Meet The Manufacturer Top 100 2019 Exemplars – 19: Steve Woodhead

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.

Steve Woodhead, Head of Engineering, Accolade Wines

Steve Woodhead Head of Engineering, Accolade WinesIt would be fair to say that Steve Woodhead’s career within the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector is both rich and extensive.

He is well-versed in management and delivering excellence among many of Britain’s most well-known food and drink manufacturing companies, and with more than two decades’ experience under his belt is suitably qualified to head up engineering for one of the largest wine-producing companies in the UK.

“I always thought my destiny was to become an engineer, the same as my father, uncle and grandfather before me,” he said. “Steel and coal were fundamental to our industrial economy and it was these aspects that seemed to start in me an overwhelming desire to understand and create things, and this desire has continually cursed and motivated me throughout my life.”

After graduating from Tameside College of Technology with a certificate in mechanical and electrical engineering in 1984, Steve went on to study mechanical engineering at degree and master’s level at the University of Bradford.

From there, he spent nearly 10 years at Unilever in charge of production, and health and safety, before advancing to the post of manufacturing excellence manager. Steve has been plant manager for Associated British Foods and later factory manager for Twinings.

On both occasions he managed production, engineering, quality and supply chain planning.

Celebrating seven years of inspirational industry leaders

The Manufacturer Top 100 Logo 2019 - For Use in Slider BarLaunched 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.

Click here to make your nomination for The Manufacturer Top 100 2020, and to download a copy of the 2019 publication.

Today, Steve is head of engineering for Bristol-based Accolade Wines, where in addition to managing various sites for the company, he is also tasked with co-ordinating production and engineering resources to meet stringent food standards.

Accolade employs a computerised maintenance management system, coupled with in-house leading-edge condition-based monitoring (smart asset vibration algorithms, oil analysis, thermography and tribology) to predict equipment failure and improve plant availability and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

“Joining Accolade Wines brought me into a new, dynamic and challenging industry,” he said. “The design and project management of our wine blending plant at our Bristol site has been the greatest challenge of my career, because there really is nothing like it in the UK.

“As a result, I’m extremely proud of the phenomenal expertise finessed by the entire engineering team who have been a privilege to work with, and among some of the best engineers in their field.”


In their own words

What is your favourite engineered/manufactured product?

The 1959 Gibson Les Paul electric guitar. It’s an iconic product that has been copied, updated, modified and reissued, but the original could not be bettered.

Please give one interesting fact about yourself that not many people know

As a younger man I was a rock climber and mountaineer. Every summer I went camping on glaciers in the French and Swiss Alps to climb iconic mountains using historic routes by legendary mountaineers.

If you weren’t in manufacturing what would be your dream job?

I would like to be a teacher in a technical subject to try and give something back – hence my passion for  apprenticeships and engineering development.


The Manufacturer Top 100 is produced in partnership with Cranfield University – one of the country’s top centres of business education, and low-cost talent partner, Trust Hunter Ltd (Hunter).