In this edition of VernaPeople, we introduce you to Rob Wheat. If you haven’t had the chance to meet him yet, now is your chance!
What is your role at Vernacare and what does your job involve day to day?
My role at Vernacare is Head of Procurement, essentially this means working with our direct and indirect suppliers for our sites in Bolton and Matrix Park, driving value through the supply chain and analysing spend. I am fortunate to lead a team of 3 exceptional buyers and through their hard work on the day to day and strategic requirements, I am able to concentrate on the big ticket spend items, which have the biggest impact on our bottom line and production.
What role did you start in and how did you get to where you are now?
I started as Head of Procurement at Vernacare back in 2013, when we were based at Bolton prior to acquiring Synergy Health Healthcare Consumable Solutions (HCS).
I have been in Purchasing now for over 20 years. During that time I have been a Purchasing Manager, Lead Buyer, Commodity Manager, Group Buyer and Divisional Buyer for multiple industries.
Where were you working before you came to Vernacare?
Funnily enough not in Healthcare at all. Prior to Vernacare, I was a Purchasing Manager for an Accumulator (Oil and Gas) manufacturer in North Wales, but I have also worked for Enterprise plc in Leyland, JCB in Staffordshire, an automotive company and an adhesive company, where I did my industrial placement as a Product Manager.
How has Vernacare changed in the time you have been here?
Of course, Vernacare changed greatly in 2017 with the acquisition of Synergy Health HCS, but I certainly feel that the consolidation was a great success and we now have two sites which we can be very proud of and an office culture which is enjoyable to work in.
I am lucky to work with a fantastic group of people. The team is very diverse and varied with some real characters who make the days that much more enjoyable.
What is your favorite part of the role?
Two main things stand out for me.
Firstly, I have been able to travel to some fantastic places and experience things I would never have had the opportunity to ordinarily. This includes a trip to China (with Steve Morris and Steve Birch our Operations and Production managers) and trips to Israel, France and more recently Poland.
I am also lucky to work with a fantastic group of people. The team is very diverse and varied with some real characters who make the days that much more enjoyable.
What are the challenges?
Other than the daily battle with Manchester’s Motorway network (I live in South Manchester), the main challenges are staying up to date with the ever-changing landscape across the multi-dimensional supply chains. Patience is also often required to achieve the best result for the company from a value-added perspective. Procurement has to be about the full cost picture and not just the spreadsheet numbers.
What would you say are the most important skills you have to use day to day within your role at Vernacare?
Procurement has evolved significantly, even in the last century. The stereotype of people shouting down phones with a sole aim of scraping every last penny from suppliers is gone. Nowadays it is crucial to maintain a professional, firm but fair balance with suppliers. Integrity with the supply base carries respect and gets results when managing multi provider projects and tenders. The task is to motivate suppliers to provide the best service and costs we can achieve, from any given spend area.
What has been your biggest achievement within the role so far?
I have been very fortunate to have been involved in and presided over many large cost saving projects for Vernacare. Some of the biggest savings have been achieved in areas such as ‘In-House Material spend’ at Matrix Park, which was a huge team effort between James Catterall, Procurement Executive, the Production team and Product Managers.
Personally, two areas have given me the most satisfaction, primarily because prior to working at Vernacare I knew nothing about either. The first is insurance, where 3 years ago, after an extensive process we removed £100k from a previous spend of £250k. The second is energy, with the assistance of Dean Harwood, Finance Business Partner and Paul Wright, Chief Financial Officer, we were able to select a new energy procurement style, which has so far reaped a reward of over £300k saving, compared to what we would have paid under the old process.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
My biggest passion is rugby union, even though my playing career ended around 5 years ago when I snapped both bones in my left forearm whilst playing (I still have 3-inch scars on either side of my arm and 3 metal plates). I managed to play to the 4th level of rugby in this country during my time, which is a good standard. I am still quite sporty, but my passion now is to go and watch my daughter Ruby, who is the goalkeeper for Altrincham Town Under 11’s football team.
Is there anything you have always wanted to do in life?
I love to travel! With my wife Jayne and family, Oliver (17) and Ruby (10), I have been to many lovely places and fantastic cities such as Porto, Lisbon, Venice and Milan. I would certainly like to experience places such as Canada, or parts of the United States where I have not been so far. I would also like to go and support the British Lions Rugby squad on tour in Australia, New Zealand or South Africa one day.