Head of Quality - Aerospace, Precision Engineering

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The Company

Historically, this single site operation had been privately owned and led by a sales oriented Managing Director. Revenue was the overarching focus. However, the company was acquired in 2013 by a global leader who demanded a quality driven approach to satisfying core markets and their customers. 
This Cheshire site manufacture engine parts (turbines) and is also a metal treatment facility. It boasts a number of large primary aerospace clients with strong future growth strategies within this market. This further magnified the need for improvements to quality across its product range.
The site employs roughly 250 people, 180 of which work in operations and turn over is c. £50 million. 


The Role and Its Challenges

It was outlined to Collingwood that the site had had three individuals in this position historically, but required a more senior presence to drive, what was, an ingrained culture of quantity over quality. This person needed to influence from the board down to operative level and it was, therefore, of little use this incoming person being of purely strategic abilities. They needed to understand issues associated at production floor level, whilst being able to influence at directorship level – a very interesting mix requiring someone who had come from operative level but now held site-wide influence.

The client openly admitted to having attempted to fill this position via their contingency based preferred suppliers list to no avail over the past two months. They had seen numerous CV’s and met a small handful but candidates could not satisfy the above mentioned mix of hard and soft skills.

Other requirements required included a need for this person to come from an aerospace, automotive, electronic, medical device or rail manufacturing background; a minimum of 10 years’ experience in a quality management role; knowledge of CAA & FAA standards, approvals and procedures including certification, material requirements and operating standards; knowledge of the ISO 9000 and AS 9100 standards and a degree in engineering or related disciplines.

A challenge for this person would be inheriting a site where many of the workers had worked there pre-takeover. The historic culture is leaving them, but it would be this person’s focus to drive the continued improvements needed for them to reach their full potential. This would mean this person getting their hands dirty on production with operatives, helping them uncover route causes. 


The Solution

Although creative social media and online advertising campaigns were developed by Collingwood, it was clear that this person was going to come from a research based headhunt given the typical routes had already been exhausted by contingency recruiters. As this takes time to implement and execute, Collingwood outlined and agreed timelines to proactively approach the market with the client via a signed off Strategy Document.

Collingwood then researched manufacturers of the agreed target sectors within a 50 mile radius of this client’s site in Cheshire. This led to 58 businesses to proactively target.

Upon checking there were no conflicts of interest with the client, Collingwood then researched quality leaders (in some cases to include Engineering and / or Manufacturing Managers).  This expanded the list of approachable candidates to 90. 

When speaking with targeted candidates, it quickly became apparent that none had been spoken with about the opportunity. This certainly made Collingwood's work easier, especially as the client was being competitive in the salary bracket on offer and in offering an attractive “story” to why individuals should be interested. 


The Result

Once referrals were gained, and the better respondents to advertising and social media campaigns spoken with, 140 candidates were involved in total. It was quickly established that Collingwood's challenge was not going to be gaining interest from the market, instead it was going to be an exercise of drilling down to those who had the required blend of management experience and operations understanding together with the required hardened skills sets.

This led to Collingwood rejecting 25 candidates and sharing 10 CV’s with the client. Upon consulting with the Group Head of Quality and the HR Manager, we collectively drilled down to seven strong candidates for Collingwood to meet and assess face to face.

Of the seven and from our interviews, three stood out as having this unusual blend of skills, with the client agreeing to meet them.

Two were moved forward to final interview stage, with the HR Manager stating that either candidate could have been offered the role. In fact, she highlighted that she just wished she had moved forward with us in the first instance given the important influence this person will have on the site. 

Collingwood managed all negotiations, progressing the offer and notice arrangements to a successful conclusion. 


About the author
Doug Mackay
min read

Having started his career in Executive Search in 1998, Doug set up Collingwood in 2005 alongside his wife, Claire Mackay.

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Doug Mcckay

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