Helen Sellar

Q: What in your background prepared you for your current role?

I started at Tetra Pak as a quotation engineer involving a lot of direct contact with customers. Listening to their feedback and helping them achieve their goals always motivated me. Following this, I transitioned into a more technical role, working first as a process engineer and then an automation engineer, which helped me translate the customer’s needs I was so familiar with from my previous role into machine functionality.

Now that I am a product manager I can explain the values and benefits of the machinery that we have, in order to fit the needs of the customers, plus I have an influence into the development of new ideas suggested by our customers.

Q: What other projects have you been working on for Tetra Pak? 

I worked on the development of Tetra Pak’s OneStep technology, which combines pasteurisation and UHT treatment into one single step, first launched in 2010.

This allows customers to cut their operating costs in half while still maintaining a consistently high product quality. Plus, it supports a smaller environmental footprint by requiring less stainless steel, less energy and less water than conventional pasteurisation and UHT treatment conducted in two separate steps. We now have a good geographical spread for OneStep technology for the production of UHT milk, which has been installed in Spain, Sweden, Hungary, South Africa, China, Russia and Brazil.

I have also been involved in a business transformation project to improve our development processes and prioritisation. By efficiently capturing the requirements of our customers, we can deliver the right products faster to the market.

Q: Where do you think the next breakthrough will come in dairy processing? 

As technological and digital infrastructure continues to improve, I believe we will see more self-learning instruments, peopleless plants and the deployment of artificial intelligence. Outside of this, I foresee further evolution of the environment focus and how it is assessed, with an even greater emphasis on delivery of products and processes with the lowest possible environmental footprint.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

For me, the OneStep technology project was a great achievement. It was a significant challenge to combine two important processes in the production of milk without compromising on food safety. This one continuous step enables customers to reduce operational costs by up to 40 per cent. Building on this, one of the key components in OneStep technology is the standardisation unit.

With its precision, it enables dairy producers to get the most from the milk they produce without giving away too much cream. We know that customers are looking to create as much value as they can from the products they produce, and it has already achieved field success with dairy cooperative Arla Foods.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you? 

To stay up to speed with the development teams, I often attend their daily ‘scrum’ project meetings, which last for a maximum of 15 minutes and help us share information in an agile way about project progress. Speaking and collaborating with colleagues across the globe has become normal for us, and so I often have virtual meetings with colleagues and partners online to discuss projects we are working on.

Plus, being a product manager, I also have to consider the long-term direction and needs of products in the market, and so essentially my day is a balance between the now and the future.

Q: Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? 

My main hobby outside of my day job is working with horses, again it is a balance between the daily work that needs to be done, such as maintaining the stables, feeding and healthcare to the more creative side that involves the training and performance improvements you want the horse to achieve. I find it truly mentally relaxing, even if it is physically a lot of hard work.

 

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