Projects and Buildings Director Phil Colquhoun has successfully managed many of Lorien’s large, multi-disciplined projects across the food, pharmaceutical and industrial sectors.
He is responsible for driving growth within the projects and buildings sector, as well as acting as a project manager for clients and coordinating Lorien’s project management team. Here, he talks about how he and his team have adapted to the new daily working routine under Covid-19 restrictions, the efficiency benefits and the challenges of mentoring.
Colquhoun is a chartered engineer with more than two decades’ experience at Lorien, managing large, multi-disciplined projects in the bakery, dairy, pharmaceutical, snack foods, convenience foods and industrial products sectors. Prior to joining Lorien, he ran a FMCG food manufacturing plant and led a military engineering team for the British Army’s Royal Engineers.
Lorien specialises in capital projects for food, brewing, drinks, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and logistics. In pre-pandemic days, driving to site meetings with clients across the country took up many hours of my working week. In March, all of that changed overnight and, along with the rest of the world, we had to adopt and adapt to technology quickly.
Working from home requires self-discipline, familiar to me as I formerly led a military engineering team for the British Army’s Royal Engineers. I set myself up for what can be quite intense days with a three-mile run in the morning. I took my car off the road in March and a daily run has taken the place of my commute, enabling me to mentally plan the day ahead and reset to work-mode so I’m raring to go once I hit my desk.
Now, regular client meetings see me dialling in via Teams to discuss and plan projects across the world - in Belgium, Spain, Ireland, South Africa, and the US as well as across the UK.
While there has been little strategic spend in 2020, manufacturers had to demonstrate agility to survive. The demand for products pivoted very quickly from locked down food service to consumption in the home, which created a need to reconfigure production lines.
While working from home is a different experience, there are many efficiencies. We are all more time disciplined on a video call, enabling us to respond more quickly to client briefs.
In the short term, Covid has been a trust game changer and relationships with existing clients have been cemented by the feeling that ‘we’re all in this together’. In the longer term, it will be interesting to see whether the lack of regular face to face interaction, and the subtle nuances that enables, makes developing new relationships with clients more difficult.
As part of my role, I mentor young colleagues and this has been one of my biggest challenges during the pandemic. For those looking to develop their careers, this enforced time at home can be difficult both from a personal and work perspective. So much learning is informal - from colleagues, clients and even suppliers - and fewer opportunities to directly interact means many little opportunities to do so have disappeared. For now, at least.
We have all leaned to drive the working day harder and meetings over Teams can be intense, so I relax by continuing the renovations on my cottage. We moved in August 2019 to make way for the HS2 line, buying a cottage which required doing up.
Building work started in October, only to grind to a halt because of the pandemic. Living in a house with no windows, along with our children who returned from University and travelling in South America to spend lockdown with us, was certainly interesting. My two dogs, on the other hand, are delighted to have me around so much!