Then and Now: Ken Weight
Always learning. Always creating.
May 11, 2022
The year I started at Pall sticks so vividly in my mind. It was 1982, and I remember watching large warships traveling through the Solent (a narrow area of sea to the south of Portsmouth, UK), headed for the Falkland Islands, often making my commute via ferry to and from my home on the Isle of Wight quite the obstacle course. The Mary Rose, a 16th century warship was also raised up from the depths of the sea in the same area and put into the docks of Old Portsmouth. At the same time, Pall had recently opened a new site in Portsmouth, and so for me this marked the beginning of my 40-year career at Pall.
I started working in the area of special products and then transferred to R&D in Production Support. My role was a very reactive one, creating products for new opportunities, which were often not standard designs. We created retrofits, with different shaped end caps to fit in competitors’ housings. This flexibility allowed us to create what was needed for that point in time, and we did it fast.
Then came the realm of Kleenpak™ (membrane and depth filter cartridges, capsules, and disposable systems for liquid, air, and gas filtration). Initially, this project started in America, but the project was passed over to the UK team, and well history is history. The Kleenpak range of filter capsules became a well-established line and the advent of the rise of the UK R&D department grew, both in strength and ability to solve the seemingly unsolvable.
The team’s creativity was really harnessed, and we were able to use our initiative and make educated assumptions to solve our customers’ problems, like when we were approached by a company in Liverpool who made silicon chips in the microelectronics industry. They asked us to help them with a project they simply couldn’t complete. They needed to modify a product to run in reverse and to be able to fit it into their housing. We took this challenge on and solved it for them.
Our creative expertise was used in all areas of Pall, from nuclear to biomedical, food and beverage, from making paediatric vent adaptors to o-rings. Then the need for single-use technology came into play in the late 90s, and I moved into sterile connectors, flexible biocontainers, disposable mixers, bioreactors, and all the other parts needed to make a fully disposable system possible.
The basic principles of filtration were the same, but it’s how you package them that makes the product successful. With single-use consumables, initially, there was a lot of scepticism with this change in industry, but with the right product development and design, many customers now prefer this to stainless steel.
With the evolving business, my role also progressed from Design Engineer through to a Technical Director responsible for biopharmaceutical R&D. This allowed me to get involved in a wider technological field and allowed me to give a more creative input as well as to develop teams through coaching and mentoring. Every two to three years, I have learnt new trades and processes and because of this dynamic portfolio, it has kept my mind fully engaged.
Over the years, processes have however become more challenging in R&D, with quality being a paramount factor. The level of testing has increased, along with peer reviews of data, and everything now being rigorously documented. Even the interaction with people has changed. Before, you would gather round a table and hatch a plan, but now more and more teams and departments from all over the company (and all over the world!) have a part to play in the product development. This was a challenge to become accustomed to but, the benefits, reliability, and quality that you see in the final products shine through, often making it right first time.
So much has changed in R&D. There is so much to be learned, so many new processes and it has been so interesting going into work every day. Not only because this area has allowed me to be creative, but because with the world evolving and the company growing, we were able to bring in new people from all walks of life – scientists, biochemists, engineers from all over the globe, who you can learn a lot from. However, there is one constant that has always been needed, 40 years ago as it is today, and that is following your instincts and trusting yourself. That’s always been there.
To find out more about Ken Weight or any of our Biotech People please read our biographies page.
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