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Food Sector: Is it too busy too improve?

As someone who has worked with many, many Food companies around the world on their Continuous Improvement and Business Transformation journeys, there is not a lot that surprises me or unnerves me. As the old saying goes “I probably have seen it all”. I have worked across Branded Name and Own Label Food Manufacturers across every Food category you can think of. I have seen successful and sustainable Improvement journeys in companies I would have least expected it. I have seen disastrous Improvement journeys that have totally failed in others.

I am not going to define here, from my own 25 years plus experience, what makes a successful Improvement journey – there are lots of good books on that subject (including our own!) and plenty of solid case studies on the S A Partners Food sector page ( But what I would like to explore is what has changed over the past 2 years and what unnerves me in the Food sector as we move out of the covid pandemic.

You don’t need me to tell you that the UK Food labour pool has shrunk dramatically since Brexit or that covid has compounded the negative impact on available labour; or that there are not enough drivers out there to transport in bound/outbound materials to or from our Food Manufacturing sites etc, however, you may be surprised when I tell you that I am coming across many Food companies who are now using these issues as a reason to NOT continue with their Improvement journey!!- its this mentality that worries me.

I was even told by the MD of a multisite Food Manufacturer recently that “we won’t be able to commence our planned Transformational Improvement journey this year as we have lots of problems we need to fix!”

What I believe is the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle, is that due to the macro level impact Brexit and Covid have had on the Food Sector, their Transformational Improvement maturity has regressed.

Typical Maturity Pattern for Organisational Transformation in the Food Sector

What therefore needs to happen now is a vastly different approach to transformation which focuses back on Phase 1, which wouldn’t have worked in Phase 3.

There is an old saying when playing Golf (not that I do btw), that you need to use “different clubs for different challenges”. I sense a lot of Food companies are now still trying to use their putting club when in reality they are now back in the rough and require a different club, or worse still, they give up trying to play the game and just go home (or to the clubhouse)!!

In summary, never stop your Transformational journey, just reflect and realise your maturity has gone backwards and you just need to i) accept this fact and ii) refresh your roadmap to get you out of the rough

We are, as always, here to support you on your journey.

Jeff Williams

Head of Food & Drink Sector

S A Partners LLP

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