Al Rabie

The Company

Based in Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Al Rabie Saudi Foods is the largest juice manufacturer in the Middle East. The business has a 30+ year track record in producing a range of products including: long-life fruit juice, short-life fruit juice, whole milk, orange juice, flavoured milk.

As well as serving their home nation they export widely to the Gulf region including: Bahrain, Dubai, Yemen, Jordon, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Syria, Oman, UAE. Enjoying exponential growth since the 1980’s, the business continues its growth strategy and vision to become the leading beverage and food company in the Middle East.

The Challenge

With the Drinks market growing year-on-year in the Arab World, Al Rabie wanted to service this growth and gave themselves the challenge of increasing their production volumes from 250 million litres to 520 million litres per year over a four-year period. To achieve this the business would embark on a multi-million pound CAPEX project that would see significant investment in the business, including the increase in production capacity from 17 filling lines to 40+ filling lines whilst maintaining World Class manufacturing efficiencies. To assist them in achieving this goal, they needed to recruit three Managers to be based at their Riyadh site:

  • Factory Manager
  • Engineering Manager
  • Logistics & Materials Manager

Food Careers were retained by Al Rabie Saudi Foods to search for relevant Managers on behalf of the business, working very closely with the Industrial Director.

For the Factory Manager, Al Rabie needed someone with substantial operational management experience and commercial understanding. Dairy/Fruit Juice manufacturing experience was not essential. However, High-Volume High-Speed Liquid Filling experience was essential, (preferably Tetra Pak).  

We were informed that the business wanted someone who will ‘fit in’ with the existing management team, someone who would keep the status quo and not make waves. We therefore had to identify potential Factory Managers whose personality traits fitted this requirement. It was also advocated that the Factory Manager would need to have a solid work record of longevity with previous employers.

The Factory Manager role had been covered by the Industrial Director for the previous two years, so we needed to identify candidates who had the character traits to be comfortable working extremely closely with the Industrial Director, and able to quickly build trust with the Industrial Director, to the point where the Industrial Director was confident enough to relinquish full control of the management of the factory.

In preparing the Industrial Director to meet with shortlisted candidates, we stressed the importance of open and honest communication, particularly on key performance indicators and other information on which the Factory Manager’s performance will be measured. This ensured individuals interviewed were entering the process with their eyes open and knowing what the business expected of them. This enabled both the candidate and company to make an informed decision as to whether each party was a fit for the other.

In terms of the sort of person who would fit into the Engineering Manager role we were informed that someone with tact and diplomacy was needed, someone practical with a good understanding of Tetra Pak machines, someone well-established and confident as an Engineering Manager. High-Volume High-Speed Liquid Filling experience was essential.

The Engineering department was performing very well, so the new incumbent would need to make a good department better. A proactive Engineering Manager was required as we were informed that breakdowns in the Factory are very noticeable and maintenance issues would need to be kept under control as breakdowns can lead to loss of sales.

With the Logistics & Materials Manager role, the challenge was to identify a candidate who is comfortable managing in a hands-on manner and giving direct input to make sure raw materials are ordered correctly and ensure raw materials coming in from Overseas are where they need to be. Important tasks include responsibility for all inventories on site, minimising stock loss and building close links with Purchasing, Production, Engineering, Quality, Sales, Warehouse.

As we learnt more about the culture of the business, we realised our challenge was not merely to identify candidates with the right technical and management experience, but to identify candidates who can get along well with people, understand the Arab psyche and mindset of the people working within and owning the business.

Historically, the business had struggled to recruit high-performing Managers and one of the main challenges we faced was identifying candidates prepared to relocate to Saudi Arabia. Settling into Saudi life can be difficult, with both obvious challenges such as the heat and culture and not so obvious challenges such as the high speeds driven on the motorways, living on a compound (gated housing) and the lack of social interaction between locals and foreign nationals that had to be overcome.

When speaking to candidates we emphasised the positives, such as the management structure with its short chain of command, the fact that the Industrial Director and General Manager were very accessible, the open team-based culture where two-way communication is encouraged. The Industrial Director had previously been Engineering Manager and Factory Manager, so we could reassure candidates that he understood the challenges and pressures and is sympathetic to problems faced.

The business had two Westerners in the Management team and were used to foreign nationals taking operational responsibility for Manufacturing and the Supply Chain, so were accepting of foreign managers which was another positive we communicated to candidates. English is widely spoken both within the business and socially, so we were able to appease candidates concerns that a language barrier may exist.   

The business was clear in their objective to recruit three Managers who would give the business a 4-year commitment and this was explained to candidates who applied for the role. We therefore had to consider the motivations of candidates, their circumstances, and commitments, to establish whether they would be willing or able to give the business the commitment it required.

As it is very challenging to identify candidates willing to leave the UK and take a role in a foreign country and different culture, when speaking to candidates who had no idea of life in Saudi Arabia, we had to paint a picture for them. Many were surprised by the activities available and social possibilities on the compounds (gated housing), when we informed them there are multiple swimming pools, multiple squash courts, indoor football pitches, gym, sauna, spa, hairdresser, library, internet café, daily buses to shopping malls.

As well as promoting the job/s and financial compensation to candidates, we had to get candidates to buy into the lifestyle, so we found out as much as we could about activities outside of the compound (gated housing), which includes: Desert Moto Cross, 4x4 Bikes, 4x4 Cars, Dirt Bikes, Several Golf Courses, Riding Schools, Aeroplane Club, Classic Car Club, Other Car Owner Clubs, Riyadh Road Runners, Theatre Circuit, Bingo, various Societies, and multiple Gala Dinners and Balls at the various Embassies.

The Result

Food Careers used a far-reaching Search & Selection recruitment approach combined with Psychometric testing to identify suitable candidates. The recruitment project was delivered successfully, with all three vacancies recruited for. All three employees commenced with the business in Saudi Arabia within 5 months of the recruitment project commencing.

The Factory Manager appointed was experienced within Dairy and Chilled Foods, had Board level expertise with both single and multi-site P&L responsibility. He was subsequently promoted to a Director level position within Al Rabie.

The Engineering Manager appointed had a 20-year track record within Engineering within the Food & Drink industry and joined Al Rabie from one of the world's largest producers of spirits and beers.

The Logistics & Materials Manager appointed had a Supply Chain & Planning background within FMCG and Chemical manufacturing with both UK and European site experience. Once employed by Al Rabie he was soon promoted to Head of Supply Chain Operations.

Food Careers conducted 24 face-to-face interviews with candidates across all the vacancies and psychometric testing with 15 candidates.

Food Careers hosted the Industrial Director, whilst he interviewed 9 shortlisted candidates across the three vacancies.

Food Careers arranged flights for a small number of shortlisted candidates to visit Al Rabie in Riyadh Saudi Arabia in order to spend time at the company, visit a compound (gated housing) and learn more about what their life would be like in Saudi Arabia.

Food Careers arranged for the three appointed Managers to attend a Medical examination at a London based medical practitioner.

Food Careers worked closely with the candidates to co-ordinate and check paperwork to ensure they would be granted a Visit Visa, liaising with a Visa Agent, prior to the granting of a Long-Term Work Visa (Iqama).

This case study is a good example of how Food Careers can work closely with Overseas Food & Drink businesses and also organise non-recruitment matters such as travel, visa’s, and medicals.