations Director. Neil has been responsible for implementing some exciting new innovations for our sites. We managed to get some early information on some of these innovations – keep an eye out over the next few months for videos and more information!

Meet Neil Kanagaratnam:

Role: Group Operations Director

Branch: Head Office

Started: July 2022


Food: Chinese

Pastime: Developing new galvanizing technologies!

Can you give a brief overview of your role?

I am the Operations Director for the Joseph Ash Group. My job is to manage all our sites’ operation performance through improving operational efficiency, reducing business cost, reducing lead time, increase sales, and drive process efficiency. I work with a lot of other departments to make these happen and make Joseph Ash a world-class galvanizing company.

I also develop the company’s Policy Deployment Plan (PDP). Policy deployment is a strategic planning process that aims to set the corporate objectives, management plans, and daily operations in sync with each other. This process drives a high-performance culture with clear visibility of company goals and objectives.

What did you do before joining the company?

I worked as Manufacturing Director in the aerospace and defence industry.  Following this I became a fellow in materials technology, as well as a welding and joining society where I developed advanced manufacturing in aerospace industries. I drove manufacturing efficiency through design for manufacturing and assembly with the use of robotics and automation, and I worked on advanced materials technology for the defence industry. In this role I managed multiple sites to grow NPI programs and developed top talent.

Can you talk about some of the innovations you’ve worked on recently?

Digital twin

My favourite ongoing innovation is our Digital Twin technology. This technology allows us to monitor the plants and check performance through data analysis and corrective measures. A digital twin is a digital replica of an object in the physical world. In our case, we apply a digital twin on our process controls and we simulate our robotics before we integrate them into our sites. It’s been useful in developing our initiatives as it mitigates any risks and reduces our automation lead times.

Welding automation

We’ve used digital twin technology to bring in automation for a lot of our services. Firstly, our welding process is being automated. We’ve created a robotic welding system that automatically cleans the weld torch, cuts wire to length, and positions it into the right place. It is capable of adjusting weld torch movement and tracking seam gaps. With external exes we can move parts 360 degrees.

Most of our customers’ welding is very manual, so this machinery will help to automate the process. Automation will also help to reduce costs, produce larger batch sizes, reduce scrap waste, and overall modernise our operations. This additional welding service will give the customer additional capacity and higher quality products.

Spin galvanizing automation

We’ve also started automating the spin galvanizing process at our Telford site. This is currently still under construction but this will be finished by August 2023. It’s a very manual process without automation, but we’re bringing in a robotic arm that can do this for us. We used digital twin technology, mentioned before, for risk assessment and simulation.

Hook manufacturing automation

Hook manufacturing is also being automated, at our Bilston site. We use hooks before galvanization to hang up steel. Before, we used wire which would get thrown away after one use. This was wasteful and bad for the environment. Now, these hooks can be reused many times, and reduce steel wire consumption and material wastage.

Powder coating automation

Finally, powder coating at our Medway site is being reworked with surface blending automation technology. There is a lot of automation being implemented at the moment!

I’m proud of implementing all of these in my first 7 months, and developing and refining them more now that I’m 10 months into my role.

What benefits do these innovations bring?

These innovations help to reduce our business cost, meaning we are more efficient with our budgets. They also help to improve the safety of working at our sites, reducing the risk of accident. Robots also improve the quality and consistency of our metal finishings. Human error means that it’s possible to get inconsistent results, whereas automation can bring more consistent results that are harder to achieve with people.

New technologies also help to make Joseph Ash more appealing to the younger generation, as the world is becoming more technology-driven. We are better able to attract new talent to join our company as we become a more interesting and safer company to work for. We need to stay up-to-date with the current world so that we are ahead of our competitors.

Are there plans to implement any more innovations over the next few years? What are the timeframes for these?

The digital twin will be fully complete over the next 18 months. It is a gradual implementation, and will help us advance the company even further in the future. Our current automation technologies will be scaled up over the next few years, and brought out to multiple sites. It’s an exciting time to work for and be a customer of Joseph Ash Galvanizing!

