Karl Brown, Metallurgist and Laboratory Supervisor at BEL Valves, tells us about his roles and responsibilities, working within an engineering environment.

What were you doing before you started working for British Engines?

I left school at the age of 16, I applied for an apprenticeship with British Engines and I was accepted. In 2003 I started my apprenticeship in mechanical engineering at Rotary Power.

Why did you choose to go into this career?

After I had completed my apprenticeship in mechanical engineering, I was offered a role in the BEL Foundry Laboratory. I worked as part of a small team responsible for quality control of the casting process and this gave me the chance to work both on the shop floor and in the laboratory. I enjoyed working in the laboratory and so I completed further qualifications in metallurgy and materials. The BEL Foundry closed in 2009 and so I moved to the BEL Valves laboratory and continued to pursue my career.

Tell me a bit about your job:

I am responsible for the BEL Valves laboratory facilities, which support metallurgical and mechanical testing. The testing I carry out in the laboratory could be anything from a simple hardness test to a process improvement test for one of our products. Alongside this, I am responsible for the quality control of our thermal spray coating plant, which is used in valve components to provide a gas tight, wear resistant sealing face.

I also provide metallurgical support to other companies in the British Engines Group, advising on material selection, surface treatment and heat treatments. The diversity of products within the group requires a broad knowledge of materials and processes.

What equipment do you use and what do you test for in the laboratory?

The laboratory is equipped with a wide range of analytical equipment mainly used for testing metallic materials to determine various properties. These properties are specified by international standards or our own application specific requirements. We can test any ferrous or non-ferrous alloy that is used throughout the group. All of our tests can be combined to assist research and development. Test times can vary from a matter of minutes to weeks, or even months, depending on the type of test.

Why are these tests important in the manufacture of our products?

It gives both BEL Valves, and our customers, confidence that our products are of the best quality and fit for purpose.

What happens when you finish the tests?

A test certificate or a laboratory report is produced relevant to the test which is being carried out. Depending on the outcome of the test, it may require further investigation.

What do you enjoy most about working in the laboratory?

The wide range of projects I can be involved in at any one time, which also keeps things interesting and means you are always learning. Alongside the day to day testing, I have just begun working on a project to improve tribological properties (friction, lubrication and wear) of valve parts by the application of thin film, diamond-like carbon coatings.

What do you hope to do in the future?

I am hoping to become more involved with the engineering department, providing metallurgical support and testing on new projects.

How did your apprenticeship help you in your career?

Throughout my apprenticeship I worked for various departments within Rotary Power. This gave me the chance to understand how a business works and an opportunity to work alongside many different people from around the business. My apprenticeship gave me the chance to gain hands on industry experience and study for a qualification part time, giving me the foundations I needed to progress my career.

To view all of the current vacancies across the British Engines Group, click here.