When Simon Digby started work as a premix operative at Greens Flour Mill in Maldon back in 2004 he thought it was just a temporary job – a chance to earn some money after being laid off as a landscape gardener.
Fast forward 17 years and Greens is now owned by Carr’s and Simon, 44, is about to become the mill’s new operations manager.
“Yes, it’s strange the way things go,” he says. “I was all set for a career as a landscape gardener, but then I broke my foot and suddenly I was out of work. I gave my details to a job agency and the next thing I know I’m turning up at Greens, not knowing the first thing about flour milling.
“I must have done something right, though, because they offered me a full-time position – and the rest is history.”
Well, not quite. Simon’s route to the top has been painstaking and seen him involved in almost every aspect of the mill’s operation from warehousing to packing. In between he has learned the ropes of the industry both at first hand and by completing courses run by UK Flour Millers.
In 2017 he moved into management, taking on the role of product supervisor. From there he became head miller, working under the highly-experienced Matthew Chick. And when Matthew announced he was retiring as operations manager this June, Simon was ready to step up.
He says, “I’ve been hugely fortunate to have worked with some brilliant people, and in recent years I’ve learned so much about the day-to-day management of the site from Matthew. I’m really looking forward to the challenge of stepping into his shoes.”
Simon’s new role will see him overseeing the running of the Maldon site and the mill, as well as looking after a 50-strong team spread over various departments.
It could be a daunting prospect – but Simon says the events of the last 12 months have shown the resilience of the Carr’s operation.
“Covid was hugely challenging, but the response was a massive team effort with everyone pulling together to minimise disruption and keep production moving. We’ve got a first-class team here, and everyone did their bit.”
When it comes to the industry itself, Simon shares the belief of many that milling suffers a perception problem.
“When I tell people what I do they say, ‘It must be hard work carrying all those bags of flour around all day!’. But then most people have no idea what diverse and rewarding career it is. Milling has a long history, yet it is one of the most technologically advanced – and I would recommend it to anyone.”