This week we’re introducing James Lawrence-Jones, the UK Technical Production & Supply Chain Director – his role at PhotoBox revolves around new products and improving the quality of the ones we already have. With a particular focus on Christmas, James shares with us how they overcome the challenges that the factory faces in peak season and also his favourite product launch of this year. Over to you James…
What has been your favourite product launch from this year and previous years?
That’s a toughie – I am very proud of all the products that we’ve launched over the years from Canvases and Wall Décor to the newest ones; like our new amazing fabric baby book. If I absolutely had to pick one it would be the 3D personalised phone and tablet cases – not only were we first to market in the UK (and possibly Europe) the production process is really exciting, cutting edge tech with lots of future product innovation possible. It has also opened a whole new product range / market for PhotoBox and attracted a new customer base.
What has been the most difficult product to bring to market from a production perspective and why?
The new baby fabric book is one of the most complex from a production point of view produced at this factory. It’s a very manual process and particularly challenging due to the launch so close to Christmas – but we love a challenge and it’s all looking good so far, we’re thrilled with the product and the customers seem to be too.
When you’re shipping at absolute capacity, how do you make sure that the quality is great for every product?
Quality is key for production whatever the time of year – every member of staff that handles any product is constantly asking themselves “would I be delighted?” At every step we put ourselves in the customer’s shoes to ensure we’re delivering a quality product that we ourselves would be thrilled to receive. We train our production staff all year round to ensure we’re ‘match fit’ ahead of peak and to ensure PhotoBox’s quality expectations for every product are clear to every employee. In addition to this, during peak seasons we make use of all available staff (including dragging office staff back to the factory floor) to ensure the same level of trained, quality, focused eyes on every product all year round.
What excites you about Christmas in the PhotoBox factory?
I’ve been here for 6 Christmases now and every year there’s a surprise and challenges. I love the way that our passion for the product and team spirit gets us through these challenges – the way we pull together to deliver always makes me immensely proud to work here with such a strong team. Christmas perhaps more than some of the other seasonal peaks brings out the best in our staff who manage to maintain their Christmas cheer despite working harder and longer than they might at other times of the year.
How does the atmosphere in the factory change when it hits peak season?
As you might expect there are moments of stress and challenges to be overcome but it’s through these challenges and through overcoming them together that we have such a tight knit team. Christmas and the seasonal volumes seem to bring out the best in the team so the atmosphere remains a very positive one with staff helping each other out and pulling together to deliver. Blood, sweat and the odd tear in a Santa (or elf) hat with a smile on their face is how most of the staff look at Christmas. When the smile fades, the production managers are there with a box of chocolates, a willing ear and able hands to solve issues and get the smile back on the faces of our cracking team of elves.
What has been your crowning achievement at PhotoBox so far?
I am still working on that, I’m always looking for the next opportunity and challenge and there is no shortage of these at PhotoBox! I feel like we’ve made so many monumental leaps forward it’s hard to pick out one. I have been very lucky to have the chance to work in a number of roles within PhotoBox over my time here and am keen to continue to help PhotoBox innovate, grow and succeed, so I guess my answer is to watch this space!
If I absolutely had to pick one from my time so far, it’s probably the fact that we managed to relocate our production factory into a new 55,000 sq. ft. factory with ZERO customer impact. That may not sound like much but trust me, in practice it was a massive ask and an incredible result to manage the project and split the old factory production into two, move one half, get it operational before closing and moving the second half. All of this was achieved with zero customer impact in terms of production turnaround, dispatching on time or affecting quality control! Our customers were blissfully unaware of the work going on in the background.
What do you do to celebrate once the last Christmas order has been sent?
We’ll all come together to have a drink, hand out gifts and have a Christmas raffle or a similar awards session / pat on the back session. To be honest, we’re all normally so shattered that after one mince pie and a glass of sherry we’re all ready to sleep until New Year’s Eve!
We know you’re a keen photographer, what’s your favourite photography tip?
Change your angle – get down on the floor or climb a tree to get an interesting angle and perspective. When photographing animals getting down to their level not only gets their interest (so you have more chance of them looking at the camera) but it gives the animals perspective (almost as if the picture is what another animal might see). It works for people and portraits too – some of my best portraits are of people’s ankles/socks – you don’t need to photograph people’s faces to capture their personality. Most of all have fun with it, shoot loads and then get them on display!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this interview with James. We look forward to seeing your comments or questions to James at the bottom of the article.
Factory photos all copyright of © Kerry Lee