Q&A - George Stewart
Moving from one sector to another can be tricky, but being an outsider can also give you the advantage of different skills and a fresh perspective. Melanie Rutherford speaks to George Stewart about how his contrasting previous experience is helping him in his new role as Operations Director at Hanson Building Products, UK.
Tell me about your education and career to date.
I studied Chemical and Process Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh, then went straight into manufacturing, where I’ve spent my career in various roles. I started at Johnson and Johnson where I worked for about 10 years, then progressed to making mobile telephones with Motorola for about seven years. I then started working with medical devices at Smith and Nephew, before going on to make sweets for Nestlé. I’ve only worked in the construction products industry for the last couple of years, first with Monu-Redland and now in my new role as Operations Director for Bricks and Aircrete Blocks at Hanson Building Products.
I’ve progressed through the levels of seniority – starting as a supervisor and progressing to manufacturing manager of my own confectionery plant at Nestlé. The Redland role was multi-site, so very similar to my current work at Hanson – although Hanson is probably twice the size of Redland.
How will you use this experience coming into a new industry?
I hope to bring to the construction materials industry and the brick industry in particular knowledge of what I’d call modern manufacturing type techniques – things like lean and six sigma – world-class manufacturing I’ve picked up through my time at Motorola and Nestlé. The brick industry, much like the roof tile industry, is quite conservative in its approach. There are a lot of brickmakers who have been in the sector a long time but haven’t necessarily seen what other manufacturing industries are doing to drive things forward.
Could the industry benefit from more people with skills and experience from other industries?
I guess it’s like anything in life – it’s about having the right balance. The process itself, particularly some of the older processes, are quite organic, so you need to have people who understand how a kiln operates, the impact of the kiln controls and what it does to your bricks. But, equally, you want people with skills from outside the industry, people who may have worked in areas such as automotives and aerospace, where the techniques they use are quite different compared to those in the brick industry.
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