John, Head of Applied Science, PTC
I'm currently the Head of the Applied Science Department and manage a team of people, mainly made up of scientists. My role in the Product Technology Centre covers four main aspects: understanding and developing the science behind confectionery, introducing new ingredients, developing the manufacturing processes & developing my teams technical skills and managing their careers. Basically, we create new ways of making confectionery and solve any problems that come up with each development.
It sounds straight-forward enough, but the role is very varied and there are all sorts of things to tackle. I have to ensure each product has all the right qualities. Amazingly, sound can be very important to the whole confectionery-eating experience. Hearing the crunch of a Kit Kat wafer is something that significantly contributes to the delight of eating the snack. We consider sound & texture just as much as taste when we're delivering any product.
It's not all science and laboratories though. We do have some of the finest engineers and technicians developing state-of-the-art machinery and processes. When you develop something new, be it a machine, a process, a product or pack design we need to ensure that it cannot easily be copied by our competitors. We try to 'protect' this know-how or knowledge through patents, design registrations or trademarks. Sometimes we decide just to keep things secret!
In the Product Technology Centre we also ensure our managers have operational experience. Many have been production or quality managers in our factories. I've spent a number of years in our York factory and in our Castleford factory. This gives you familiarity with the recipes and manufacturing processes behind some familiar brands such as AFTER EIGHT, SMARTIES, POLO as well as involvement in some new product launches.
On a day-to-day basis, my managerial role sees me running the whole department, supporting and developing my team. That may sound like I'm not very hands-on, but even after 31 years I still get to be directly involved in anything of a technical nature. I use my experience and expertise to advise colleagues on a range of topics like quality, materials and ingredients. Yesterday, for example, I had a long phone call with our business in France about cocoa butter. We were sending cocoa butter from France across to Switzerland and needed to know the exact specifications of the product, if we could modify them and if any changes would prove detrimental to the finished product. I still get a buzz knowing that my advice and expertise helps to solve real business problems around the world as part of our global network.
International travel is a key part of most of the roles at the PTC. Often we visit Nestlé factories which are all over the world. A lot of my travel has been linked to our main ingredient: cocoa beans. This has taken me to some wonderful destinations like Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Brazil and Ecuador. I also worked on a cocoa quality improvement project in West Africa. I got to work closely with cocoa farmers and improve the harvesting & processing techniques. We then brought this cocoa right back to our factory and made it into chocolate.
I still love coming into work. The intellectual challenge, the stimulating like-minded people and the actual subject of Applied Science still drives me every day.