‘Within three months I had my own production line’
Being given major responsibility early in her career is one of the best aspects of working in the food industry for Natasha Webb, a graduate trainee on Bakkavor’s accelerated management scheme for manufacturing. She shares a day in her life with FoodManJobs.
Within three months of starting at Bakkavor I had my own production line of up to 40 staff, making products for the major retailers. Managing staff is one of the biggest challenges of the job because there are such a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures here. But I’m very strategic and I like to be challenged, so working in the food industry is perfect for me.
I work 12-hour shifts and the first thing I do when I arrive in the morning is organise my production line to make sure my supervisor is up to speed.
My next priority is ensuring my ingredients are in place so I go to the planning department to check my orders for the day. The line that I’m responsible for could be making up to14 products in one 12-hour shift so I have to schedule which ones are produced first and ensure all the required ingredients are in place. It’s really important to get this right to make sure we don’t have excessive waste. Also, if the ingredients aren’t in place when we move the line onto a different recipe, this can keep the line waiting.
It involves a lot of maths and forward thinking
It’s complicated. It involves a lot of maths and forward thinking because some ingredients can be ready in 45 minutes but others – such as choux pastry – can take as long as two and a half hours. I need to calculate exactly how much I’ll need for each run and products have different components. It’s important to get this right to ensure I’m not producing unnecessary waste and we’re working with the freshest possible ingredients.
Then at 7.30 every morning we have a cell review meeting to discuss the previous day’s performance with regard to efficiency and waste. I have to report whether I’ve lost time on a job and what I’m going to do about it – it’s about continuous improvement.
The rest of the day can include anything from coaching my team, showing visitors around the site or working on projects such as reducing downtime. It’s really varied and I’m never not busy. I’m always checking on my line as well because it never stops producing.
I can have as many as 40 people working for me
The day ends by saying thank you and goodbye to all of my staff. This might not sound like much but at Christmas time, for example, I can have as many as 40 people working for me so it takes some time.
I also make sure all my paperwork has been completed and check what my issues were on that day. Situations can change quickly, for example machinery could break down or an order could be increased, which could result in lost time waiting for ingredients. It’s about looking at what happened, how much downtime resulted and what can be done. I keep a diary of issues that I’ve had and what I’ve done about it. Then I’ll check my ingredients are in place for the next day’s production.
Every day is a school day. I’m always learning and progressing towards better things. I’m growing my experience and I’m working towards an operations manager level.
I’d advise any young person to work in the food industry: it’s becoming a lot fresher and more appealing to graduates. You get a great variety of skills: managing people, planning and coming up with project work. It’s the best kind of opportunity to get a variety of skills and there are so many different avenues you can then go into.