Spotlight on Team Rhino: Jez Alston

October 05 2021

For the last 25 years, Rhino Doors has been providing industries across the UK and beyond with bespoke, commercial and CPNI-rated engineered doors. Working with clients across key sectors including critical national infrastructure, defence, transport and energy, the organisation produces products designed with the protection of people and assets in mind. 

In this new Spotlight feature, we catch up with Quality Assurance Manager, Jez Alston, to find out more about the part he plays in the organisation, how his role has been impacted by Rhino’s recent and ongoing growth, and what the future of the company looks like. 

Talk us through your background and what brought you to Rhino Doors. 

Prior to joining the Rhino team, I worked in copper tube manufacturing for over 35 years. Originally this was based just outside of Liverpool but the company was taken over by our main competitor. I then transferred to the new company in Wolverhampton as Technical Manager, to arrange and oversee the technical integration of the businesses, and to introduce fresh ideas into the organisation. 

Once the combined business was established and new systems were embedded, I started looking for a fresh challenge, local to where I was living in Southport. Rhino Doors fitted the bill perfectly as the company was looking for a QA Manager based in its Burscough office. The company had ambitious plans to grow and expand from a solid core business of high security CPNI doors, often for military applications, into more specialised and bespoke product areas, covering nuclear and transport activities. This was the first time Rhino had employed a full-time QA Manager and doing so demonstrated their commitment to developing high-quality products and improving their management systems. 

What does your average working day consist of? Tell us about a day in the life of a QA Manager at Rhino. 

There really isn’t an average day and the work is wide-ranging and varied. A lot of my job involves looking through records and working with clients on what they need for proof of compliance. It is sometimes surprising to see the level of detail we need to go into between different organisations to supply similar products. We do a lot of work with the nuclear industry and now we’re moving into rail projects, and these contracts can be quite specific about the documentation required. 

We have two major projects ongoing at the moment for London Underground – one at Bank Station and one at Moorgate Station – and they both require similar information presented in different ways. It can make things confusing, but my principle has always been to take a simple approach to help make things as error-proof as possible. 

In the past, Rhino had used consultants to develop the organisation’s quality systems. Sometimes these systems were not communicated effectively, which led to gaps in our organisational control. Communication and buy-in is now much better and we try to tailor our QA approach to something that works best for Rhino, whilst giving our customers the assurances they need. 

How has your role evolved since you joined Rhino Doors? 

I joined Rhino two years ago and since then, we’ve begun moving into new sectors, as well as developing and further refining our own quality systems, expanding our principles to encompass environmental and health and safety management. 

We recently received new ISO certifications in those areas, which will be of great benefit as they give current and prospective customers confidence in our credentials. It’s something that clients are increasingly looking for now, as it shows them that we are aware of our responsibility to work in the most environmentally friendly, healthy and safe way possible. 

What was the process like for applying for the new ISO certifications? 

The overall, final auditing process took ten days. It covered the environmental and health and safety procedures in operation in the business and reviewed the effectiveness of all our systems. We took the decision about 12 months ago to build up using our existing quality management processes as a basis, and to formalise our Environmental and H&S procedures to link into a coherent and well-balanced system. 

We began preparing materials about nine months in advance of this to make sure we were ready for the final auditing stage. The entire process was very thorough, forcing us to look at areas of the organisation that we had not previously thought about in great detail, and it was good to get an outside perspective on Rhino and its work. 

The resulting approval was a huge ‘pat on the back’ for the commitment of all our workforce and the effort everyone has put into making Rhino a safe place to work whilst giving high consideration to our effects on the environment. 

These new approvals are currently registered to Rhino Doors, but we are now working on transferring those to Rhino Engineering Group, so that our new specialist subsidiaries, Rhino HySafe and Rhino Site Systems, are covered by the same certifications. This will mean that, rather than each company having its own method of doing the same thing, everything will be uniform. 

With new contract wins for the likes of Transport for London, what does the future look like for Rhino Doors and how will it continue to develop? 

Rhino used to work in standard areas of door manufacturing, which meant our work was relatively limited in its scale and scope. Now, as we move into more bespoke areas and continue to produce higher quality and specification doors, like industrial fire doors, we will be looking to improve our security and performance ratings and develop them moving forwards. 

Other ventures, such as HySafe, which produces ultra-fast explosion relief products for the global hydrogen market, are more speculative for Rhino. But it’s exciting to be entering into new markets and expanding the type of products we manufacture. 

To find out more about how Rhino Doors can work with your organisation, get in touch. And to find out more about the team, explore our recent Spotlight on Rhino pieces featuring Jac Edwards and Ceri Couser.

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