Jones is in charge of the Pladis Wigston factory near Leicester, which makes 15,000 tonnes of biscuits annually. It manufactures brands such as TeaTime (Family Circle) and Victoria assortments and employs up to 570 people in peak season.
Jones joined Pladis in 1984 at the former McVitie’s Ashby-de-la-Zouch biscuit factory on the Youth Training Scheme, having left school without qualifications. He took on his current role in 2017.
He spent years packing biscuits, working in the warehouse, and mixing chocolate, moving to the Ashby snacks factory before seeking personal development via the company’s Operator Development Scheme.
He was then given the opportunity to cover the holidays of supervisors and quickly found a natural ability to engage with people and teams.
From there he performed in a number of permanent managerial roles, including process manager and warehouse manager before being promoted to the position of manufacturing manager and becoming a member of the site leadership team at Ashby.
The shortlist for the award
- Rob James, Princes
- Brian Jones, Pladis
- Paul Jones, Arla Foods
- Leanne Taylor, Eat Natural
- Paddy Townsend, Westaway Sausages
- Ben Wingfield, Cranswick Country Foods
The Wigston site, along with other food manufacturers in the Leicester area, became the focus of media attention because of rising cases of COVID-19 numbers, with the potential to seriously destabilise working arrangements.
Jones attributed its success in navigating these issues to the site’s leadership and team culture, with clear and honest communication of fears and ideas fostered at all times.
At the height of the pandemic, Jones encouraged a calm professional environment, creating a safe zone for employees to voice their emotions so they could take time out before returning to work.
Close relations with trade union reps
A close working relationship with trade union representatives was vital, Jones claimed.
Throughout the disruption of 2020, Wigston performed exceptionally, beating financial goals and customer service targets and increasing production by 4% versus budget.
The factory also received strong endorsement from its external auditor in its 2020 Sedex audit, which focuses on ethical standards.
The Wigston factory has ten production lines or areas. These cover wrapped products and sweet biscuits; chocolate coated biscuits; wrapped Hovis digestives and biscuits; cream filled biscuits, including custard creams and Romany creams. It also produces premium and white chocolate products; mini packs (coffee/hotel style biscuits); a jam/sandwich/Thins line for products such as Happy Faces, jam creams and jam rings; and iced gems and choc gems.