Is there anything you’d like to tell us, that we haven’t asked you?

We’re always looking to be more engaging with our people. When designing innovations, we always involve our people and look for opportunities to continually improve. We’re proud to be a diverse and inclusive company that cares about its people.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I used to develop synthetic diamonds many years ago. People used to call me Neil Diamond!

Keep an eye on our YouTube, TikTok and Instagram accounts over the coming weeks for videos of these innovations in action!

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Joseph Ash Galvanizing takes health and safety seriously; we hold numerous policies dedicated to health and safety compliance. To make sure we maintain these regulations, we need someone in charge of our Health and Safety department. This is where David Hull, Head of Health and Safety comes in!

We interviewed David Hull and found out a bit about him and his role at Joseph Ash.

Meet David Hull:

Role: Head of Health and Safety

Branch: Head Office


Food: I love to try local cuisines while travelling but at home I love a good pizza.

Film: Big movie fan but my favourite is probably Forest Gump – “Run Forest Run”.

Pastime: Running.

Can you give a brief overview of your role?

David Hull

I am Head of Health and Safety, reporting to the Managing Director. As part of my role, I provide strategic guidance and direction for the Company, and hands-on support for our 10 locations across the UK. I’m responsible for the development and support of 12 Health and Safety practitioners of various levels.

The role involves driving continuous improvements through regular engagement with General Managers and the Health and Safety team, conducting a variety of subject matter inspections, audits, assessments and reviews of incident investigations, trend analysis and action plan reviews. I also assess and review business risks and challenges, and offer pragmatic solutions to ensure the business keeps moving effectively and efficiently.

Can you give us some history on your career?

I’ve been in Health and Safety for 28 years, working across a variety of industries from logistics, FMCG, mining and oil and gas. I have worked in Jordan, Germany, Belgium and Oman. 

What drew you to the company?

The industry has always attracted me, and with a success story dating back over 165 years I thought I’d look into what the Company does. When I saw how seriously you take health and safety, I figured this could be a good business to be a part of.   

What are your health and safety goals for the plants?

I want to take the plants from reactive-based safety to behavioural-based; this not only reduces incidents but can improve operational efficiencies.

What types of health and safety projects are on the horizon that you can talk about?

There are lots of changes to make to the management system. These include simplifying risk assessments and safe systems of work, creating dynamic risk assessment, and improving our control of contractors.

Tell us something that people might find surprising about you.

I have run several Ultra Marathons around the world. My wife and I love to travel but I usually try to plan a sneaky race while we are away. The races can take anywhere from 6 hours to 24 hours.

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Another new face to the Joseph Ash Group, keen to introduce themselves! Paul Williams has joined our team at Widnes Galvanising as Maintenance Manager for the branch. We took the chance to speak with Paul in our latest ‘Meet the Team’ and find out all about him and his new role.

Meet Paul Williams:

Role: Maintenance Manager

Branch: Widnes

Started: 2023


Food: Love a Chinese banquet

Film: A good action film like the John Wick series is always a winner (I was lucky enough to use the Kiltech shot gun from the film while in the States). I’m also a big F1 fan and love watching the race on weekends.

Pastime: I try and keep fit, attending my local Men’s Hub facility in Warrington 3-4 times a week, running and cycling now and then. I also enjoy meals out with my wife and kids, and long beach walks with our border collie Rosy.

Can you give a brief overview of your role?

My role as Maintenance Manager is to keep production running smoothly. I liaise with contractors, management, and staff to keep the daily operations of the plant working as they should. Basically, if it breaks, it’s my job to fix it.

Can you give us some history on your career?

My previous job was as an electrical contractor working on all manner of sites, from hospitals to petrochemical sites. This came to an end in 2009 when I took up a maintenance role for another galvanizing company, which was my introduction to the galvanizing industry.

What drew you to the company?

I saw the job advertised at Joseph Ash and saw there was potential to grow, improve and challenge myself in my first management role. I love a challenge and felt that my skillset very much matched the job advertised, and I wanted to progress.

