The food processing industry, although different from traditional manufacturing, has numerous similarities. Plants and processes are set up based on manufacturer’s needs; quality control measures are put into place; and metrics and return on investment are important to upper management.
So, how can food manufacturers, and especially poultry manufacturers, put measures into place to continuously improve?
Crider Foods, a poultry manufacturer in Stillmore, Georgia, doubled throughput from 260 to 520 cans a minute, resulting in the ability to produce more product and expand into new markets. By making changes, based on Lean principles, Crider identified bottlenecks in its packaging line. Crider also consolidated three smaller warehouses into one large warehouse, and was able to maximize space, and save time, resources, and money by eliminating multiple daily trips between warehouses.
Around the middle of the 20th century, Toyota began implementing Lean practices — tools and techniques to improve processes. The automobile manufacturer discovered that these tools helped it eliminate waste, become more efficient, reduce operating costs, and most importantly, free up capacity to grow its business.
Today, these concepts are applied to all areas of manufacturing and are customized based on industry and company needs and goals. Since the 1960s, the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech has been helping manufacturers grow and stay competitive, and the poultry industry is no exception. In the last couple of years, the GaMEP has worked with poultry manufacturers to cut lead times in half, reduce equipment setup times, and double throughput.
Why have these poultry manufacturers been successful in implementing Lean practices? Time and again, the GaMEP has seen the most successful implementation come from manufacturers with leadership buy-in and participation across the plant. These companies attain top-level support by pitching ideas that show how efforts and change can positively impact the bottom line. As the leader of an organization, what would you respond to better?
A. Our team was able to identify areas of improvement that can better meet the demands of our customers.
B. Our team was able to identify areas of improvement that can better meet the demands of our customers, but also take on additional business to grow our sales by 20 percent in the next year.
As a team member, proposing ideas by using terms around sales growth, profit, and return on investment are key to gaining buy-in.
What about the rest of the organization? Get everyone involved in the decision-making. Take interdepartmental teams, with all levels of employees that are immersed in the day-to-day and use their input to drive change. Start off with a process that will show quick results. Then use these results to help fuel change in other areas. Employees will begin to feel empowered and excited about the changes taking place.
GaMEP worked with Crider’s management team and production workers to apply Lean to their operations and realized fantastic results. Lean is an important tool for all types of manufacturing companies, including poultry. By gaining top-leadership support and employee buy-in, improvements and business growth opportunities are within reach.
About the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP)
The GaMEP, a federal- and state-funded program out of Georgia Tech, is a member of the National MEP network supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The GaMEP helps manufacturers increase top-line growth and reduce bottom-line costs. With nine regional offices across the state, GaMEP offers a solution-based approach through coaching, implementation, and training in areas such as: Business Development, Process Improvement, Sustainability, Energy, and ISO Standards.
Visit www.gamep.org for more information.