The Secretive World of the Personal Care Industry

Procter & Gamble is one of the largest personal care companies in the world. If I gave you 10 seconds to find a P&G product, I guarantee there would be at least 5 in the kitchen cupboard. They are responsible for delivering Ariel, Fairy, Bold, Gillette, and so many more brands.

Naturally, working for such a large business means having access to a lot of confidential information, which can be very daunting at first. What if I get it wrong? What if I release millions of pounds worth of information to our top competitor?

What if I accidentally include something top secret in my BNS Blog post??? It’s all very 007! Photo by vikingvixxen on Tumblr.

In reality, these things rarely happen if we are vigilant, however the support of the intern community and wider company is vital in getting through the first few weeks.

My project

Have you ever taken a moment during your laundry to stop and look at your washing powder, or Ariel Pods? Years of research has gone into these products, from complete prototypes which fail 50 times to the first, glorious batch made in the manufacturing plant successfully.

Just one of P&G’s many products! Photo by Erik Binggeser on Unsplash.

I was lucky enough to spend 13 months as an Associate Process Engineer in the Launch Team in Procter & Gamble, at their Newcastle Innovation Centre (NIC), as part of my Professional Placement Year.

The role of a Process Engineer is to review mini scale manufacturing techniques, e.g. making detergent powder on a lab bench, and make the process more “scalable” so it can be viably made in our plants. This means redesigning how the product is made to satisfy its demand – products must be made quickly in large quantities and not cost a fortune!

My work over the course of the year has facilitated the development of many new products to a stage where many of them can now be tested in manufacturing plants. Unfortunately, that’s about as much as I can tell you here – like I said, very James Bond…

A far cry from university

P&G operate from the base-up, meaning people like me have strong influence on the direction of the business. Managers and supervisors look to the associate researchers and engineers for guidance on what is possible in product innovation, as most of them have limited recent lab exposure. This gives interns and new hires incredible freedom to explore and try new things, rather than sticking to the straight and narrow – it is research and development after all!

P&G offers flexible working, giving me freedom to begin my day early and get home early to enjoy whatever sunlight we had in Newcastle that day! Equally, if a later start was needed, I could very easily make up the time. It was actively encouraged to leave work laptops at the office, so we don’t over-work; the work-life balance of their employees is very important to P&G.  

Plenty of funded pizza nights made up for lost nights out! Photo by Aurelien Lemasson-Theobald on Unsplash.

COVID social life

The first people I met upon arriving at NIC were the intern social reps. They arguably had the most difficult job of everyone during the “COVID intern intake” as we were affectionately known!

Interns in “normal times” are welcomed into the company with a ball down in Surrey, where they get to meet all P&G interns in their cohort. Obviously with COVID, we were lucky to even make it into the office, so the welcome ball was off the table. Our reps worked so hard to give us some social time with very restricted circumstances, on top of running their own business projects. They fought for us to get funded take-away nights where we were able to video call over dinner and drinks, followed by games like Kahoot.

Our intern social calls became a regular thing, giving us all time to chat about life; work related or not. I’ve made friends for life!

The future

My experience at P&G has shown me what kind of doors will be open for me after completing my degree. I never in a million years would have thought I’d love a Process Engineer role, as it is so far removed from Biomedicine, but my internship has proved me wrong! I’ve been able to talk to people in all areas of the business and understood how they got to where they are today. I know the most valuable part of my year has been the experience, which will be vital in whatever work I go onto after graduating!

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