Taylor is site director of Arla Foods's Aylesbury site, which was opened in May 2014. She was nominated by Alison Rance, vice president, supply chain at Arla Foods and the nomination was seconded by Ash Amirahmadi, managing director of Arla Foods UK.
"I'm so, so, so surprised," Taylor told Adam Leyland, editor of The Grocer, in response to the news. "Makes it all worth it I think."
"The team at Arla Foods said you made the challenges of 2020 almost look easy," said Leyland. "Was it really the case?"
Taylor responded: "It may have looked easy, but it definitely wasn't. I think this has been a really tough year, but the whole organisation really stepped up ... The teams just completely stepped up the commitment, the loyalty. Everyone just pulled together to make sure from end to end within our supply chain that we could deliver."
Asked how she was going to celebrate her win, she said: "Definitely a glass of milk, but my team today bought me a bottle of champagne already to say that I was their winner regardless, so I have got my champagne to celebrate."
Some of the core challenges she faced included making the Aylesbury factory safe for colleagues, coping with huge uplifts in production volumes and managing the distractions that COVID created.
'Empowered her team'
Commending the winner, Katherine Thomas, chief executive, Brighter Capability and former European sector lean lead, PepsiCo, said: "Being able to select somebody with great leadership skills, and show others what great leadership is, is really worthwhile. Our winner demonstrated great collaboration with everybody across the team and empowered her team to allow them to be the best they can possibly be."
Denis Treacy, chief executive officer, Culture Compass and former chief safety, quality and environment officer for Pladis, said: "It's been my absolute pleasure to be part of this process. Having been responsible for manufacturing in my previous life, I recognise how challenging it can be, but also how rewarding it can be, not just for the products you make, but for the people you engage with.
"Leaders stand out. Leaders are people that draw you in, take you forward, help you to achieve far beyond what you even believe for yourself is possible and this candidate set themselves apart."
'Cooperation and inclusive leadership'
Commenting on Taylor's nomination for this entry, Amirahmadi said: "Jo role models cooperation and inclusive leadership in a way that encourages and gives confidence to her team to step up, make decisions, take responsibility, but also voice their opinions in a way that enables the site to operate as one of the finest food manufacturing sites in the world."
Factory Manager of the Year finalists
- Jo Taylor, Arla Foods Aylesbury
- Sabine Hill, Blue Skies Corby
- Sam Pearl, Cranswick Milton Keynes
- Triona Garvey, Nomad Foods, Naas
- Rachel Matheson, Premier Foods Lifton
Aylesbury consistently performs across all metrics as one of Arla’s best sites both in the UK and across the company's global portfolio. Aylesbury is one of Arla’s 11 UK processing sites and the biggest, processing over 1bn litres of milk a year. When it opened, it was the biggest dairy processing site in the world.
The site is part of the Arla Foods cooperative owned by 9,600 dairy farmers, 2,400 of whom are based in the UK. An estimated 900 UK dairy farmers provide milk into the site, which has eight processing lines, with eight bottle sizes.
Arla Aylesbury operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It employs 400 colleagues who help produce five bottles of milk a second. About 400 deliveries are made to and from the site each day. In despatch, it is the only UK dairy to transport all its milk by robots. The best-known product produced at the factory is Arla Cravendale.
The announcement of the winner of the Factory Manager of the Year at 3pm today (10 November) occurs during The Grocer's 'Golden Week' during which all other trophies for The Grocer Gold Awards are being announced online.
The publication of the Factory Manager of the Year shortlist follows the announcement of the Food Manufacture Excellence Awards 2021 finalists. The winners of these industry Oscars will be revealed in a virtual broadcast held at 5pm on 11 February.
The judging panel
Rod Addy, editor, Food Manufacture
Jonathon Bayne, partner & technical manager, Waitrose & Partners
Geoff Eaton, chairman, New England Seafood International
Adam Leyland, editor, The Grocer
Jon Poole, chief executive, Institute of Food Science & Technology
Katherine Thomas, chief executive, Brighter Capability
Denis Treacy, chief executive, Culture Compass