Tuesday, 16 March 2021 10:55

Wyeth takes over reins at Westland Milk

Written by  Peter Burke
Richard Wyeth says the move to Westland Milk is somewhat different to the day he started at Maori-owned Miraka near Taupo about 12 years ago. Richard Wyeth says the move to Westland Milk is somewhat different to the day he started at Maori-owned Miraka near Taupo about 12 years ago.

Three weeks into his new role as chief executive of Yili-owned Westland Milk Products, Richard Wyeth is enjoying the job.

He told Dairy News that what really impressed him is the people in the business.

There is a really strong desire to see the business do well and people are working really hard to make Westland Milk a success, which Wyeth finds very encouraging.

For Wyeth the move to Westland Milk is somewhat different to the day he started at Maori-owned Miraka near Taupo about 12 years ago.

“Last time I started a new job I was the only employee, but this time round there are 700 staff. It is certainly different coming into an established business, but it is quite a unique business in the sense that it has been around for a long time and is now under Yili’s ownership,” he says.

Wyeth says part of his role is to help ensure Westland Milk has a solid foundation and works well with the Chinese ownership, to leverage off the strength of the parent company. He says one of differences from Miraka is that he reports to a head office in China to a company that is 5th largest dairy company in the world.

He says Westland is a small subsidiary of that large business which is quite different from Miraka, a small company in its own right.

But while at Miraka, Wyeth was a frequent visitor to China and has a good understanding of the culture of the Chinese business systems.

“What I quite like is that I can bring my experience in working with the Chinese and help the West Coast to understand those cultural differences  because ultimately we want the same thing;  that is for Westland Milk to be successful and that means that the West Coast will be successful – that is my desire.

“If I can do a good job with Westland, then Hokitika and the whole West Coast will do well and it will help Yili achieve its goal of being the third biggest dairy company in the world by 2025,” he says.

Wyeth is working out of Westland’s Canterbury office and has made trips to Hokitika to meet with his leadership team and staff. Not surprisingly he’s been pre-occupied with focusing on the main business and hasn’t had the opportunity to get out and meet some of the 429 farmers who supply Westland.

“Absolutely, I am looking forward to getting out on farm and meeting all the farmer’s and am planning to do that in the coming weeks,” he says.

One of the big differences from Miraka is the size and shape of the milk collection area. By comparison with Westland, whose milk tankers cover more than 500km, Miraka was a much more compact collection area.

It’s early days yet and Wyeth is in the phase of looking at the business and making sure that it is profitable. His first impressions are, the plant and equipment is tidy, everything is where it needs to be, and the organisation is well positioned to achieve what is required in the coming years.

“We have guaranteed to pay a competitive milk price and to do that we need be making high value products and selling them across the globe. I am really impressed with the way the people at Westland are engaged in the business you can feel the sense the pride in Westland, and that is really exciting,” he says.

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