In November 2019, Lynn Blaikie started as a Production Manager at the company’s Tweed Valley Maltings. In this Q&A, she discusses her route from harvest temp in the lab at our Craigswalls grain store to her current role and how she’s settling in…
When did you start working at Simpsons Malt?
I started working at Simpsons Malt at the company’s grain store at Craigswalls around ten years ago when I was 21. At that time, I worked in the weighbridge and laboratory. I then came to work in the lab at Berwick as maternity cover for around nine months and, after that, I left the company and went travelling.
I came back to work for Simpsons in August 2016 and I’ll always remember the day I came back, as it felt like I’d never been away. Everyone was so welcoming and one of the main things I noticed was that many of the same people were still working here. I think that really emphasises what a great company Simpsons is to work for and highlights the family nature of the business.
What job did you do when you returned?
I worked as a full-time Laboratory Technician until April 2018 and then I started my new role as Health & Safety Coordinator. Health and safety is such an important part of any business now and a large part of that role involved communicating issues with staff and developing their knowledge around health and safety, as well as spending a lot of time out on-site. I also gained my NEBOSH General Certificate, which will prove valuable in my new role.
When the Production Manager job came up, what prompted you to apply?
One of the biggest reasons for applying was so I could learn more about the business – I saw it as a step into another area and an opportunity to learn more about the production process. I learned a lot from my time in the lab and also in my role as Health & Safety Coordinator, so I felt that having knowledge in two different areas of the business would be beneficial to the Production Manager role.
Is there a particular part of the production process that you will be overseeing?
At the moment, my role is Barley Production Manager and that is quite fitting given my previous spells in the labs at both Berwick and Craigswalls. The role covers everything from barley storage, to drying, harvest and having the barley ready for going into production. Having some of this previous knowledge will hopefully stand me in good stead – it’s just a case of bringing that knowledge back to the front of my mind!
Describe a day in your job…
Right now, I’m doing a lot of shadowing and learning about the full production process. Although I spent quite a bit of time out on-site in my previous role, there’s a whole lot to learn in my new role on what is a very large site.
I attend a daily Production Managers’ meeting where we discuss what has happened in production within the last 24 hours and what’s planned for the next 24 hours. I can be doing anything from setting up barley movements from a shed to silos, going out and doing physical checks on the malting process and managing the team working in the barley area. Certainly, over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be taking any opportunity to go out on-site and shadow my colleagues to learn as much as I can.
What are the main challenges that you face in your role?
A lot of the challenges faced can be down to machinery and equipment as obviously you need everything to run smoothly in order to produce malt for our customers. Many of the things that happen, you can’t plan for due to the nature of the job. But my biggest challenge for the time being is continuing to learn the ropes and getting stuck in, which I’m really excited about.
Outside of work, what are your main interests?
One of my main hobbies just now is golf, which I love. I took it up two years ago and I had quite a successful season in 2019, getting my handicap down to 17. It was 28 about a year-and-a-half ago. I also love cooking and baking; I’m currently building an extension on my house so can’t wait to test out my new kitchen!
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