The Manufacturer Top 100 is a project that showcases the most dynamic leaders, young pioneers and unsung heroes working in UK manufacturing, all of which have been nominated by their peers.
Among the Top 100, however, our judging panel chose 20 individuals for special recognition. We call them ‘Exemplars’ – those who have exemplified remarkable leadership, daring or innovation within their respective field, and who set the direction of travel as we head into the new decade.
Darren Sloan IT Director, Premier Foods
Darren graduated from Bournemouth University having undertaken a business studies degree that involved a one-year industry placement. Darren selected Manor Bakeries, home of the Mr Kipling line, as his host company, and his career in manufacturing was born.
“Being one of the old polytechnic universities, Bournemouth was more vocational, more hands-on, and getting that sort of industry experience was part of the reason the sandwich course stood out for me,” he said.
Ever since, Darren has remained within the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) sector, leading change in a business and technology environment he describes as increasingly demanding and ever-evolving.
Darren is now IT director at Premier Foods, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which is responsible for such much-loved household names as Sharwoods, Ambrosia and Bisto.
He is responsible for all IT budgets, team management, support and development of IT systems, service delivery and infrastructure.
“My most recent challenge,” he said, “has been to refocus Premier Foods’ IT strategy to be business-led, concentrating on end-to-end service to drive better IT service, reduce cost and reinvest in innovation to provide digital capabilities for the business to leverage.”
Celebrating seven years of inspirational industry leaders
Launched in 2014, The Manufacturer Top 100 publicly recognises the most dynamic leaders and innovators in manufacturing.
Published by The Manufacturer, in partnership with Cranfield University, one of the country’s top centres of business education, the project is helping to dispel widely-held myths that vibrant manufacturing in the UK is a thing of the past.
With more than 25 years under his belt in IT and manufacturing, Darren has been on the frontline of many significant changes within the food manufacturing industry.
In truth, he probably tried and tested first the various iterations in technology that would, in time, become common practice for most – before spending nearly a decade managing Premier Foods’ SAP programme.
More recently, Darren has been tasked with implementing a unified complex IT infrastructure, and overseeing a shift into robotic process automation (RPA).
“We’ve introduced RPA successfully and a lot of the automation tech is starting to come to fruition. We delivered five robots in finance and we’ve now saved money in terms of improved overall business efficiency.”
A keen advocate of all things STEM, Darren also finds time to sit on various advisory boards where he regularly campaigns for a wider discussion on careers of the future, as well as the industry more generally.
“In my opinion, STEM skills are critical for our industry and for our country to succeed. There just aren’t the blogging jobs out there every aspiring teenager is now after. I’ve been part of IGD’s (The Institute of Grocery Distribution) Feeding Britain’s Future, where I regularly visit local schools because I am passionate about this area.”
In their own words
What is your favourite engineered/manufactured product?
I’m a real technology advocate, so for me the iPhone is a technical success. It’s very user-friendly, it benefits daily life and is just generally a cool product.
Please give one interesting fact about yourself that not many people know
I once appeared on the TV show ‘Dramarama’ in my teens. It wasn’t a very big part, but who knows where it could have led?
If you weren’t in manufacturing what would be your dream job?
As a child I always wanted to be an astronaut and I’m still fascinated by space. But realistically, with the surge of artificial intelligence now, I would love to be part of the AI innovation as the next age of IT emerges and the lines blur between IT and other business functions.
Meet our other 2019 Exemplars:
- Will Bridgman – Warren Services
- Michael Higgins – Ford Motor Company
- James Grainger – Grainger and Worrell
- Joern Behrenroth – FEV UK
- Paul Jones – Morgan Furniture
- Ayesha Lumsden – Jaguar Land Rover
- Jane Langton – Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK
- David Owen – Lintott Control Systems
- Lisa Oxnard – Doncasters Group
- Brian Palmer – Tharsus Group
- Thomas Palmer – BAE Systems
- Giles Salt, CEO, M&I Materials
- Darren Sloan IT Director, Premier Foods
- Georgina Stalker, Project Engineer, TSP Engineering
- Stephen Trollope, Co-Founder & CEO, The Temporary Kitchen Company
- Emma Trollope, Co-Founder & Director, The Temporary Kitchen Company
Every week, The Manufacturer will highlight an individual named as an Exemplar of UK industry in 2019.