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Men Who Make

3rd November 1961
Page 34
Page 35
Page 34, 3rd November 1961 — Men Who Make
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Transport Leona]


HE very last man to impress one as self-complacent or burdened with a superiority complex is Leonard Castleton, chief transport officer of the Metal Box Co., Ltd. Not, mind you, thai he's different or mock. modest: he knows he has a big, responsible job and that he can do it. What gives him legitimate and understandable personal satisfaction is that he can do it. I judge that when he looks back to that day in 1946 when he joined Metal Box as assistant to the chief transport officer (and reflects upon the trials and errors, successes and developments, that lie between then and now) a warm feeling suffuses him and in his heart he says: "Leonard, my boy, you've done it."

But even that surmise doesn't convey entirely what I feel about him. It suggests—and I have already disowned any such impression—self-satisfaction. No. Pleasure at the building-up of a growing organization, confidence of being on top of the job, satisfaction when new problems are solved—these are laudable qualities without which, as 1 see it, success must tarry, and which it is delightful to recognize in Leonard Castleton.

You might think that the railways offered little adventure to young fellows way back in that ill-omened year 1926, and perhaps not too safe a job either—even though a great many entrants looked upon it as security for life. Yet after trying a few occupations that didn't mean very much to him, young Castleton, a true son of London (having been born and brought up in Poplar), passed the entrance examination of the old Great Western Railway and came upon the little world of Poplar Dock Station in the February of General Strike year.

He must have liked it; he must have made progress, for it seems otherwise unlikely that a man of his temperament would have stuck it for nearly 20 years. He was not all he time at Poplar, for after Poplar Dock Station was iestroyecl during the war, he worked at Paddington—until thance (yes, I don't retreat from the word) took him to Metal Box in 1946.

The expansion of that organization was then accelerating under post-war necessities. It had become vital to kee the transport department in step with it, and someone vho understood the railways was needed. Metal Box hard about the Great Western man from Poplar, or the Great Western man from Poplar heard about Metal Box—no matter, whichever way it was he joined the company as railway expert in the transport department, and immediately set about learning all he could about what must at the start have seemed a very unfamiliar set-up.

Learning? Well, he was a council schoolboy in Poplar long before the happy days when a kindly Welfare State reached out a generous hand to promising youngsters, but later he appears to have been a rare one for taking courses in this and that—salesmanship, for example, and accounting. The consequence was that by self-education and hardwon experience he was well qualified to tackle the new tasks Metal Box presented to him.

Metal Box thought so, at any rate, for when the chief transport officer's post fell vacant they promoted him to it and in 1950, therefore, he became responsible for the whole of the company's transport, road as well as rail.

At that time, increases in rail freight rates were making road transport economically more attractive to Metal Box. For this reason, among others, by far the greater proportion of the company's products were carried by road. But it was not only the railwayman in hint that caused Leonard Castleton to regard this as less than ideal. What would happen if, for any reason, he met trouble on the roads? And there was the special situation arising from the fact that tinplate used by the company came from South Wales. Today more than half the tinplate from South Wales is handled by the Western Region, British Railways, they having seen the force of his arguments for special rates.

Yet, though this is so, he estimates that now about 60 per cent. of the company's products go by road, as well as something like half the tinplate from Wales. The magnitude of this transport job is evident when it is realized that the company uses hundreds of thousands of tons of tinplate every year.

Overall Picture

No doubt, if the transport of this basic material were the limit of Castleton's task, his life would be comparatively carefree. But take a look at the overall picture and judge for yourself. The Metal Box company is the largest producer of packaging in the country today, I judge from what I saw in the Metal Box Baker Street, London, showrooms that very few articles in daily use, from kitchen detergents to tobacco, from biscuits to cider, are not contained in a Metal Box product.

Imagine, then, the problems arising from the carriage of so many ranges, some very small, some quite large, most of them light in weight—imagine the flexibility demanded, the emphasis on ability to initiate and improvise on the part of the transport department. To serve these widely spread factories and carry such a diversity of products between 200 and 300 vehicles are in operation.

To visit him in his Baker Street office is to be greeted in a friendly, calm, unefrusive manner. You at once observe that his office is uncluttered, efficient. Information is his at the touch of a button or the murmur of a quiet word into the telephone. He talks in a relaxed fashion with no embellishment or jargon. He disclaims much technical knowledge, but I wager that the man who studied salesmanship and accountancy privately is not one to neglect improving his knowledge of what goes on under a vehicle's bonnet, or the way drivers set about their long-distance driving, or many another matter with which his department is bound to be intimately concerned, even though it be "technical." H.C.


Organisations: metal
Locations: London

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