A life’s work raising rubber standards comes to end
Materials Manager John Patchett has retired from VIP Polymers Ltd, ending a career in the rubber industry that spanned five decades and his entire working life.
John had worked at pipe gaskets, seals, and couplings manufacturer VIP for 16 years, with responsibility for developing and updating the company’s extensive rubber formulations.
John played a pivotal role in guiding VIP through a period of dramatic change and product innovation, with the introduction and then continuous tightening of standards for materials used in clean water distribution systems.
VIP Technical Services Manager Peter O’Connor, who runs the company’s in-house laboratory and was John’s manager, said: “Our pipe joining and sealing products meet the most stringent material standards in clean water supply markets around the world.
“That is in no small part due to the diligent work done by John. When he started at VIP many of these standards were not in place or were in their infancy. Since then, he has had to constantly adjust and improve our formulations to ensure our products can be used and trusted in the many and growing number of markets we operate in around the world.”
A key role, and perhaps his biggest achievement, has been work done to ensure VIP has always been at the forefront of developing products that meet both BS 6920, which specifies the suitability of non-metal products that have contact with clean water, and EN 681, which defines physical requirements of elastomeric seals in clean water systems.
“For much of John’s career, material chemistry in the rubber industry was seen as a dark art, and not just because of the colour of the product,” said O’Connor. “Knowledge about what worked within each formulation was gained from those that came before, and its development relied on significant amounts of materials testing and perseverance.
“John demonstrated many times his mastery of this need to apply his very broad and deep knowledge in the development of rubber compounds. He also took a very hands-on approach to the manufacturing process, helping solve problems, and enhance production on the factory floor on numerus occasions.
“As such his expertise has been extremely valuable to VIP. We wish him a very happy retirement, but his contribution will be missed by the whole team.”
The importance of John’s work to VIP has meant the company has had a succession plan in place spanning two years. A key part of that has been the recruitment, 18 months ago, of Laboratory Chemist Marcus Harrison, who had previously worked for Goodyear Tyres.
Since then, he has worked closely with John, benefiting from the insight and expertise he has willingly passed on. “Just as John has helped VIP during the growth of exacting standards within our industry, Marcus represents another stage in the development of our service,” said O’Connor.
“Regulators use ever-more advanced techniques to analyse and test our products, such as mass spectrometry and gas chromatography. We are matching these approaches by developing techniques that allow us to understand and manipulate our rubber formulations at a molecular level.
“It represents another step on the journey from that ‘dark art’ to a clean science, that John has greatly helped VIP make, before handing over the baton to Marcus, and the colleagues to come.”
Caption: Peter O'Connor (right) congratulates John Patchett (left) for his service to VIP