Brian Douglas, manufacturing manager, Jus-Rol
Staff turnover at Jus-Rol is less than 5%, with half due to people retiring, which tells you a lot about this factory! The average length of service here is 14.7 years, and 46 of the staff have worked here for more than 25 years, so we have a wealth of experience within our workforce!
Having worked on a lot of projects across Europe in the last 15 years, I can safely say that this is the strongest management team that I have ever worked with. Strong links to our dedicated sales force is a strong combination - a real recipe for success.
There is real passion at Jus-Rol because we have been in this community for more than 50 years. It's something you can feel as soon as you walk in the factory here at Berwick. Passion is critical to continuous improvement.
Travelling around Europe and working in other factories has definitely helped me appreciate the complexities of this site, as well as broaden my horizons and skills.
The ability for colleagues to visit other factories is important, being able to share new practices and current manufacturing philosophy driving quality and improvement.
My approach in life has always been to go for it and try new things. I had always really enjoyed designing things, making things and welding things when I was growing up, so I did a degree in industrial design and technology in Manchester.
During the holidays, I worked here at Jus-Rol in Berwick as a labourer, and then carried on full time after I graduated before doing an NVQ apprenticeship and becoming an engineer in the development department.
After that, I worked at several factories run by Grand Metropolitan [which owned Jus-Rol at the time], before coming back to Berwick as a project engineer. About 12 months later, I was asked to assist on several projects in Holland over a two year period.
At this point I was offered the appointment of European project manager which I duly accepted before heading off to Poland to get a factory up and running.
This was probably the hardest thing I've ever done! I remember sitting there at the first project meeting having been asked to help get things up and running, and then Guy Lejeune, the engineering director for Europe, telling everyone: "Brian's in charge of engineering on this project." It was going to be a challenge, but there was no going back!
My next big challenge was to design and project manage a new automated line for hand-held ice creams for Häagen-Dazs (which is also owned by our parent company General Mills) in northern France.
Again, my initial reaction was, what do I know about ice cream? But after about five minutes, I thought: what the heck, this is another project, another challenge. That was another one of life's positive experiences!
After that, I worked for Old El Paso (also owned by General Mills) in Holland and Spain on several projects. In 2005, I took up the position of engineering manager here in Berwick.
Then in January 2006, I was appointed manufacturing manager. This site produces more than 150 stock keeping units, the core products being frozen uncooked pastry, whether it's puff, short crust, sweet dessert, filo and the new all butter range.
We also make sausage rolls, vol-au-vents, canapés, filled pastry products and hand-held snacks for retail and foodservice with a wide range of high quality fillings.
Operational efficiency has improved dramatically since the acquisition by General Mills in 2001 and the appointment in 2003 of Roger Turnbull, as site director. We had flexibility, but at a cost. We also needed to accelerate the programme of automation.
Things have changed significantly since then. A large amount of money has been invested in the site on everything from new automated packaging, case loading equipment and new production lines to new ceilings and floors in both production and cold storage areas. We have also added a new surface for the distribution area servicing our loading docks.
There has also been a significant investment in IT. But it's not just about new equipment; progress has come because we've changed the way we do things.
We have a visual management system in place now that cascades right down through the business, and cross functional teams focused on quality and looking at everything including overhead spend variances in raw materials, packaging usage, productivity and continuous improvement, every single day.
The whole point of this is to look at issues and deal with them today so they won't be a problem tomorrow. We also believe very strongly in multi-skilling the workforce.
I'm not saying this is easy. People become accustomed to working on one line. However, once they start doing different things, they gain confidence, learn new skills and come back with loads of new ideas and then we support them to implement as many of their own ideas as possible.
Waste reduction is obviously a key part of what we are trying to do here, and it's thanks to great ideas from the team, that we've been able to make substantial progress in the last 18 months, particularly on our filled product lines, where we've cut waste by 50%.
We've also reduced water usage by 33% this year, but the search for continuous improvement and quality is never-ending, and there are always innovative ways we can reduce utility bills further.
Keeping it real
I try to be approachable and spend as much time as possible on the shop floor finding out exactly what's going on and how we can take advantage of opportunities to improve. People management is what this job is all about.
You have to earn and maintain respect within the factory environment, and honest communication is critical.
Everyone needs to be heading in the same direction at a similar speed. INTERVIEW BY ELAINE WATSON
Location: General Mills Berwick, Tweedside Trading Estate, Tweedmouth, Berwick upon Tweed, Northumberland,
TD15 2UX. Tel: 01289 307737
Products: Puff pastry, short crust pastry, filo pastry, sweet dessert and all butter pastry, sausage rolls, vol-au-vents, canapés, filled pastry products and hand held snacks
Size: Whole site: 25,160m2
Employees: 300 production staff plus temporary staff at peak times
Growth: "Jus-Rol is bucking the trend in frozen, in that it's growing."
Customers: Major supermarkets and foodservice customers
Name: Brian Douglas
Career highlights: "Probably setting up a new factory in Poland. It was incredibly challenging, but that's what made it so rewarding."
Domestics: married to Amanda with three children (Connor: 10 years, Toby: eight years; Jessica: five years)
Outside work: Shooting, fishing