Quality is central to everything we do at Simpsons Malt to ensure that our customers receive the best possible product.
In this Q&A, we caught up with Quality Manager at our Tweed Valley Maltings in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Cole Mather, who gives an insight into his role and what it’s like to work in the Quality Department at the Home of Good Malt…
How long have you worked at Simpsons Malt for?
I’ve worked at Simpsons Malt for two years now, so not as long as most people! In my previous job, I was Quality Manager for an exotic meat company so it was a really similar role except the products were going direct to the consumer at seven major supermarkets.
Prior to that, though, I didn’t have any experience in a quality role. I joined that company to do PR & Marketing, which is what I studied at university, and after working with them on BRC accreditation, we started getting more requests from larger customers. The company grew and everybody started taking on additional bits and pieces and I kind of fell into becoming the Quality Manager from there. Now I find myself here, so things haven’t worked out too badly!
What did you learn from your previous role that you’ve taken into this job?
In dealing with exotic meats on a daily basis such as ostrich and kangaroo, the company was audited regularly by the likes of BRC, Food Standards Agency and some of the UK’s largest retailers, while we also had to do speciation tests. There were very high standards of food safety and it’s the same here.
What drew you to a role at Simpsons Malt?
My brother Aden works here and some family members of mine have worked here over the years too, so I knew a lot about the company and its great reputation in the area. When I applied, it was to become a Process Controller but after my second interview, I got taken on in a quality role as a result of my previous experience in food safety and the training that I had in that area.
Describe a day in your job…
There’s a little bit of everything really, and it’s not all quality related. Most mornings I’m in a production meeting with the Production Managers, where we talk about the previous day’s production and the upcoming day, addressing issues of quality if there have been any. I’m also involved in a lot of projects around the site and I deal a lot with customer requests and technical queries, as well as issues about quality raised by staff members.
We’re audited by eight different bodies, who come in annually to this site and every couple of years to our grain store at Craigswalls. They also go down to our Tivetshall site so sometimes I’m required down there to help with audits and customer visits. So at least once a month, we’re busy with a customer or external body on-site.
So how high is quality on the agenda at Simpsons Malt?
Quality, food safety and health and safety are all hugely important for us. Recently, I was put through my Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point (HACCP) Qualification, which is a legal requirement for any food production business. I recently passed Level 4 of that, which is one of the highest levels you can get to unless you have a degree in food safety. I’ve also started doing my Certificate in Malting Competence (CMC) alongside three of the Production Managers – so I think regularly putting staff through these qualifications emphasises how important the issues of quality and food safety and staff development are to the company.
What are the main things you’re keeping an eye out for in terms of the quality of the product and ensuring it leaves our maltings with no issues?
Well firstly, we’re involved right back to when the barley is being grown. Through our agricultural division, McCreath Simpson & Prentice, we have various checks and records to ensure that the barley entering our site is going to be suitable for malting. We need to know exactly what’s been applied to the barley so that every pesticide and fertiliser has been approved by the likes of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and the Maltsters’ Association of Great Britain (MAGB).
At intake, we need to make sure the barley is within the correct specifications and during storage, we need regularly check temperatures and moistures, so we know how much time under water is needed during the steeping process. Additionally, there are other quality-related aspects in the background such as pest control, checking on glass and brittle plastics and making sure lubrication on-site is food safe. From the moment the seed is sown to the moment it leaves our sites in bulk wagon loads or bags, everything is recorded and approved to ensure it’s top quality.
Outside of work, what are your main interests?
I play 5-a-side football, enjoy a bit of cycling, hill-walking and a wee bit of travelling too!
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