It was timely intervention from his mother-in-law that set Stephen Greatbatch on a 30-year career in the milling industry.
Currently technical manager at Whitworth Bros plant in Selby, Stephen was an unemployed 22-year-old physics graduate when his wife’s mum tipped him off about a vacancy at the nearby Bowmans mill.
It was a temporary position, working in the lab – but it soon became permanent, and he would go on to become a key member of a team responsible for commissioning a state-of-the-art heat treatment plant.
“I had no idea what the industry was when I joined Bowmans,” Stephen admits. “Back then a lot of milling was family orientated, and it was certainly the case at Bowmans that everyone seemed to be related!
“But right from the start it suited me down to the ground, with my scientific background, and I never looked back.”
Stephen was initially involved in testing flour, but was then part of a project researching the development on non-chlorinated cake flour through heat treatment.
“There was a move away from chlorination at that time, and in 2000 it was made illegal. Heat treatment plants began to come online, and we were involved in not only commissioning a plant for Bowmans but developing new products for it. It still ranks among the biggest achievements of my career so far.”
Stephen went on to join Rank Hovis, which was subsequently bought out by Whitworths. His role as technical manager means he is responsible for quality, food safety and compliance across the group.
A keen rugby league fan, and a season ticket holder at Castleford Tigers, Stephen played at the top level of the amateur game and, having turned 50, still turns out for the occasional game of veterans’ rugby.
“It’s a lot slower and gentler these days – we have guys playing who are in their 70s – but it’s a good excuse to get the boots on and chuck a ball around. You’re a long time retired, after all!”