Niall Burns

Niall Burns

Food Packaging Technician

Niall's job title is Packaging Development Technologist Apprentice at Premier Foods

What I do

I take new packaging for grocery products through the development process. There are lots of specifications to consider and I am part of a team that approves artwork, does trials of prototypes, considers recycling, green packaging, and ingredient and allergy information as part of this process.

I work on the grocery side of packaging, so, for instance, a drum for Bisto gravy. If it’s a new piece of packaging, one of our jobs is to convert the technical drawings into our Premier Foods format, add varnish-free areas, and make sure the dimensions are all one colour. Once we have done that, we have an artwork team that works with an external company who will build the artwork and, once that is built, it will come back to the team I work in for review from a packaging perspective. Other teams also review it, including checking the ingredients, vegan claims and allergen claims, etc. Marketing also looks at it. It is quite a lengthy process.

Green packaging is a big thing for us too. We are making sure we are moving away from non-recyclable to recyclable packaging. Another thing we are looking at is to try to reduce the carbon footprint, so we are starting to explore life cycle assessment software to look at the impact of our packaging at the moment.

Hear more about Niall's role by watching the video below...

How I became a technician

I did A-level Physics, Maths and Engineering. Initially, I looked at engineering apprenticeships but as I was looking through the government apprenticeships website, I saw this one and thought it looked interesting. I applied, got an interview, took the opportunity to ask lots of questions and it was the role for me.

A typical day in my
working life

The advice I'd give to someone younger

At university you get all the theory, but not the practical side. In an apprenticeship, you combine the two and they complement each other. So don’t think that university is the only option. My school really pushed university but didn’t focus on apprenticeships. There are a lot of great apprenticeships out there.

A little more about
my everyday role

The most exciting thing I've achieved so far in my job

I recently worked on a Bisto project, looking at height reduction of the Bisto drums. In the past, if you have ever opened a Bisto drum you will have seen it half full – we were aware of this issue. So, we reduced the height by 8mm, and we saved 40 tonnes of paper per year! It also means that we can get an additional layer on a pallet, so it means more product on a truckload, which means less carbon footprint! I worked on that project from the beginning stages through to the end. It was really satisfying to see the outputs from it – the material and footprint savings. I was really proud of that.

What I wear to work

In the office, it’s smart casual, and it’s pretty relaxed. In the factory, to maintain hygiene, we have to wear PPE, including a hairnet, white coat, snood if you have a beard, safety boots, and sometimes goggles and a hard hat. If you are going into areas where there are forklift trucks, you have to wear a high vis jacket so you can be seen too.

The best bits about working in a team

I work in a grocery packaging team of eight and we all do different things. There are two managers, and our team is split in two, so my team focuses on seasoning, like Bisto, Oxo and salt, for instance. The other half of the team focus on sauces such as Sharwood’s.

My favourite piece of equipment

I love the 3D printer – it’s really satisfying to see a design you’ve made actually become a physical object.

The next steps in my career journey

Once I finish my apprenticeship, there is a role above me that is Senior Packaging Development Apprentice, so I would like to do that.

What I do to relax

I like to go to the cinema, and I try to go to the gym three times a week. I have two whippets, so I enjoy walking them too.

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