Phil Knowles has recently taken up the role of Sales Director for our Wire Rod business. Having worked in the steel industry for more than 30 years, he has extensive commercial experience across a range of products and market sectors. Find out more about what he's doing now and his hopes for the future...
What was your first role with British Steel and what's your journey been since?
I started my career in the steel industry over 30 years ago in my hometown of Workington. In my first commercial position, I was responsible for selling engineering solutions to the nuclear industry. Since then I’ve held global Sales and Commercial Manager roles covering rail, structural sections, plate and special profiles, selling into various sectors including yellow goods, shipbuilding, construction and energy. For 2 years, I joined an independent UK service centre and steel processor, so I’ve also worked in various parts of the steel industry supply chain. In 2017 I joined British Steel and the Wire Rod sales team as Commercial Manager and in 2022 was appointed Sales Director, responsible for the sales of wire rod and drawn and processed wire from our sites in Scunthorpe (UK) and Alblasserdam (Netherlands).
What does your day-to-day role involve?
We are an international team with a global reach, we supply into sectors such as the automotive, construction, engineering and the renewables sector. Our key markets are rapidly evolving and, paramount to my role, is staying ahead of the curve as regards these changes to ensure we can support our customers to compete and win in ever increasingly competitive industries. This involves developing effective stakeholder relationships, both internal and external to the organisation, and determining and defining the direction of the product line business in conjunction with the executive team. My role involves daily management of a team of sales and customer service professionals to identify business opportunities and develop strategic customer relationships to meet annual sales objectives, facilitation of new product development activities, often in collaboration with customers, and working cross functionally to manage operational issues.
What is your vision for wire rod?
Recently we announced a large-scale investment, which includes a £32 million upgrade at Scunthorpe Rod Mill. I am looking forward to working with the project team to ensure a quick and seamless transition to the upgraded asset so we can deliver immediate benefits to our customers and business alike. Steel is used in practically every aspect of our lives and will continue to be used in the future. As industries evolve, so will the demand for steel and we will continue to collaborate with customers to deliver quality products and services tailored to these transforming requirements.
Why do you enjoy working for British Steel?
From my experience in the steel industry, as a whole, I would say that the open-door policy and transparency in the way we work facilitates day-to-day activities and strengthens teams. No 2 work days are the same, in any role in the organisation, and this, in turn, leads to a high level of engagement across the workforce. I personally take great pride knowing that I work within a team of highly experienced and motivated steel industry professionals who work together to deliver positive customer experience within the remit of the business.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
The last couple of years have not been without challenges, for any business. However, at British Steel we are extremely fortunate to have a resilient team who I know will continue to support the business and myself in my new role. I’m looking forward to working with the team to continue to deliver quality wire and rod products to both existing and new customers. After 2 years away, we’ve recently been able to return to the market and meet with customers again in person, which has been fantastic. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to expand on this and hopefully we’ll get this opportunity at wire 2022 in Dusseldorf later this year, which provides ideal timing to communicate our significant investment plans to a wide audience.
What advice would you give to other people considering a career with us?
I would recommend taking the opportunity to get a panoramic view of the industry, working in different functions, across sites and locations, to really appreciate the opportunities and challenges faced by the industry and the market drivers that will shape the future direction of our business.