A few weeks ago I met Clive Hooper to discuss what the role of GB operations director for Britvic Soft Drinks was like. Little did we know that his company would subsequently be embroiled in a major recall of its Robinsons Fruit Shoot and Fruit Shoot Hydro packs as a result of a safety issue with its newly designed 'magicap'.
The recall, which is estimated to be costing Britvic between £15–25M, was a big blow. It followed trading performance that had been hit by the deluge from the skies that has virtually destroyed the UK's summer.
Up until now, the £9.7bn soft drinks sector and more specifically the carbonates side had proved pretty resilient compared with other parts of the UK's food and drink sector. Only last month we reported Coca-Cola Enterprise's boss Simon Baldry saying the soft drinks sector had "a headroom for growth of £1.4bn".
While I haven't spoken to Hooper since the recall was announced, I would imagine he is mighty pleased that his responsibilities at Britvic are limited primarily to operations and logistics, rather than innovation or procurement. Although his customer service responsibilities have probably been quite demanding of late.
Hooper may now also regret being so upbeat about the leak-proof properties of the Fruit Shoot magicap in the hands of toddlers strapped in their car seats, when we met.
Assuming no blame falls at his feet when the inevitable inquest is concluded, Hooper still looks set to have a promising career.
He is obviously very ambitious, having carefully steered his career to provide him with the breadth and depth of skills necessary for leadership at the very highest level. For one, I wouldn't bet against him being head-hunted for a chief executive's role before too long.
Hooper has now been at Britvic for 5.5 years. However, he started out in the Royal Navy, where he went through officer training and obtained a degree in electrical engineering.
During his time in the Navy he served on the destroyer Cardiff and frigate Arethusa, as well as the aircraft carrier Illustrious. He spent his last three years ashore training junior officers, which is why he believes his transition to civvy street some 10 years later in 1992 went so smoothly.
Although he began his civilian career working in human resources for Lloyds Bank, it didn't take him long to realise that wasn't the career for him. After just three months he was off to Procter & Gamble (P&G), where he stayed for the next 10 years, working across five different roles.
It was at P&G that Hooper really cut his teeth in a manufacturing environment. He started in the relatively lowly position of boiler house manager at P&G's Thurrock factory in Essex, which made famous washing powder brands such as Bold, Fairy Liquid, Ariel and Daz.
He eventually took on a group HR manager role at Thurrock where, as part of P&G's 'fast-track' promotion scheme, his interest in issues of organisational development and cultural change programmes were ignited.
Hooper claims his biggest challenge and one of his biggest achievements occurred following another posting to P&G's plant in Brussels, where he was his project manager for the new Fairy Liquid bottle.
"If you remember the old Blue Peter HDPE [high density polyethylene] white bottle that they used to use, well I was the man who killed the white bottle," remarks Hooper. "I brought in the new pear-shaped PET [polyethylene terephthalate] bottle. It was a global project; a brilliant job it really opened your mind up to how a business works."
He subsequently returned to Thurrock to run the Fairy Liquid plant there for around three years, implementing continuous improvement strategies to raise efficiency and get the best out of the new lines that had been installed.
He was subsequently head-hunted by a small own-label plastics (including plastic bags) company, Cedo, for an international supply chain director role. He saw this as logical part of his career development, and gained experience of operations in countries around the world from Poland to China.
In 2004, Hooper finally entered the food sector, in the role of general manager at Greencore's Wisbech factory. The site, employing around 400 people, made own-label chilled ready meals for Tesco. He gained much needed commercial experience in this role, having responsibility for the profit and loss of the business.
But living in Kent and commuting each day to north Cambridge was taking its toll, so in October 2006 he returned to the branded world of Britvic.
He was initially employed as the production director but, after two years, he also took on the logistics role. Two years ago both roles were combined into to the GB operations director position he now holds.
Hooper is responsible for six Britvic sites at Leeds, Huddersfield, Rugby, Norwich, Chelmsford and Becton, east London, employing around 1,000 people in total.
Leaving a legacy
"The biggest challenge really is delivering results through your people," says Hooper. "If I was to summarise it through one key challenge that I've had especially since I've been out of the military I would say that it's all very well coming up with great ideas, but if you don't leave a legacy, people forget about you very quickly."
One of Hooper's main focuses at Britvic has been to introduce total productive maintenance (TPM) methodologies across its operations. TPM is all about empowering the workforce to take "ownership" of their production environment, carrying out front-line maintenance, eliminating production losses by increasing equipment reliability and reducing waste in the process.
"That was a great challenge for me in the first two years," he says. "And what was also interesting was taking that into the logistics areas, as you don't tend to think of logistics and TPM together."
Hooper adds: "I've done TPM in a number of businesses and I know what works and what doesn't work. And what doesn't work is if you make it a project. What does work is if you make it a cultural change programme."
Britvic is now in phase 2 of its TPM roll-out, in which continuous improvement teams have been removed from the plants as TPM becomes "embedded" locally. The company is currently installing systems for real-time data capture and introducing standard ways of operating and reporting.
Inevitably, there are significant environmental benefits that come with raising levels of operational efficiency. For example, reducing energy, water and packaging use, and levels of carbon dioxide and effluent generated.
"We have taken 22% out of our energy; 385,000m3 of water out of our supply chain usage. So some good numbers that really drive our overall efficiency," he says.
But he recognises that continuous improvement means just that. "We are not totally there; we are still on the road," admits Hooper. "We've made some massive changes to our key performance indicators as a result of what we are doing. We have saved a lot of money for the business, but we have a lot more to go at."