Top 100 interview: Sam Pearl, Cranswick

Posted on 25 May 2022 by The Manufacturer

Sam PearlThe Manufacturer Top 100 2021 alumni Sam Pearl is naturally an ambitious and competitive person who enjoys success as measured in a traditional sense (being first, achieving corporate and personal goals, continual improvement of key metrics), what he really gets a buzz from is not what the company has achieved, but it’s how they’ve done it. Pearl wants to train and develop the team to enable them to achieve successes they would at one point have felt to be unattainable. He also believes the company has a responsibility to proactively improve the community they operate in and environmental impact they have. The ultimate goal is to serve people, community and the environment they operate in as well as they do for their customers and shareholders.

Click here to view the video of the full Top 100 interview with Sam Pearl.

What is your role at Cranswick?

My role is one of communication and co-ordination to oversee the successful running of our Cooked Meat business in Milton Keynes which employs 800 colleagues.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Top 100?

It’s a real honour! To be honest, I’m slightly embarrassed as I only represent the fantastic work of the entire team at Milton Keynes. I certainly can’t and won’t take all the credit for our achievements.

What do you think are the key attributes which led to you being nominated?

I love working with people. I’m ambitious and get a real buzz from seeing the team achieve goals which we’d felt were potentially beyond reach.

What do you find most inspiring about working in manufacturing and when did you realise this is the career for you?

The diversity of the team. We have so many different backgrounds, levels of education and professions. From operations to food safety to engineering to accountancy, it really presents an opportunity for anyone to succeed.

Who or what has been the biggest influences on your career in manufacturing?

Managers and mentors from the start of my career. I was incredibly lucky to work for a couple of great leaders who installed some very basic thought processes into my thinking early in my career which have stuck with me and helped me ever since. Things such as never being afraid to learn, the importance of recognising where others’ strengths are in excess of yours and that the onus on my career and progression was with me not anybody else.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far and how have you overcome it?

The outbreak of the pandemic. We were in unchartered territory, in a situation with a high degree of emotion and anxiety. Striking the right balance between the safety of the team and business performance was really tough. Ultimately taking a perspective from a wide pool across the team and contacts at other sites and/or other businesses, helped provide the confidence in our plans and actions.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in manufacturing during your career?

I’ve not been in manufacturing for a huge amount of time, however, the importance of data and systemised solutions will continue to grow at pace. Becoming carbon neutral in 2021 required a big change in approach from us. We had to initiate plans with far less certainty of success than we’d normally be comfortable with and as we transition to become net zero we have to continue with that willingness to test and learn as we go.

What are the biggest challenges that are facing manufacturing as a whole and how are you and your company seeking to address this?

The current labour and skills shortage is a huge challenge driven by structural changes. ​Unfortunately, we don’t see any real quick fix. We’re really trying to focus on retention – we believe keeping hold of our team members is more important than recruitment. We’re then trying to accelerate our programmes to get younger people into the business whether that be apprenticeships or graduate programmes.

Can manufacturing learn anything from any other sectors? If so, what?

Yes, absolutely. There will always be a huge amount to learn. However, given the labour changes we’re facing currently, the way we market career opportunity within manufacturing to young people has to improve. Manufacturing is rarely thought of as a desirable industry to get into, which given the breadth and scale of opportunities is really disappointing.

Other industries have found ways to connect with young people at school and university age, whereas manufacturing currently hasn’t. The Top 100 is one step forward, and actively engaging with younger people is crucial.

What sort of growth/change has your company implemented/gone through over the last 12/18 months and how has this been managed?

We’ve experienced rapid growth, in terms of our sales line and workforce size. Both of these elements have really challenged us. It taught us we often relied too heavily on a narrow pool of experts and our future planning from a management perspective had been lacking.

We’re actively now addressing the balance of time we spend executing the here and now vs. planning for the future. The latter is easily deprioritised but we cannot afford to maintain success without strain. Being a community employer has meant we have deepened relationships with Winter Night Shelter MK which is our part in activating real positive change in our area and certainly one of the things we’re most proud of.

What do you think will be the long-term legacy of this current period of unprecedented change with the manufacturing sector?

I believe it will be a more highly skilled workforce. We must focus on bringing young talent into the industry as well as developing those we already have to keep them engaged and motivated. Both of these elements should help us embrace technological advancement more quickly and as we do so the requirement for skills will increase, becoming self-fulling.

What advice would you have for any younger people who are considering a career in manufacturing?

Take the opportunity to speak to people within the sector. The breadth of skills and roles is likely to be a real surprise and present huge opportunities.