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PepsiCo Employee Crowned 'Engineer of the Year' at FDF Awards

23 September 2016

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PepsiCo UK & Ireland's John Walker was named 'Engineer of the Year' at last night's prestigious Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Awards. The ceremony at London's The Brewery celebrated the leading businesses and people in the food and drink industry.

John, who has worked at Walkers Snack Food's base in Leicester since 1989, saw off competition from other highly skilled electronic, mechanical and chemical engineers from across the food industry to take the prize.

The category was sponsored by Sheffield Hallam University, home to the first UK's first food engineering degree courses and the new Centre of Excellence in Food Engineering, to open in 2017.

John has developed in the business and its engineering functions from front line electrician, to stores manager, to his present-day role of Reliability Engineer. Over 500 full-time employees and nearly 5,000 items of equipment manufacture 70,000 tonnes of crisps at the site each year. Keeping all of this equipment performing at optimum level is challenging due to production volume demands and John manages this challenge. He is praised by colleagues for being restless in the presence of unplanned downtime and for making it his mission to understand downtime and eradicate it. He is described as tenacious, challenging, thorough and dedicated. He has also mentored students in engineering, thereby passing on his experience and knowledge to the next generation of food and drink engineers.

FDF's Director General, Ian Wright, said: “John is admired for his limitless dedication, devotion, and desire to make the food engineering operation at his plant the best it can be. His long service and experience are testament to his dedication to his role and to producing a smooth and good quality operation at the Walkers site in Leicester. John's commitment to mentoring engineering students from university is also very admirable and I applaud his deep commitment to sharing his knowledge and professionalism with the next cohort of food engineers.”

Category sponsor Sheffield Hallam University's Dr Martin Howarth, Director of the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering said: “John has exhibited great tenacity in the application of excellent engineering practice to analyse problems and to deliver effective solutions. Utilising reliability engineering principles and forensically applying root cause analysis, John has had a huge impact on PepsiCo's productivity through his achievements in minimising unplanned downtime. His ability to lead developments with staff across the organisation is excellent and this has included commendable support for students studying food engineering, demonstrating his contribution to future engineering capability.”

More information

Event photos are available on FDF's Flickr page

The 2017 FDF Awards will launch in November 2016.

Notes for editors

  1. The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is the voice of the food and drink manufacturing industry – the UK's largest manufacturing sector.
  2. View the winners' case studies
  3. PepsiCo UK is home to Quaker, Walkers, Pepsi and Tropicana – market-leading brands and household favourites. The team behind PepsiCo's products is 5,000 strong and spread across 14 UK sites – from Walkers in Leicester to Copella in Boxford and Quaker in Cupar.
  4. The new National Centre of Excellenceaims to support industry growth through helping the sector to improve its manufacturing and food processing capability through innovation. Its work will provide new process knowledge, energy and waste saving solutions and deliver packaging innovations through the application of leading-edge technology. The centre will contain state of the art facilities for research and development and be a leading facility in the UK, containing flexible, food and drink industry-grade production space and laboratories.
  5. Sheffield Hallam University is one of the UK's largest universities with more than 31,500 students, 24,500 of which are undergraduates. The University is England's largest provider of courses that involve work placements (such as a year in industry) and 93 per cent of the University's graduates are in work or further study six months after graduation.

Contact Matthew Evans, Corporate Affairs Division, at:, or (0) 20 7420 7152.

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