What is your favourite/most memorable project to date?

Being so new to the company I’m just starting to get my teeth into our first round of improvement works over Easter. I actually enjoy the planning stages and seeing the various works come together to reach the common goal.

What projects are you looking forward to in the coming year?

I’m generally looking forward to improving the site, how we operate, working as part of a larger team and increasing production.

Tell us something that people might find surprising about you.

People normally double take when I tell them I’m a professional wrestler (WWE style) and have worked on shows up and down the country. I have also been lucky enough to wrestle internationally in Belgium, Australia and the United States. I even had a small part in the Hollywood movie “Fighting With My Family”, starring The Rock.

I’ve also completed a few marathons – one ultra marathon and a century bike ride (not on the same day though!). I also help coach a local football under 16 team (Cromwell Thunderbolts) which my son plays for too, so I’m quite busy generally.

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We’re shining a light on Jessica Ramanouski, Office & Sales Administrator, as the latest face to join our Widnes Galvanising branch. We hope our current (and future) customers will look forward to interacting with Jess in the coming months!

Meet Jessica Ramanouski:

Role: Office & Sales Administrator

Branch: Widnes

Started: February 2023

Can you give a brief overview of your role at the company?

I am brand new to the company, being here just over a month. I have a dual role of Office & Sales Administrator. I am learning new ways of inputting information and data, as well as learning about galvanizing in general. I am also dealing with supplier queries, which has introduced me to the financial side of the company.

Jessica Ramanouski

As well as the admin side, I have started to work with our Commercial Manager, Gavin. Gavin is teaching me the sales part of the company and I am working alongside him to improve our techniques and find new customers.

What was your history before joining the company?

When I finished school, I did an apprenticeship in Business Administration. I worked in a forklift training centre for seven months and loved every minute of it. Due to my age, I decided to complete my A-Levels to save complications with funding as I got older. After this, I spent four years at Liverpool Hope University studying for a BA in History & Media and Communication, and an MA in History. During this time, I worked for a supermarket as a Team Leader, and also qualified as a makeup artist.

I met amazing people and learnt many transferrable skills. I enjoyed my time there; however, I was always yearning for a graduate job where I could put my knowledge and skills to good use. So, you can imagine my happiness when I got this job. I felt like I was coming full circle, starting this job exactly 10 years after my apprenticeship.

What drew you to the company?

Widnes Galvanising is a local business to me. It’s where my dad worked when I was a child, and my little brother is currently a manager here in the production office. I heard a lot of positive things about the company and people after it had been taken over by Joseph Ash. I did some research and liked the sound of the ethics and eco-friendliness of the company so I decided to apply.

What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

I’m looking forward to working with new people and developing an ever-growing customer base. I’m also looking forward to getting more involved in sales and marketing, and developing my knowledge.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I am a huge fan of makeup and the art of drag. I am a qualified makeup artist and I will often have a face full of makeup on, including rhinestones. I am obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race and when I am not in work, I will spend time binging episodes. 

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Apprenticeships are a valuable achievement, whether you’re newly out of school, or if you have years of working experience already behind you. For National Apprenticeship Week 2023, we decided to interview one of our current apprentices, Matthew Phillips for our latest ‘Meet the team’ article. Matthew is a Customer Service Manager at our Chesterfield branch. He started his Level 3 Team Leader course in June 2022, and has been with Joseph Ash since 2007.

Tying into this year’s theme of Skills for Life, we decided to ask him all about his apprenticeship experience, and learn about how he’s been able to progress his career.

Meet Matthew Phillips:

Role: Customer Service Manager

Branch: Chesterfield

Apprenticeship: Team Leader (Level 3)

Started: 2007 (at Joseph Ash) / June 2022 (apprenticeship)

Matthew Phillips

Can you give us a brief overview of your current role at the company?

“I started at Joseph Ash in 2007 as a Customer Service Manager and my Team Leader apprenticeship in 2022. I’m due to finish my course in about six month’s time.

