A day in the life of SBP’s Operations Manager

Published on 1st August 2019

Richard Byass, SBP’s Operations Manager has a demanding daily schedule. As one of the only two full time employees of SBP he is responsible for meeting the objective: to freeze 200 tonnes of peas within every 24-hour period. When the weather allows, the harvesting teams work 7 days a week for between 10 – 12 weeks. Of course, this year’s wet summer has made the task even more challenging.

6:00 On site to oversee the change-over of the two shifts. There are two harvesting teams which operate in two 12-hour shifts so that harvest runs for 24 hours a day.

7:00 Assess the readiness of today’s fields. It is often the case that headlands, around the edges of fields, are ripe for harvesting at a different stage to the rest of the crop; sometimes earlier and sometimes later. If the ground is wet, care must be taken to minimise the impact of the equipment to avoid compaction. Sometimes the decision needs to be made to bypass a certain field or part of that field, or return to it later.

8:00 Check the tenderness of the peas going through the viners. Using a special machine which accurately measures the quality and tenderness rating (TR) Richard uses this advanced technology to ensure that the first morning’s load is perfectly ready. In addition, every delivery to the freezer plant is assessed in this way on its arrival.

10:00 A production meeting is held every day at the factory in Eyemouth to liaise with the factory quality control managers (QCMs) and ensure the smooth running of that day’s operation. Richard is SBP’s daily representative, liaising with the freezer plant.

11:00 Work out a schedule for where the harvesting team is going next. In some ways, this is predictable because over 24 different varieties have been sown in different soils over a period of several months, with the result that they mature at different times. But although the early planning stages ensure that crops mature on a rolling cycle, weather conditions affect this. Relatively accurate predictions can be based on flowering dates – it is usually 5 weeks from the point of flowering to crop maturity – so mileage is kept to a minimum. But an experienced eye is still needed for the final decision so Richard drives to a number of potential fields to check on crop readiness and field conditions.

2:00 Once the exact schedule has been determined for the following day, Richard draws up a plan which includes the road routes for the harvesting teams and ensures that the necessary support infrastructure will be in place. Portaloos and portable rest rooms need to be transported to each farm so that workers’ conditions meet an acceptable level.

3:00 Time spent overseeing the day’s harvest. This includes ensuring that health and safety standards are maintained at all times, including the wearing of hi viz jackets and safety helmets. It also includes liaising with the individual farmers and growers for each area.

6:00 Perhaps a moment of quiet contemplation and consolidation. Nearly £1 million has been spent on seed orders. Added to this are the costs of crop establishment and management, representing a very significant investment by the farmer growers within the co-operative. Every year’s growing season is different but it is important to accumulate as much information as possible to ensure maximum efficiency going forward.

7:00 Back in the field to oversee the shift change and ensure that everything is in place for the overnight working of the harvesting operation. If staff are ill or absent for any reason then replacements will have been found to fulfill the roles.

It’s a long and demanding day and it often does not end there. With weather conditions changing constantly, plans need to be reviewed and revised on a continual basis to ensure maximum efficiency.