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Published on: 23 Dec 2009



After starting out in engineering, David Seeckts switched careers and found his true vocation in operations thanks to a sideways move into shift management for Pedigree Petfoods. Twelve years on and he’s the factory general manager at Premier Foods Worksop, producing 96,000t a year of products such as Sharwood’s sauces, Bisto Gravy and OXO Cubes.

Any factory manager must juggle dozens of different jobs, but those in the food industry also need to relish working in a fast-moving, deadline-driven, high-pressure environment, according to Seeckts. “It’s a challenging industry and you need to be very resilient,” he says. For instance, the timescale for making decisions is measured in minutes and hours rather than days or weeks when you’re dealing with food products. “People who can’t deal with a fast decision-making process and juggling multiple priorities will struggle,” he says.

But along with the extra pressure comes a strong sense of teamwork and camaraderie, which Seeckts says he thrives on. “When I see my team performing well and achieving it makes it all worthwhile. We all get a buzz out of success and it’s important to regularly reflect on what you have achieved as a team.”

“You’ve got to invest time in developing your team. It’s a challenge to keep it a top priority, so if you’re not careful you can lose days, weeks and months dealing with day-to-day issues and not developing your people.” Seeckts may be an effective delegator, but he still regards it as vital to remain in touch with what’s going on the shop floor. “You’ve got to get into the factory and talk to people,” he says. “It’s the only way to lead them effectively. Your visibility in the factory is crucial.”



22 years as a butcher and two years in pub management gave Lacey a strong background in food hygiene, and that’s where he started out with Butt Foods nine years ago. “Everything in a food factory revolves around food safety,” he says. He then worked his way up through planning and production roles until reaching his current position as factory manager.

About 30% or 40% of a typical shift is spent on the factory floor and a similar amount in meetings, says Lacey. Consequently, he has to do the usual factory manager’s juggling act of striking a balance between man management and a more technical role. But for Lacey, the most rewarding aspect of the job is meeting the financial requirements of the company. “My KPI [key performance indicator] is getting the orders filled at the right cost. I’m responsible for the financial performance of the company in its production operations and I find it really fulfilling being able to meet that challenge,” he says.

Keith Lacey and his team of 40 full and part-time bakery staff produce 60M speciality products a year for Butt Foods. With short runs and multiple orders for the company’s huge range of bread products, Lacey is quite clear about how to keep on top of everything: “You need to be organized and set yourself goals. You also need to be adaptable and flexible because you have to deal with everyone from customers to shop floor staff.”