Meet the finalists: Factory Manager of the Year

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

Five finalists for the award have been announced
Five finalists for the award have been announced

Related tags Food manufacture excellence awards

The finalists for Factory Manager of the Year at the Food Manufacture Excellence Awards 2024 have been decided – learn more about them below.

Kate Clawson – Sleaford Quality Foods

Kate Clawson started working at Sleaford Quality Foods almost 25 years ago as a student and today serves as the head of operations, managing a team of more than 70 workers at the factory.

Each week, the site produces around 450 tonnes of output, which equates to 35,000 cases per week. Clawson’s role includes a wide range of tasks and responsibilities focused on ensuring that the firm’s customers are provided with unrivalled service and that safety standards are being met.

Clawson oversees the planning, development and implementation of operational activities, as well as the production, warehouse, maintenance, logistics and hygiene departments. The implementation of Sleaford Quality Foods’ continuous improvement programme is also a responsibility that Clawson balances on a weekly basis.

Improving operations efficiency is central to my role, however this can only be achieved with the support and hard work of my team hence motivation and encouraging colleagues to embrace my goals is key​,” Clawson said.

Stephen Lane – Pro-Pak Foods

Stephen Lane operates as head of operations for Pro-Pak Foods, a role that encompasses production, engineering, health and safety, supply chain and logistics, hygiene and operational excellence and process.

The manufacturer employs 401 members of staff, producing 450,000 meals per week at the factory that Lane manages. Since joining the firm 12 months ago, Lane restructured the operations and production team, removing layers that diluted accountability and pace. This has yielded results and has taken the site from a loss to marginal profits.

Lane looked to install a mindset and ethos where satisfactory is not the benchmark, and staff are encouraged to embrace change and go on a journey with the rest of the team. To motivate the team, Lane always looks to recognise achievements regardless of how big or small, and organised multiple away days and sessions for the new management team to ensure they are fully integrated.

Bernard McAuley – Pilgrims Food Masters

Bernard McAuley is the general manager of the Pilgrims Food Masters site in Northern Ireland, the only site in the region. The site has an output of 300 tonnes and features eight individual processes with preparation, cooking and freezing capability supported by automated packing systems.

McAuley’s role is to take full responsibility for the profit and loss of the business, while also growing the market leading brands produced on site.

Responsible for the 380 people that work on site, McAuley manages multiple departments and creates the short and long-term strategy in line with the organisation’s overall goals. This includes meeting KPIs, embedding a culture of safety and quality and driving profitability.

McAuley also takes ownership of the implementation of Pilgrims Food Masters’ capital plans and delivers operational solutions to ensure the manufacturer can support its innovation pipeline. Much of McAuley’s time is spent on meetings with employees, business improvement sessions and delivering coaching to staff.

Edward Poska – Princes

Edward Poska is a general manager at Princes, where he oversees the entire production process and ensures the site operates efficiently and effectively. Poska explained that the position requires a combination of leadership, management and technical skills, which enable him to meet production goals while maintaining quality and safety standards.

Leadership and strategy are some of Poska’s main responsibilities, while he collaborates with senior management to align site operations with overall corporate strategy. Under his leadership, Poska has implemented a set of strategies and initiatives to improve operations at the plant.

Other responsibilities that Poska has include quality assurance, health and safety compliance, budget and cost control, employee development and training and supply chain and inventory management.

Describing his approach, Poska said: “It is important to encourage your team to take ownership of their work. Give them the autonomy to make decisions within their roles and involve them in problem-solving and decision-making processes​.”

Jarek Sadowski – The Compleat Food Group

Jarek Sadowski works as the factory manager at The Compleat Food Group’s Tottle Bakery, which serves as a hub of innovation for the manufacturer. Running 24/7, 364 days a year, the site is operated by 520 dedicated employees, along with up to 200 agency staff.

With a capacity of £75m per year, the factory produces up to five million pies per week, in addition to products such as gluten-free pastries and delicious vegetarian options. Sadowski believes that this diversity reflects the firm’s commitment to meeting consumer preferences and its dedication to inclusivity within the market.

Across the factory, Sadowski oversees six make lines, four inline ovens and 15 wrap lines, with this range of equipment allowing the site to produce the variety of products that it does.

Discussing the operation, Sadowski explained: “Our factory is not just a place where products are made; it is a symbol of our unwavering dedication to delivering quality and meeting the ever-evolving needs of our customers.”

The winners of this prize will be announced at the Food Manufacture Excellence Awards 2024 on Thursday 8 February at the London Hilton Bankside. You can buy tickets here.​​​

Thank you to our headliner sponsor Menzies, alongside event sponsors Quor, HSBC, and CAS Recruitment.

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