Meet the team
In January 2021, Brookes Bell opened The Lab, a high-end testing and inspection unit on the Wirral, near Liverpool. We talk to Matthew Calveley, the Laboratory Manager about his role managing this new exciting facility.
The Lab was built to enhance and diversify the services within Brookes Bell by providing comprehensive metallurgy, fuel testing, coating inspection and advanced non-destructive testing (NDT) services to maritime clients and to support our entry into new markets – both on and offshore. We have big ambitions, and while you expect some ‘unknowns’ when launching something like this – we hadn’t exactly planned for a global pandemic!
As The Lab manager I’m involved in the day to day functions of the lab in addition to my role as technical lead for our metallurgical services. My role as manager is about ensuring our testing services are operating, dealing with day to day issues such as resourcing, while managing general business operations and other aspects of the laboratory development.
It been a challenging first year for many reasons, but predominantly thanks to covid. Obviously with all the specialist technology, equipment and facilities – working from home has not been an option, so we have had to find ways and solutions to keep functioning and open – the resilience of our staff has been one of the high points for us over the past year. When you are faced with the day to day issues of running a business, it’s easy to lose sight of the overall progress made. However, over the course of just one year we have increased the services on offer and we are in a significantly stronger and more positive position. At the moment, the next 12 months are looking very exciting.
One of the most rewarding things about The Lab has been the welcome, but unexpected surprise of some of the services including opportunities within paint flake inspection and some of the novel NDT applications in particular, have grown in different ways far beyond our expectations and are hugely in demand. It reinforces the original point of the lab, to create exciting opportunities outside of our core services.
My undergraduate degree was a BEng (hons) degree in forensic engineering from Sheffield Hallam University and I later received an MSc in Corrosion Control Engineering from the University of Manchester. My undergraduate degree included aspects of material science and metallurgy and we also covered aspects of law, the role of an expert witness and different business and manufacturing matters such as quality procedures. These were skills that prepared me well for my work at Brookes Bell. I also used electron microscopes – equipment I now use as an investigative tool at the lab.
My first job after leaving University was at a local fabrication unit, Atlantic Engineering, where I carried out marine and industrial based failure investigations. I then joined a company called Premier Hytemp which made nickel alloy components for offshore applications. I worked as a process metallurgist where I used to manage and oversee the forging and heat treatment of billets as part of the manufacturing process.
In 2010, I joined Brookes Bell where I have worked as a surveyor for more than ten years. I spent two years in Singapore when we opened the office there, it was a fascinating opportunity as I got to travel across Asia and visit some of the large shipyards in China, and conducted ship inspections across Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. It was a period of quite a lot of personal growth and autonomy, which I feel helped a lot with my work later developing the lab.
My previous roles have given me a good working knowledge of laboratory operations and quality procedures, I’ve also carried out numerous investigations on-site, and I’ve produced expert witness reports to be used in litigation, so really I know both side of the services provided by Brookes Bell – as an operator and user. I think, like many people, I just get innate enjoyment from investigating. Like a good whodunit- my natural curiosity comes to the fore, I want to find out what’s gone wrong. It’s like a CSI investigation, you want to discover the things other people can’t!
Outside of work I don’t have a huge amount of free time as a parent of three year old and six year old, but when I get chance I enjoy cycling, swimming and running. I have taken part in a few triathlons and I aspire to get myself back to some form of fitness in 2022.
I was born in Stoke-on-Trent, but I grew up on the Wirral from the age of six, all my family is from this area. I enjoy tech and gadgets and I’m a bit of lapsed gamer. I still have my Gameboy from when I was six and have kept my collection of consoles as I’ve got older – I probably have about twelve in total and an ever increasing library of games, but so little time now to use them – I’m hoping to catch up when I retire!