Food and drink manufacturing is a highly innovative sector where around 1,500 new products are launched every quarter, but it also has huge scope to increase competitiveness through more ambitious investment in high tech production. Meirion Richards is making sure his organisation does not miss any such opportunities.
What is your role and its main responsibilities?
I manage the operations team at our site in Llantarnam, Wales, where we make some of the nation’s favourite treats, including Jammie Dodgers and Wagon Wheels. I’m responsible for nine manufacturing lines making over 200 SKUs.
What are the key technical skills you use?
I came to Burton’s after 16 years at Ford Motors, bringing with me a good background in lean manufacturing and how best to integrate the tools and techniques into an existing organisation. My lean knowledge was one reason why I was heavily involved in the introduction of our new control room, a high tech centre which is the first of its kind at a UK food production site – though relatively common in the automotive industry (p66).
What personal characteristics help you in your role?
I’ve always loved manufacturing since I started out as an apprentice. I like working with people and helping to build successful teams. Like everyone in manufacturing, I’m quite resilient and really enjoy solving problems on a daily basis.
What do you consider to be your biggest personal success at the company so far?
The new control room is freshly launched and a major step for the business. I was very close to implementation of the technology right from mooting the idea initially to organising £100,000 worth of training for my colleagues and me and I’d say this has been my biggest achievement so far. I won a Burton’s CEO award for this work recently which I was chuffed with – but to be honest, it could have gone to the entire team!
Why is this such a success?
Everyone at the Llantarnam site is really proud of the installation. We spent a vast amount of time planning and looking at various technology options making sure we made the right choices for the site. It was a collaborative process in which I got to listen to the production team’s concerns and consider how these should effect the implementation. Seeing the technology now in place and working extremely efficiently to reduce waste by rapid identification and correction of potential quality issues, is immensely satisfying and great for the business too.
Manufacturing offers short and long term rewards. Seeing goods leave the site every day gives the buzz of knowing you are delivering for the business – and when you know the products are as tasty as ours you also get a kick out of giving a customer a treat. Longer term, that feeling of delivering for the business translates to job security for colleagues and the community around the site. That’s a great feeling.
How do you think best to get more young people interested in manufacturing?
When I left school people were focused on university, and manufacturing was portrayed as a dying industry in the UK. This is clearly not the case. There are endless opportunities for young people in this industry, but I’m not sure the message to school leavers has changed. Manufacturers need to get into school employment days and demonstrate the excellent careers and opportunities available. Entering manufacturing is a choice I have never regretted. I wouldn’t work in any other field.