A day in the life of... plant manager Jeroen van Herpen

Few people have a job as versatile as a Vetipak plant manager. It involves an exciting mix of technology, commerce, quality assurance, organization, and culture. One moment you’re in the production facility, and the next you’re attending strategic meetings at the holding-company level. Jeroen van Herpen, plant manager at Vetipak’s Veghel site, believes nothing beats this kind of dynamic, fast-paced work environment. We listen as he takes us through his day.


06.03 a.m. - action!

Like clockwork every day, our kids (who are one and three years old) rise around 6:00 a.m. and are ready for action. The four of us usually sit down to breakfast, after which my girlfriend Anne or I take the kids to daycare. To be honest, it’s more often Anne than I who does the morning school run, which means I can be at the plant in time.


7:38 a.m.: - Emails and report

I get into work early today, which gives me a little extra time to prepare for the day ahead. I sift through my emails and read a report – while I get a chance, because once the “Morning Prayer” is over, there’s no telling where the day will take me. And that’s exactly what makes this such a great job: I’m never bored, not even for a minute.


8:13 a.m. - Into the plant

I put on my work shoes and head into our production facility. This is something I do at least once a day, but preferably more often. You see, a plant is run from the office to an extent, but mostly from the actual facility. The team management and I discuss an issue from yesterday. We walk up to the production line, check the parameters, and quickly solve the issue: it’s all been taken care of, so that’s one less thing to worry about.


9:30 a.m. - “Morning Prayer”

It’s Morning Prayer time! That’s what we call the short but productive meeting we have at the start of every day. We discuss the state of play together with the members of the core team. How are the results? What are the positives? And the negatives? Of course, we’re aware of all this already – we keep track of pretty much everything – but this gives us the opportunity to decide together what action we need to take.


9:42 a.m. - Good vibes all around

Since there’s not much to discuss today, we can get started right away. I walk into the plant again and can tell the mood and vibes are good. That’s all-important, because workers need to be satisfied to perform their best! Together with Jan, the head of our technical department, I check out a new machine. We then head over to the strategic HACCP meeting together.

10:59 a.m. – Strategic meeting

HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) has been an item on the agenda before, but today I have my annual meeting with Jan, quality assurance manager Monique, and quality assurance coordinator Kim. We mainly discuss the procedures for using new machines. Our company is undergoing rapid change and investing substantially in technology, so these procedures are becoming increasingly important.


12.25 p.m. – Break time... and back to work

Time for a break, which for me usually means heading out for a walk. There’s usually about three or four of us who go, but not today. Still, I feel the need to stretch my legs and clear my head... When I get back, it’s time to prepare my client meeting for this afternoon, and I also have my regular meeting with our planner, Jens. Since there’s nothing of any note to discuss today, the meeting takes just 15 minutes.


1:30 p.m. - Client meeting

Our Business Development Manager, Joergen, walks in. We have a strategic meeting every four weeks to discuss our main client. What about the operational KPIs? What trends do we identify in the market? And – the main question – are we on schedule in terms of our revenue? We also hammer out the final details of the SLA we’re signing to seal our partnership.


2:35 p.m. - “Power and love”

Like I said, I feel the “soft” side of the business is just as important as the KPIs, so I walk back into the plant. I crack a few jokes with the staff, have a few more serious conversations, and make sure to compliment people whenever I can. As a plant manager at Vetipak you need to know a little bit about everything, but as our payoff says: we make the difference together. “Power and Love”: in other words, action and attention!

3:05 p.m. - Business case

Together with our Operational Excellence Engineer, Harm, I head up a project group that is developing an interesting business case: automating the palletization process. Today we’re assessing the supplier’s drawing based on criteria ranging from hygiene and safety through to the position of the control panel. As a plant manager, you need to be able to zoom in and out...


5:25 p.m. – Tired but energized

Another day at work is done! Sure, I can feel it’s been a challenging day, but today has also been very stimulating. I love the feeling of finding the right solutions together with my team. I hate mistakes and failures with a passion, though, especially when something fundamental goes wrong. But hey, that’s why I’m a plant manager: let’s put our heads together and sort this out!

6:20 p.m. - Family time

The four of us have dinner together every night. Anne and I will chat with the children and tell each other about our days. We then bathe the children and read them a bedtime story. Once they’re in bed, I notice I still have enough energy to do a workout at home. I usually go to the gym or hop on my mountain bike, but there’s no chance of any of that right now.


10:06 p.m. - Lights out

Anne and I chill for a bit on the sofa, and then head to bed around 10. We know that, eight hours from now, our kids will be waking us up all over again, eager to start their day!