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3 minute read

10 Questions With – Matthew Stephenson, MD of Sweetdreams

1. What drove you to pursue a career in manufacturing and how old were you?

I was 23 when I got involved with PET injection stretch manufacturing – My dad told me the best careers were the ones in manufacturing – if you can make something, that someone needs or wants, and your manufacturing can add a USP, you have a good chance of being a success.

2. What is your proudest career achievement so far?

The growth of Sweetdreams – its growth is akin to a teenager growing up – we are now mature, experienced and ready for the challenges ahead.

3. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

As you might have guessed from question one, my dad is a great influence on me – a good tip he gave me was to ‘top drawer’ a decision. Park it for 24hrs, and if it still feels like the right decision then go for it.  If it doesn’t, have a rethink.

4. What is your morning routine once your arrive at the factory/office, does this depend on the day of the week it is?

I have a great management team, so the day starts with catching up with emails, reviewing the to do list I will have written at 4am that morning (I am sure other company owners do that don’t they?) – we are currently moving factories, so I will go to the new site for a catch up, then chat with each of my team on what they are working on, issues, positives etc. Pretty normal stuff I imagine.

5. What’s one thing you have implemented in your business that you would encourage other manufacturers to embrace and implement?

Shallow organization chart, with short lines of communication – allows for a more proactive, and reactive operation.

6. If you were given 1 million pounds – how would you invest that in your business?

I would have a field day buying more chocolate manufacturing equipment – there is a real need for innovative, flexible chocolate manufacturer in the UK at the moment, who can service large and small customers.

7. How do you see smart technology (IoT & Industry 4.0) affecting the long-term growth of UK manufacturing?

Technology will always develop ways to ‘improve’ things, but confectionery will always need a human touch, that’s its beauty.

8. What one thing would you change to make your business more efficient and productive if money was no object?

Automate the Choc Nibble line – it is still hand dosed, and requires experienced staff to manufacture. As such, it is my most labour intensive operation.

9. What is your view on post Brexit Britain – positive, negative or indifferent and why?

I was devastated when I woke on the 23rd June to hear that we were leaving – I truly believe in the EU, and the strength it gives the UK commercially – Open borders, low tariffs, skilled migrant workers to name but a few of the advantages.  I recognize change was needed, but I would prefer that change to evolution from within, rather than revolution. I also have no confidence in the current government to achieve a balanced exit either, which is worrying.

10. How do you think the manufacturing community can collectively continue to engage and interest young people in manufacturing careers?

Manufacturing is losing out to the Service sector when recruiting young people – but I couldn’t imagine anything more boring than being parked before a computer all day. The manufacturing sector needs to open up, show the excitement and thrill of making an actual product, when that be handmade or fully automated.  There is something very engaging, even addictive, learning how things are made.

Matthew Stephenson, MD of Sweetdreams / Picture: Sweetdreams

10 Questions With… is a regular feature where we put a variety of quick fire questions to manufacturing leaders and role models to get to know the people behind manufacturing success in the UK.

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