Celebrating 20 years of Bhavini Patel

Just over 20 years ago, Bhavini Patel walked onto the Welland factory floor for the second time. Her son was 2 months old. Her new role was as a machine operator, but unlike the last time, when she’d been in a temporary role, this time it was permanent. She didn’t realise at the time just how permanent.

Today Bhavini is a lead machine setter for half of our automated stoma product manufacturing lines. She’s responsible for training and managing the operating staff and making sure production targets are met. It’s been quite a journey, and as she says, “I never thought I’d be where I am now.” When she began the job she was armed with limited spoken English, studies in accountancy, and a drive to start a career.

“When I started at Welland, it was a small company. Two months after my son was born, I got a call from the agency who had placed me at Welland when I was temping. They said the company wanted me to come back. It was a tough decision because I’d just had my son, but I also really wanted to start working on a career, and I had liked Welland a lot. My parents-in-law were so supportive, they offered to take care of my son when my husband and I were at work. So, I went for it. I couldn’t have done it without their support.

“I started as a machine operator, then moved up to become a tool changer, then a machine setter, first for 1 line, then 2 then 3. As a machine setter you have to understand the whole production process. The next step was to manage people, and I became a lead setter.

“I’m really proud of my journey. I came from a small village in India, and I studied accountancy. I knew English, but only to read and write. My spoken English wasn’t great at all. All the tool names were new to me when I started. Spanners and Allen keys? It was so frustrating in the beginning! Since I started, we’ve managed to increase the output of our same machines by 3 or 4 times by improving things and changing how we work.

“From the start I had a wonderful mentor – Nancy Vince, who is now the Assistant Production Manager at Welland. She has always helped and supported me. Really, the whole production team has been very supportive, and the company has invested in training me. I’ve recently completed the second level of our senior team leader development programme, to develop my leadership, communication and people management skills even further.

“I think I could also never have imagined 20 years ago how the people at Welland would become like my second family. The company has a great culture and is very accepting of all cultures. For example, a group of us who celebrate Diwali used to bring in food and celebrate together at work. Others in the team wanted to understand more and taste what we were eating, so we decided to organise a curry day to raise funds for charity. It was really successful, for the last one we raised £1,200 for St Catherine’s Hospice, and the company matched the money we raised.

“There are a number of Hindus in the team, and we were invited to perform a traditional ceremony on the land where the new Welland building was to be built some years ago, and then again before we entered the new building for the first time. That was special. I’d been speaking to one of the managers about our tradition of doing this for a new building, and a few days later they came back and asked me if I would do it for the company. So, I spoke to my team, and we arranged a little ceremony which my colleagues and I paid for because it was something we wanted to do. It’s things like this that make you feel valued and respected at Welland.”

Dave Margetts, our Operations Director, was part of Welland when Bhavini joined the team two decades ago: “It’s a privilege to have had Bhavini as a member of the operations team for the past 20 years. In that time, she has not only improved her own skills and abilities, but that of her team and the equipment they run. Bhavini is the most dedicated and motivated person I have had the pleasure to work with at Welland Medical.”

Bhavini attributes this motivation and her positive attitude to her mum: “She had seven daughters and was a model for us. My father died in his early 40s, so she bought us up. That was a hard task, raising seven daughters on your own! Thanks goes to my mum for giving me the values to do what I have.”

Bhavini, may we have the pleasure of your presence at Welland for many years to come. Thank you for staying with us!

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