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08–10 OCTOBER 2019 | NEC | BIRMINGHAM News

Shop floor to MD – Chris Williams of ETS discusses his timber engineering career

23 Sep 2022
Leah Llewellyn
Chris William, MD of ETS
When you first step into your chosen career, there can be pitfalls along the way. And that is exactly how my career at Engineered Timber Solution (ETS) started. I was hired in August 2008 and then laid off due to lack of work! I must have done something right during my initial time here as I was rehired again in the October.

When you first step into your chosen career, there can be pitfalls along the way. And that is exactly how my career at Engineered Timber Solution (ETS) started. I was hired in August 2008 and then laid off due to lack of work! I must have done something right during my initial time here as I was rehired again in the October.

I started off on the factory floor, which was a great grounding for what was to come. As an operative I worked assembling metal web joists, roof truss jigs and operating the presses.

I spent two years on the factory floor before I eventually plucked up the courage to ask for an opportunity in the office in a trainee designer role. I started working through the TRA (Trussed Rafter Association) and Wolf training courses. In addition, I had some in-house mentoring from Brendon Hayward, which was a huge help.

Four years later and with significant design experience under my belt, I began to assist with the role of managing the design office, and shortly after took this on full time. Two years later I became a company director, and four years after that I took on the role of Managing Director (MD).

Each role had its high points and of course learning curves too. The hands-on nature of manufacturing was highly enjoyable, and there was always great camaraderie on the factory floor. The world of design was an eye-opener! Although initially very difficult, the problem-solving aspect of complex designs, combined with the ‘dark art’ of sales negotiations provided a varied and ever-changing daily landscape.

Managing people with different personalities threw up its own set of challenges in the office manager role and it was a steep learning curve, but very satisfying when resolving issues as they came up.

In my role as MD, the responsibility for the vision of the company's future and the wellbeing of all employees provides daily challenges, but, success in this role, albeit sometimes difficult to achieve, is even more rewarding when you get the right results.


My biggest success from a business perspective has to be the continued company growth in turnover, especially after the challenging times of the last few years, which has obviously been highly satisfying.  However, from a personal perspective I feel the integration of fantastic new additions to our team during the past two years, and the variety of experience and skills that they bring, will be the reason for success during our expansion programme for 2022/2023.

We’re currently in the middle of a significant investment plan. This will provide us with extensions to our existing premises and new presses and saws. This will undoubtedly increase our capacity, efficiency and allow us to continue to operate to an industry leading five working day lead time, even during the busiest periods.  Of course, this provides daily challenges as we attempt to continue operations on an active building site, but we’ll get there, and the end result will be fantastic when it’s complete!

If you are considering a career in timber engineering then please get in touch! There’s a variety of roles and challenges available to suit all sorts of different people. The TRA has taken great strides to encourage more people to consider a career in the timber engineering industry. If you think it might offer you the challenges you require, then find a local company and don’t be afraid to make contact with them.

Looking to the future, I’d like to think I’ll continue to lead ETS for the remainder of my career and eventually hand the mantle over to one of my children!

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