Karen Gent 

Manufacturing Director | Aliaxis

Karen Gent is Manufacturing Director at Aliaxis.  A typical day for Karen entails looking strategically at the company’s long-term vision and plans and how to improve manufacturing efficiencies as well as the daily demands of the business and ensuring everything is running smoothly.  

Initially, Karen wanted to be an accountant but after doing a Foundation Year at university, her STEM orientated subjects (maths, physics and chemistry) led her down the engineering path and she graduated with a 2:1 in Mechanical Engineering.  

Karen began working as a production engineer, looking at improving processes, something which stood her in good stead for her subsequent roles in subsea systems, toothpaste packaging and injection moulding and pipe extrusion.  She started at Aliaxis as a shift manager and progressed to moulding manager, manufacturing manager, and since 2019, as manufacturing director responsible for 79 processes on a 66-acre site with around 200 employees and several buildings to maintain too.  She says the biggest part of her role is actually learning how to best utilise people’s skills within the team/workforce as nobody can do everything alone.  “Having a great team makes great things happen and putting in a manufacturing excellence programme was also a major factor.  I spent time with every person, getting to know and understand them.  Sometimes it’s not about telling people what to do but enabling them by asking the right questions to allow them to come to the correct conclusions.” 

The challenges of the last three years have meant that factories and warehouses had to develop new ways of working.  Karen is also Plant Manager at the Aliaxis Lenham site in Kent so has been at the centre of it all, being very much hands-on and not averse to helping clean down machinery alongside her team if needed.   She says people may be surprised at how many of the job roles in manufacturing are not ‘dirty and horrible’ as may be expected and that people on factory tours have been pleasantly surprised that that is not the case.  “No two days are the same but that’s the exciting part and it keeps me on my toes every day!”