A Day in the Life of Tom Shaw

28 March, 2008
Renshaw began in 1898, when the founder mixed marzipan in his bathtub. Over 100 years on, the company is a leading manufacturer of marzipan and ready-to-roll icings
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== 8am ==
I'm up bright and early this morning and, having successfully avoided the traffic from Northwich, I'm one of the first in the office. I like to get in early as it gives me a chance for some quiet time while I go through my emails, before the rest of the NPD team descends.A major part of my job involves liaising with customers, suppliers and the commercial and operations teams, so it's good to have a bit of quiet time to go through my inbox. As part of our plan to keep abreast of advances in ingredients, packaging and processing technology, I receive email newsletters from a wide variety of sources.One email that catches my eye is from a regular customer looking for a specialised chocolate coating that won't crack or craze (produce a very fine network of cracks in the glaze) when chilled. All of our products can be manufactured to specific customer requirements, so I accept the challenge and get ready to brief the team.== 8.45am ==Every Monday starts with our weekly development meeting. Part of my job is to oversee and supervise the activity of the NPD team, so it's good to get everyone together at least once a week to go through the latest customer product briefs in detail.These meetings are also an opportunity to review the current week's activity and to brainstorm new product ideas. One of my favourite parts of the job is the need to be versatile and reactive, in order to keep up with ever-evolving consumer trends. The desire for cleaner, healthier ingredients, as well as an increase in product types, means we are continually assessing and adjusting the functionality, flavour and texture of our products.This week, we have been asked to produce a caramel for a product containing fruit, a bright green sugarpaste using natural colourings, and a piping icing for a large industrial manufacturer. We discuss the briefs in more detail, brainstorm production ideas and then get cracking.== 10am ==Throughout the day, I discuss specific projects with members of the team. One technologist comes in to discuss reducing costs for a drinks powder she's developing.Although innovation is very much at the heart of what we do, we have to operate within a client's brief. Manufacturing methods, quality, customer application and costs are just some of the factors we need to take into account.After a half-hour discussion, we come up with a plan and the technologist returns to the NPD kitchen armed with different recipe ideas. The cost options are then discussed with the channel sales controller and the client.== 12.30pm ==We enjoy assisting customers with application and product advice. Our talented applications technologist works with us to test new formulations to meet customer needs.One customer is looking for a non-hydrogenated variant of a chocolate coating, but is concerned about the cost of securing this and any potential changes required to their manufacturing methods. We talk him through issues of amending formulations, give him an idea of cost and agree on a four-week timeline for getting the job done. After the meeting, I receive a request for a range of caramel samples for a presentation. We supply the manufacturing, wholesale, retail and foodservice markets on a daily basis, so we're used to putting together samples at a moment's notice.== 1pm ==After a quick de-brief with my team, it's time to make for the staff canteen. Renshaw employs 173 people at its Liverpool operation, so there's always a friendly face around. Lunch with colleagues is also a chance to catch up on what's going on in other departments, and discuss news in the trade press.== 2pm ==Feeling refuelled and rested after a bite to eat and a catch-up with our supply chain controller, David Hutton, I head back to my office. It's our monthly commercial meeting this week, so I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon preparing for that. This is chaired by our commercial director, Sarah Summers, and is attended by the company's business development managers, channel controllers and customer service manager.At this meeting, every member of the team delivers a short presentation, summarising the previous month's activity, department updates and plans for the month ahead. My emphasis is on the progress of individual projects and how they affect the overall budget and business plan.These meetings also give the sales team the opportunity to provide feedback on customers' wants, needs and challenges. As part of my contribution to the meeting, I do some product category training, designed to improve the sales team's understanding of technical and applications issues.== 4:30pm ==Halfway through planning for the meeting, I get a phone call from a supplier. He has tracked down the ideal plastic bottle for a customer who wants to replace his current chocolate sauce container. So far, he has had little success. I request samples after discussions with the customer.== 5:30pm ==Having made the finishing touches to my presentation, I pack up my notes and head home to spend a relaxing evening in with my wife and three-year-old granddaughter, Jessica. As much as I love the variety and pace of my role at Renshaw, winding down with family at the end of a busy day takes some beating.



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