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Kraft Heinz Company Australia

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Glen Thorp

As an engineer, my favourite tasks involve some sort of synthesis of ideas and transforming these into actions and improvements.

What's your name and job title? What did you study?

Hi, I’m Glen, the maintenance continuous improvement lead at the Golden Circle factory in Brisbane. I studied engineering at the University of Queensland, graduating in 2016 with a Masters in Chemical & Biological Engineering.

Where did you grow up? Have you held any previous employment?
I grew up in Cairns where I lived for the first 17 years of my life, before moving to Brisbane for university. I’ve worked at McDonalds, at a tavern as a kitchen hand, as a resident assistant at college and as an undergraduate researcher at the Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it? 

I’ve been in my current role for around four months now, though I’ve been working for Kraft Heinz for around 13 months. I got into the role through the Kraft Heinz Graduate Program, which I am finishing up at the end of 2018. 

What does your employer do? 

I work for Kraft Heinz, a Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company selling food and beverages. In particular, the factory that I work at produces canned pineapple, fruit juices and cordial.

What are your areas of responsibility?

Good question! I have a broad area of responsibility, which ranges from acting as the interface between Maintenance and Production to channelling the priorities for repairs down to the Maintenance team. I also own our maintenance playbook and the maintenance-related standards of our quality risk management process, which you can think of as our best practice guides for maintenance & quality.

Can you describe a typical work day? 

A typical day sees me arriving at the factory at 5.30 am to participate in the maintenance shift handover, during which the outgoing trades will communicate any carryover issues or major breakdowns to the incoming shift. My next meeting is at 8.00 am, so I have a couple of hours to input data to our meeting agenda on the previous 24 hours of maintenance activity and otherwise take care of some project work, answer emails and generally set myself up for a (hopefully) productive day.
At 8.00 am we have our daily performance review, or DPR, where the management team for the site comes together to share the performance of the site for the previous 24 hours and update our progress on the site action plan. Because I own the maintenance actions, most of the action plan belongs to me and we’ve started calling it the ‘Glen Performance Review’. I channel these actions back to my team and prioritise the completion of the actions based on business requirements.
The rest of my day is pretty routine driven: attending meetings of various functions (I’m invited to a lot, as inevitably something will come up that needs to be fixed), interspersed with time spent chasing down the priority tasks, driving improvements to our maintenance ways of working and pursuing my projects. I run a project at our Wagga Wagga site, so I have a call with the Management team for that site once a week and report our results to the Zone HQ in Singapore on a Wednesday afternoon. My day usually ends around 3.30 pm, though some days I take off earlier to go to my boxing gym, or stay late to power through important projects.
Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills it would beneficial for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?
Considering I’m a chemical/biological engineer working in maintenance (read: mechanical engineering), I think anyone who studies a degree focussing on problem-solving and an understanding of process operations would be able to cope pretty well.
Something Kraft Heinz believes as a company is that your degree doesn’t define your career and I would wholeheartedly support this. If you have graduated from law but find that your passion lies in supply chain/production or if you’re an engineer who someone finds themselves in love with marketing, there’s no reason you can’t apply yourself and be successful in these functions.
Developing your soft skills like problem-solving, time management and communication is more important than the technical skills. With regards to work experience, I sincerely wish I’d done more, so definitely go for it as much as possible.
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
A motivated, ambitious person who is keen to step up and take responsibility from day one would be a perfect fit. Ownership and meritocracy are two foundational concepts of the culture at Kraft Heinz and there are great rewards for high performers.

In particular, for my role at a factory, you’d have to be highly flexible and able to respond quickly when issues arise. One day I’m running a focussed problem-solving session to improve the performance of one of our beverage lines, the next I’m chasing up trades to find out why something has broken. Sometimes I run a mile a minute between different projects and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
What do I love the most? Definitely the people – the factory is like a big family, and I’ve been looked after really well here. In my role, I’m a centrepiece to creating beneficial outcomes for the Production team and I really enjoy aligning priorities between the Maintenance and Production teams. I get to see the big picture on what the business requires and break this down to the trades to drive key improvements. As an engineer, my favourite tasks involve some sort of synthesis of ideas and transforming these into actions and improvements.

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Is your job physically demanding?

Probably the biggest limitation is that I physically do not have enough time to do everything. I need to go home at some point: eat, sleep, work out. I’ve needed to develop my prioritisation skills – learn what is important, what can be left off and focus on the 20% of the work that delivers 80% of the results.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
I always wanted to work in a brewery, so maybe something along those lines. I’d still ideally be working in a role where I’m solving problems and working with people to make improvements. So long as I’m doing that, I’m happy.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? 

  • Attend class. I lived on campus at a college and for my first three years I got caught up in the social side of things. I loved every minute of it and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I got a big wake up when I failed a subject and had to retake it. From then on, I treated university like a job. I attended eight hours a day and when I wasn’t in a lecture I’d retreat to the Chem Eng common room and work on assignments or homework. The upside was that I never had to work or study at home, which freed me up much more than the haphazard way I was studying previously.
  • Take the time to form good habits. As a college student, I ate unhealthy food far more often than I should have and developed bad habits that took a long time to break once I was cooking for myself. I didn’t work out or otherwise take care of myself, even though I had so much time to do so. While you’re in university, you should take advantage of the free time to set your habits because once you start working, you’ll find that it disappears quickly, along with the motivation to do so. If you achieve the discipline now, it makes it far easier down the road.
  • Learn to prioritise. Take first things first. The 80/20 rule. No matter how smart or skilled you are, you’ll always have more work than time. Figure out what is truly important, focus on that and you’ll deliver the results everyone is after. Don’t neglect the remaining 20%, but make sure you’re spending the appropriate amount of time on your tasks.