From Welder to Operations Director: Neil Hodgkinson Retires from IAE after 43 years of Service

21st December, 2023 | posted by IAE Media

After dedicating the entirety of his career to IAE, this week Neil Hodgkinson retires to pursue a much steadier pace of life with his family and particularly his grandchildren.

Having joined the company at the young age of 17, Neil first embarked upon a welding position at the Burton Street site in Leek. Having never used a stick welder before, he initially spent time understanding and learning the process before moving into an independent position, where he would weld reinforcing mats which were then sold onto a local firm in Leek who made concrete blocks of all shapes and sizes.

Welding was to be the first of many skills undertaken by Neil, as from the welding bays he moved to the saws, before also working in the fitting and spraying workshops. Upon the successful completion of his Forklift test, Neil moved into the yard where he would unload raw steel and load IAE vehicles with product ready to go out to the customer.

With 8 years of experience under his belt and a relocation to Macclesfield Road, Leek, Neil was promoted into a Supervisor Role to assist the Management team with the running of the production facility. His commitment to the business did not go unrecognised by David Klucznik, who had recently taken over the business from his father (Frank Snr.) and so in 1991 Neil was promoted to Production Manager, where he oversaw a team of 50 people on a daily basis.

With 14 years of experience and a second to none understanding of the production process and daily operations, Neil moved into the role of Operations Manager across all sites. At this time, IAE had 5 sites located in and around Leek, Staffordshire Moorlands. Neil worked hard to ensure that each and every site was performing to its maximum output, helping to meet the goals and objectives of the business.

It was shortly after this time, that David Klucznik took Neil, now aged 35, to a 26-acre brownfields site, situated on the edge of Stoke-on-Trent, to share with him the vision to amalgamate all small sites to one big site. At the time, Neil struggled to see or share the vision, but little did he know that it would turn into the 38-acre purpose built site that today delivers all of IAE’s operations.

Leading up to this Neil had a very active involvement in the development of Mossfield Road. Throughout the late 90’s and into the early 2000’s he worked closely alongside David Klucznik to ensure the site would be constructed in such a way that it was future proof to meet the needs of the ongoing company expansion. A large part of this included the construction of the galvanising plant.

Since 2003 the galvanising plant has been a huge part of Neil’s career. From the initial plans, to the very first dip, Neil has nurtured it through the whole way. Initially it was thought that IAE would hire externally for the role of Galvanising Plant Manager to help bring experience to a process that was completely new to the company. However David put his trust in Neil, who was appointed the role alongside his position as Operations Manager. With Frank Jnr. by his side as Assistant Manager, the two of them took helm of the Galvanising plants, learning the ropes and proving it to be a huge asset to the company. To date IAE remains an industry leader in this field, as the only company within the industry to manufacture and galvanise on the same site.

In recognition of his continuous contributions and commitment to the company, David appointed Neil as Operations Director in 2007 which to this day is Neil’s career highlight.

Upon reflection of his career at IAE, Neil has always thrived off the family values that have been instilled in him since day one of joining the company, along with a phrase once said to him by David Klucznik, ‘you get out what you put in’. To Neil these words could not have been truer. His passion, dedication and tireless efforts have propelled him from an eager younger welder right up to the position of Operations Director over a period of 43 years.

Whilst Neil will miss the many relationships he has built up with colleagues over the space of four decades and the day to day routine and business of being a director, he is very much looking forward to undertaking more DIY, going on more holidays and spending more time with the grandchildren.

Neil’s retirement is no surprise to anyone here at IAE, after announcing he would retire at Christmas 2023 over two and a half years ago. As part of the succession planning, Neil has been working closely along side Alex Venables for the last couple of years to help pass on the knowledge he has built up. Alex will fulfil Neil’s role from January 2024 onwards.

Frank Klucznik, Managing Director said: ‘Today is Neil’s last day at IAE after 43 years with the company, and I’d like to personally thank him on behalf of the Klucznik family and everyone at IAE. To show our appreciation and mark this special day, we commissioned apprentice Tom Jones to make a scale model of a Side Loader from nuts and bolts which we have presented to Neil.’

On behalf of everyone at IAE, we wish Neil a long and happy retirement and thank him for everything that he has brought to IAE over the last four decades.

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