21 Dec Introducing: Ged Hebdige
My father always told me to, “get a proper job, get a trade, an apprenticeship!”. An apprenticeship offered the opportunity to go to college and progress to polytechnic and perhaps work for yourself. The best apprenticeships were offered by the forces and state-owned industries. I flirted with the idea of joining the RAF, but the school careers adviser enrolled me on to the British Steel Corporation (BSC) apprentice selection program. A series of interviews, exams and practical tests designed to identify the best of the kids not clever enough for university. I started at BSC Stocksbridge on my 16th birthday.
The Stocksbridge or ‘Foxes’ pant as it’s known locally was huge. Sprawling along the Upper Don Valley its melting shops, rolling mill, metal finishing and steel stockholding areas stretched for over 2.5 miles and employed more than 6,000 people, it was a small town.
One of the reasons BSC could deliver some of the best training available for apprentices was the sheer diversity of the equipment used in steel manufacturing, it had every type of electrical system you could imagine. 50,000,000 Watt electric arc furnaces, that’s equivalent to 25,000 domestic kettles! 10,000 horsepower (7,500kW) rolling mill main drive motors that measured 4 Meters in diameter with access doors, internal walkways and stairs to allow maintenance. 250 Ton overhead cranes for transporting and teaming ladles full of molten steel. This was serious heavy engineering in its heyday. It’s always made me smile when I visit customers and hear someone say, “we’ve got some big motors”, or “we’ve got some big pieces of equipment here you know”. Whatever they show me, it’s never bigger than that at BSC. So, don’t ever challenge me to a game of electrical ‘Top Trumps’, I would take some beating!
In 1992 I had the chance to work in Romania for a month. It was the era of ‘Challenge Anneka’, (again Google it kids), in 1990 Anneka Rice brought the world’s attention to the plight of thousands of abandoned children living in horrendous conditions in State run institutions in Romania. The Romanian Challenge Appeal was set up which lead to hundreds of volunteers working to create safe and caring environments for these forgotten children. One of these ‘mercy missions’ was organised by ‘The Star’, Sheffield’s local newspaper. The plan was to send a convoy of trucks carrying the donations, and a coach full of men and women to help Caritas Internationalis, (a German charity) renovate an orphanage in central Romania. Local people and business were asked to support the appeal and donate, money, food, clothes, toys, building materials and most importantly skilled labour to the cause. BSC, (now Stocksbridge Engineering Steels) asked its engineering departments for willing volunteers, I was one of only four who stepped forward. Needless to say, the experience was a real ‘eye-opener’, shocking at times, it genuinely unsettled me and gave me a new outlook on life.
By the time I took voluntary redundancy in February 1994, I was responsible for looking after the Stockbridge plants extensive High Voltage distribution system, which comprised of more than 35 substations and over 100 transformers. It was a good job, but I knew it was time to do something different with my life.
So, 1994 was a big year for me. I founded GWE, (GW Energy), the UK’s longest established and original Voltage Optimisation (VO) manufactures, with another ex-BSC electrical engineer. Professionally, I did nothing but eat, sleep and breath VO, for the next 25 years. Responsible for forecasting saving, equipment design, implementation, and installation of VO technology. So at the risk of ‘blowing my own trumpet’, you would be hard-pressed to find someone in the UK with more experience in VO than myself.
That year also finally got married to Angela, after living with her for nearly 10 years, we celebrated or 25th anniversary last year. Angela’s a nurse, as such she’s, caring and empathetic, but doesn’t suffer fools lightly and is straight to the point, most importantly she’s my rock. We have one daughter, who is in the final year of her paramedic training, she loves it and we’re both so proud of her. She’s our greatest achievement, she took a lot of trying and some fertility treatment before she arrived in our lives.
So, what floats my boat personally? I’m not a big sports lover, I’m certainly not a football fan, I can have a proper rant about what’s wrong in that game. I do like watching international rugby union, a game football can learn a lot from. I avidly follow F1 and have been fortunate enough to visit Monaco for the F1 weekend, what a spectacle, I recommend it even if you’re not an F1 fan. My main passion though is archery, not watching, I couldn’t imagine anything more boring, participating. Both Angela and I shoot traditional Longbows, no we don’t wear green tights and caps with feathers in. We are serious competitive archers, we can be found somewhere on the UK archery competition circuit most weekends throughout the summer in our camper van. I’m currently the Yorkshire County indoor champion and shoot for the County team. We both sit inside the top 30 archers in the UK national rankings, so we’re not bad at it!
The campervan is my other escape, there’s loads of places I’d like to tour and wild camp, both here in the UK and on the continent. Despite not having a bronze tan, six-pack or sufficient hair to look the part, I’d love to do the ‘hippy surf dude’ lifestyle. Roaming from place to place, talking to the local’s whilst watching the sun set with a glass of something in my hand. Although she hasn’t exactly said it, I’m sure Angela thinks I’m delusional and doesn’t share my idyllic vision. I was diagnosed with a heart condition earlier this year, that and COVID, scuppered our travel plans for this year and forced me to revaluate my lifestyle. Focus on the things I enjoy is my new mantra. I subsequently sold my share and retired from GWE, which brings me to today and why I’m writing this blog.
I am the Technical Director at Powerdown220, GWE’s primary reseller of VO technology. The guys there have asked me to share my knowledge and experience over the coming weeks and months in a blog, which I know I’ll enjoy doing. Hopefully, you the reader will find at least some of what I write interesting, informative, and thought-provoking.
Plus, hopefully, next year when things are better for all of us, I’ll be able to write the instalments from a camper van, dressed in flip flops and shorts, with a glass of something and longbow to hand. Delusional, not me!
Powerdown220 are delighted to be exhibiting at EMEX 2021. Come and meet the team at stand b62 to discuss how we are using technology to help UK Businesses improve their energy efficiency, reduce energy costs, and reduce carbon emissions against a backdrop of rising energy prices. We deliver guaranteed savings via Voltage Optimisation (VO) or Coolnomix technology.
Looking back now, it feels as though I was educated in a bygone era. Unlike today, (where I grew up at least) kids left school at 16 and didn’t think they had an automatic right to stay on for A levels and progress to Uni. No, we accepted that only the really, really, clever kids went to Uni. Despite having access to a computer, a Sinclair ZX81 (this was 1981, Google it kids) there was no internet, no YouTube, blogging or vlogging, so my chances of becoming an ‘influencer’ were remote, to say the least. TV was limited to three channels, reality TV didn’t exist, so becoming a celebrity nobody wasn’t an option. For me, like the many millions of other average kids leaving school that year, the only option was to get a job!
Quite simply, the basic principle of Voltage Optimisation (VO) is to it is to reduce the voltage level from that of the incoming grid supply to match the needs of your electrical equipment. Unfortunately, electrical equipment can consume more energy at higher voltages, so the higher your supply voltage is, the more likely you are needlessly wasting energy. High supply voltages are also a major contributor to the premature failure of electrical equipment, so you are also ‘burning out’ your equipment.