“As Customer Service Manager, I’m responsible for managing key accounts and day-to-day contact with customers. I have over 15 years’ experience in the industry, building key relationships with customers and clients. I help produce formal quotations, assist with production and transport requirements, and manage existing projects and provide site tours and visits.”

Why did you choose to do an apprenticeship, and how has it impacted your career?

“I wanted to do an apprenticeship to further my training and knowledge. The training has been very useful in my development as a manager. The course has covered a wide range of topics, providing me with skills I can use within my role. This has helped me achieve my sales targets and develop my operational and project skills.

“The best thing I’ve learnt during my apprenticeship is gaining an understanding of the impact of unconscious bias and emotional intelligence.

“I’m looking forward to developing my team and managing more projects in the coming year. I’m more equipped to do these thanks to the skills I’ve learnt in my apprenticeship.”

Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in completing an apprenticeship?

“Enjoy the training, and use the information provided within your role.”

When asked about his interests outside of his apprenticeship and career, Matthew commented:

“I’m a very sporty person and enjoy playing football and running. I play for two football teams on a Saturday and Sunday, and support Derby County (best team in the East Midlands). I also enjoy spending my spare time with family and friends, and going out for nice food and drinks. When using my holidays, I like travelling the world seeing different cultures and going on new adventures.”

“Believe it or not I’ve once appeared on a TV soap called Peak Practice when I was younger.”

Contact Joseph Ash Galvanizing today if you’re looking for you next career step or any apprenticeship opportunities!

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In October 2022, Joseph Ash Ltd acquired Widnes Galvanising, which became the ninth plant for the Group. We thought this would be a good opportunity to interview Widnes’ Commercial Manager, Gavin Jones in our latest ‘Meet the team’ article to find out a bit about him and what his plans are for the division.

Meet Gavin Jones:

Role: Commercial Manager

Branch: Widnes

Started: 2015


Food: Anything Asian (Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese etc.)

Film: Step Brothers. I have a very immature sense of humour and this is right down my street!

Pastimes: Football. I’ve always played football and used to play for Saturday and Sunday football teams, but when you get older and have kids you don’t have the time anymore. However, I still play indoor football every Wednesday evening with my mates, which remains a highlight of my week.

Gavin Jones

Can you give us some history on your career?

“I’ve been a Commercial Manager since June 2020 but have been with Joseph Ash since May 2015. I previously held the position of Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality Manager at the Telford branch.

“Before Joseph Ash, I worked as a salesperson for a medical equipment supplier. I travelled all over the UK but decided to find a position closer to home when my wife was pregnant with our first child.

“I lived in Telford at the time a ‘Management Trainee’ position became available at the Telford branch. After meeting with Stuart Whitehouse, Stuart Cobourne and Tracie Lockley at the interview stage, I could tell it was the kind of company I wanted to work for.”

Can you give us an overview of your day-to-day?

“In my current role as Commercial Manager at Widnes Galvanising it is my responsibility to ensure the division secures sufficient sales revenue to achieve our targets.

“My day-to-day tasks include customer analysis, prospecting, and quoting all enquiries.

“Aside from the sales side of the role, I often refer to myself as a kind of project manager as I am the link between our customers, production and transport. I also spend many days on the road visiting customers for all kinds of reasons, such as advice on their designs and discussing pricing.

“This year I am getting far more involved with the overall running of the business.”

What are your goals for the Widnes plant?

“My goal is to grow the business and increase our weekly tonnages by 20% while maintaining the excellent turnaround times and service. The quality of Joseph Ash’s galvanizing has always been first class, so I’m hopeful that new customers will see the benefit of using Widnes Galvanising going forward.”

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

“I’m a massive foodie and I’m always trying new recipes when cooking at home. I worked as a chef in a pub kitchen, and an Indian restaurant whilst I was at university. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of opening my own restaurant one day.”

If you’d like to get in touch with Gavin at Widnes Galvanising to discuss your hot dip galvanizing requirements, you can reach him at

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