Keeping the Customers Satisfied - we talk with Grant Shires, Wolf's Operations Director
We recently caught up with Wolf’s operations director, Grant Shires. Trained as a mechanical engineer, he joined Wolf in 2016 after working in the foundry industry and running orthopaedic implant factories.
He has a very wide role, being responsible for everything from selecting component suppliers to getting finished product out of the door and shipped to customers around the world.
Q: First of all Grant, can you please tell us a bit about yourself, and what you did before you joined Wolf?
A: Before joining Wolf I trained as a mechanical engineer and worked mostly in foundry-based companies. My last couple of roles were running factories in the Orthopedic Implant industry, producing precision castings and forgings which were machined to very tight tolerances and a polished finish.
Although I’ve been at Wolf for four years now, I still feel like a new starter - when people join Wolf they tend to stay for a very long time, and lots of people have many, many years' service here which means there's great continuity and a real wealth of expertise and experience within the company.
Q: What made you decide to join Wolf?
A: After 20 years in metals-based manufacturing, I was looking for a change. Coming from Orthopedics I was used to highly regulated environments and wanted to broaden my technical experience - so Wolf was a perfect fit. And then when I came for interview, it was immediately clear that Wolf not only has a culture which puts safety and the customer first, but is also very protective and supportive of its employees. Wolf's history dates back over 100 years, and its reputation within the industry is second to none. And I loved the factory; it’s an historic building (Wolf has been in it since the 1920s) and has lots of character; its ‘Northern Light’ roof construction means it's very bright and natural, a good place to work.
Q: How would you describe your role? What does it involve?
A: I manage the Operations team, and our responsibilities range from supplier selection and procurement, through manufacturing and warehousing right through to shipping - we cover the whole supply chain.
I also look after the facilities side, keeping the building looked after, arranging inspections and services... everything really. My role is very varied, and includes everything from purchasing, manufacturing and shipping millions of pounds worth of products to fixing faulty boilers!
Q: What major challenges do you face, and how do you overcome them?
A: As the manufacturers of the world's largest range of ATEX and IECEx certified portable and temporary lighting products, we have a great variety of customers and applications so there's always a balancing act of building product for stock, which allows us to deliver with the industry's shortest lead times, and building to order for specific large projects.
As a manufacturing team, we strive for continuous improvement and to be able to provide an ever-quicker and even more flexible response for our customers. We’ve put a lot of effort into cross-training in the last couple of years and it’s paying great dividends. Our workforce is very experienced and has a great eye for detail. We understand the very demanding nature of the Ex market and the requirements of our customers, and will do anything and everything to maintain Wolf’s reputation for both quality and service.
My role is very varied, and includes everything from purchasing, manufacturing and shipping millions of pounds worth of products - to fixing faulty boilers!
Q: How important is team work?
A: Team work is crucial in our business. Not only between the different areas of operations, but across all departments at Wolf. In the short time I’ve been here we've worked very hard to improve communication between departments so that Sales, R&D, Operations and Quality can all respond quickly and efficiently to our challenges. That’s one of the great advantages of a business like ours – we all know each other well and can focus quickly on whatever needs to be done to support our customers.
Q: How much of a challenge has the Covid crisis been, and what measures have you taken to ensure everybody stays safe?
A: Covid has obviously been a very big challenge for us, as it has been for everybody. We moved very quickly right at the start of the pandemic to follow the official guidance and take all measures to protect our workforce and ensure that we could still provide the first class service our customers are used to and deserve. We've been able to maintain our standards throughout the crisis, and regularly reviewed our safety measures, and improved them where and whenever we could.
We implemented the now typical methods of social distancing, hand sanitisation, home working, and limiting visitors to our site. We've also reduced the numbers of people working in smaller offices by temporarily relocating throughout the building. Meetings are mainly held now online via Teams rather than face-to-face.
Q: What do you like about your role and working at Wolf?
A: I enjoy the variety that comes with covering the entire supply chain, and working with our supply partners - many of whom have worked with Wolf for a long time.
I also like it that we all know each other very well, and that we work together well to get things done. It’s also much easier to do the job when you're very proud of what you produce, and have strong relationships with both suppliers and customers.
Q: And is there anything that you don’t like?
A: I’m not a natural early riser, so the 7:30 starts are not ideal! However, we are flexible so on Fridays I can do both school runs, which makes a big difference.
Q: Away from Wolf, what do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I like to spend time outdoors and enjoy walking, camping, fishing and canoeing. Covid has put a temporary hold on most things, but I can still go walking and cycling with the kids. In the meantime, we try do things together like watching films and playing board games.
Q: Do you have any secret talents?
A: I perhaps shouldn’t admit this, working in an ATEX and safety environment, but I’m very good at lighting fires and cooking on them. As a volunteer with the Scouts I’ve taught hundreds of kids to light fires with all sorts of both natural and man-made things.
Q:And finally, on to your "favourites": food, drink, film and book?
A: I love a good curry, and you can’t beat fish and chips. And, of course, both options taste even better with a cold beer!
My favourite film has to be Star Wars, as it takes me right back to being a kid again.
My favourite book of all time is ‘To kill a mocking bird’, but my current favourite is ’12 Rules for Life’ by Jordan Peterson, which has been a breath of fresh air in the current chaos of life.
Thank you very much, Grant, it's been a pleasure talking with you.