Our People – Mike Burley, Demand Manager, Billington Foods

The Billington Group would not be where it is without its amazing teams. In this ‘Our People’ series, we share a bit more about the diverse roles across our businesses and provide some insight into what makes Billington employees tick!

Name: Mike Burley

Job title: Demand Manager 

How long have you been with Billington Group? Please tell us a bit about your journey within the Group and how you got to where you are today:

I have worked for Billington Food Service for 12 years now. I first started back in January 2010, when we were called TSC Foods. My first role was as a Customer Service Coordinator based at their Scunthorpe site. 

After three months, the role of Retail Customer Service Manager came up, which sounded like a great next step, and so I was over the moon when I was successful. Two years later, the business went under a restructure, which moved me to work more specifically on the Glorious! Brand as an Account Executive, which involved supporting sales, production demand and forecasting. 

Over the next two years, I developed processes and got a good understanding of how to manage and forecast sales demand, growing in confidence within the role. I then approached my Line Manager and requested the opportunity to manage ALL the retail demand, which was fully supported, and my job then changed to Retail Demand Manager. 

Soon, the opportunity then came up for me to manage the whole of the site demand – another step up, but a challenge I was well prepared for. Applying and adapting the methods I had developed throughout my time there, I was able to control and manage the demand for the full site, evolving my role into Demand Manager. 

Within the first year, I quickly identified the lack of visibility between sales trends and production vs our manufacturing capabilities, both short and long term. Building from scratch, developing, and continuing to manage the site capacity models we use remains one of my biggest achievements whilst working for Billington Food Service. Having this visibility has driven significant decisions for both long term strategy while also addressing and resolving short term pinch points. 

Along with proven success across the board, the capacity models drove the implementation of the Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) process, which I currently manage. When our Scunthorpe site merged with our Wellingborough site back in September 2021, I requested the opportunity to build upon the success we’d found at Scunthorpe, applying the same methods to Wellingborough to gain the same level of demand management and control. With full support from the group, we are now seeing good results on demand visibility, stock management, production requirements and also in the early stages of S&OP implementation. It’s been a long journey, which I’m still on to this day, but I implore any employees that have any ideas or suggestions to evolve the Group – big or small – to raise them with your managers, as if it’s viable you will get 100% support and backing!

Describe a typical day in your role: 

As well as ensuring the admin is complete for the business forecast, my role changes with seasonality. For example, as we currently work through the Summer months, my focus is actually on Winter and Christmas forecasting. This will include analysis on stock levels, site capabilities vs sales and pulling together proposals to ensure the senior team have full visibility on how we deliver sales as efficiently as possible.

What’s the best part of your job? 

Seeing results from my work – it’s so rewarding. My main priority is to ensure full visibility for site requirements, and with demand always changing, there can be a number of “scenarios” required in order to plan for more than one eventuality. This can take hours or even days to collate. When you see decisions being made on the back of the hours you’ve spent, it can feel pretty good!

What are the biggest challenges you face when managing demand at BFS? 

We have to second guess what the public will do weeks and months ahead of time, which can be tricky. Based on what we have all faced over the last two years, and are still going through with the current economic climate, we can pretty much throw the book on trends away. The focus remains on our ability to capture demand changes real time and immediately show the impact on our sites.

Can you tell us about something you’ve enjoyed working on recently?

I’ve really loved working on the Wellingborough site’s demand. Seeing the effects of a process you have created working on a secondary site was very rewarding. It was a new challenge personally, but more importantly it had a positive impact on the business.

What makes the food sector exciting to work in?

Every day is different. It’s fast paced and keeps you on your toes.

What do you think the next big food trends are for Christmas 2022? 

I don’t think you can ever move away from tradition, with the likes of turkey still playing a leading role, but I do think there will be more vegan options this year to meet growing demand for meat-free meals. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the food industry? 

100% do it. There are a number of areas within the industry, from sales, manufacturing and logistics, to demand planning, technical and quality control – there’s something for everyone! The industry is always evolving and will always be an exciting environment to work in.

What makes The Billington Group stand out as a great place to work?

It all starts with the products we make. The Group pride themselves on consistently delivering top quality products to our clients, driven by a passion for challenging the industry and innovating. Staff wellbeing is paramount, and the Group ensures they employ great people who are motivated, eager to learn and progress within their fields. They have strong roots and a good foundation, but aren’t afraid of change or adapting to new ways of working. It’s a brilliant place to work. 

Now a bit more about you….

Coffee or tea? 

Coffee, every time. 

What’s your favourite guilty pleasure food? 

Pot Noodle (Not healthy, I know!)

What’s your favourite dish to cook at home? 

Chicken a la Kiev, Pomme de Frites, Peas a la mush – essentially chicken kiev’s, chips and peas! It sounds better in French I think, haha!

Favourite weird food combinations?  

A plate of salt and vinegar crisps covered in salad cream.

What do you get up to outside of work? 

I train three times a week in the gym to try and stay in shape, and am a keen basketball fan (have been since the age of 8) so I follow the NBA religiously!