Case Study: H J Heinz – Factory Manager

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We needed to hire an interim factory manager to run our Kitt Green facility in parallel with a headhunt for a permanent replacement so I asked Gavan Burden at Burden Dare if he knew anyone who could step in at short notice. We knew the role may be difficult to fill as Kitt Green is one of the largest food production factories in Europe so experienced candidates would be in short supply.

Gavan quickly produced a short list that comprised 4 names; three had run smaller food factories, perhaps half the size, but one had manufacturing in his DNA although no food experience. Having previously placed Jim at Smiths Aerospace and received plaudits for his work there, Gavan was able to assure me of his suitability and I was happy to trust Gavan’s judgement, although one issue for us was price as Jim was 60% more expensive than the other candidates.

But Jim stood out at interview so we hired him and in no time at all he had come to terms with running a food factory and made some improvement in the metrics; he showed us he had the ability to adapt his skills to our environment.

Finding a permanent replacement was protracted and we eventually brought one of the manufacturing executive across from The Netherlands to take over from Jim on a permanent basis. Most of all, our initial fears about cost were unfounded as the value of the improvements Jim made paid for the cost of his assignment more than 20 times over, so we were delighted with the outcome.


Having been placed by Gavan in Smiths Aerospace and GE the previous year I was delighted to receive a call on Friday 14th January 2008 with regard to an interim position of Factory Director with H J Heinz Ltd based at Kitt Green, Wigan.

This was followed by a call on Tuesday 22nd January to arrange interviews with Mr Mike Parsons, VP Supply Chain UK & Ireland, and Mr Nigel Perry, VP Human Resources UK & Ireland at their UK headquarters at Hayes Park on Friday 25th January. On Monday 28th Gavan contacted me to say I had been selected to meet Mr Dave Woodward, UK & Ireland President at Hayes Park on Thursday 31st January.

The next stage was an e-mail request by Verifile, on behalf of Heinz, to carry out a CV verification and background screening exercise on Friday February 1st , so this all happened very quickly.

All must have been well as I commenced a 3 month contract with Heinz on the 11th February 2008. This was extended towards the end of the first contract for 4 more months and subsequently extended again for a further 5 months as the recruitment for the full time role was taking time, and also Kitt Green results were improving significantly.

The permanent VP for Kitt Green was eventually sourced internally by Heinz from continental Europe and my assignment ended on 27th February 2009, very successfully I am delighted to say with improvements seen in the year financially, in productive efficiency, in general management, in cost control, operations and maintenance. This was a thoroughly enjoyable assignment and very beneficial for all parties concerned; I was particularly heartened by the glowing references I received from many senior managers in Heinz UK, Europe and Global on my departure.


Nigel’s call asking for help on an interim basis whilst a search is conducted at the same time is typical of many of the assignments we undertake. We know H J Heinz well now having worked with them a number of times and I know the sort of interim managers who will do well.

There was always going to be an issue finding someone with previous experience of running a food factory the size of Kitt Green because it is one of the largest food facilities in Europe so some lateral thinking was called for. I had exceptional reports of Jim from GE so I knew he could run a manufacturing plant and with 1500 people who know about food in Kitt Green I was convinced Jim would be able to bring his knowledge of how to run a factory to good use.

Because Nigel trusts my judgement I was able to make the case for Jim and the rest is history; suffice to say that the value proposition Heinz got from hiring Jim was very substantial with the cash benefit more than 20 times his overall cost.

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