All Posts By

Teri Danielson

Navigating the Future

by Teri Danielson

As we enter week 8 of the “stay at home orders” in Oregon, I have been reflecting on what the future might hold for the food industry, and other industries and businesses in our state and country.  After talking to people throughout manufacturing and other industries about how they are managing during this crisis, I am seeing many companies demonstrating exceptional leadership, engagement and focus.

This got me wondering, given the challenges that COVID-19 is presenting, why are some businesses performing so well, what is it businesses are doing well to address the changing environment and how do businesses keep these practices going as we move forward?

What I would like to suggest, based on my observations:  The exceptional performance many companies are exhibiting is an example of how we are more effective when priorities are clear, businesses are focused and aligned around the work that needs to get done and there are minimal distractions.

When the stay at home orders were first issued, most of Northwest Food Solutions current projects were postponed.  And rightfully so.  Our food manufacturing clients were facing loss of their food service and restaurant volume and larger than normal growth of grocery volume, coupled with resource constraints and general difficulties associated with navigating COVID implications to the workforce.  The food industry is considered “critical infrastructure” and companies have been heads down in triage mode.

As the crisis progressed, I started reaching out to clients to find out how it was going.  I also began attending industry meetings and talking to others in the industry trying to see what companies might need and how Northwest Food Solutions could provide support.

One assumption I made was that companies would need help implementing COVID best practices, and we offered this help pro bono to our clients.  But the clients I talked with had already done this relatively quickly and painlessly.  In fact, during these conversations, clients related some great examples of the creative solutions they had come up with to ensure supply of raw materials, to social distance, to split shifts and protect employees, to find PPE, to share resources with other companies, to prioritize manufacture of products that were selling well in grocery and stop manufacturing products that had low volume.  That concept of focus and prioritization struck me again and again as I listened to industry leaders sharing their strategies and the creative workarounds they implemented.

This idea of focus and prioritization is a common theme in the consulting services we provide to companies.  Usually at the start of a project, when a client has brought us in to help solve a specific problem, we often see that people and resources are stretched thin by too many projects and distractions.  Leaders do not always know how to prioritize, so as a result, their teams are doing everything.  No matter what “project” we work on with a team, we always are working with the team to prioritize the project within the larger scope of company work and help teams figure out how to get the project work done effectively.  It is at the core of what we teach, even though it is almost never what we are hired to do.

So, what is different in the COVID world?  Now, we are all being forced to prioritize.  Some things we have seen change:  The ten new product launches planned for this year…not happening.  The twenty-five low volume skus that consume 70% of the teams resources to produce…shelved.  Sales travel to customers…it’s temporarily not happening or happening via Zoom.  Vendor and auditor visits…they have been reduced or eliminated.  In the COVID world, companies are aligned around a few common goals and those goals are clear to everyone.  1) Protect the workforce and 2) meet the increased demand of the most needed product.  So simple and so clear.

This idea of focusing on the few important things as a more productive approach is backed up by science.  There are a multitude of papers that have been published on the how multi-tasking or working on too many things at once destroys capacity and creativity.  According to Teresa Amabile, who wrote the Harvard Business Review paper “Creativity Under the Gun”, “It’s not so much the deadline that’s the problem; it’s the distractions that rob people of the time to make that creative breakthrough.”

Without all the distractions, companies can focus on work that adds the most value to the customer and develop creative ways to manage through the unique challenges they are facing.  Companies are effectively moving mountains to keep their product in stock and their workforce safe.

To be fair, not every company is doing this successfully, but I am heartened to see so many food and beverage manufacturers performing admirably in this crisis using their own resources.  We are going to return to a new normal soon, and it is likely that the way we do business will also be altered as the country opens back up.

Looking to the future, the rules have changed, and things are going to be different for all of us going forward.  With that in mind, I would love to see companies commit time to sit down with their teams, recognize what has been accomplished, how it was achieved, and take a hard look at how narrowing focus and prioritizing has impacted the company operations.  What are the learnings from this crisis that can be implemented into regular operations?   Reflecting on the accomplishments, what made them possible and charting a new path with resulting actions will help all of us in the food and beverage industry continue to navigate and prosper as we move forward.

And of course, Northwest Food Solutions would love to help with this work.  We are in this together and committed to continuing to support the organizational health of the food and beverage industry in the Northwest.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with feedback and questions.

Northwest Food Solutions is an Earth Day Oregon Business Partner!

by Teri Danielson

Northwest Food Solutions is proud to be an Earth Day Oregon Business Partner.  Earth Day Oregon is a statewide campaign to AMPLIFY the impact of Earth Day, by directing donations to the nonprofit organization’s in our community that work to create a more sustainable world.  Northwest Food Solutions recognizes the good work that ECOTRUST – THE REDD does in Oregon and has made a donation to this nonprofit in honor of Earth Day.

Please visit Ecotrust’s website for The Redd to learn more about the important work they do.  Learn more about the Earth Day Oregon campaign, and check out some Earth Day volunteer activities on their website:  www.earthdayor.org

 

Keeping Your Workplace Safe

By Teri Danielson

Right now, your employees and customers’ safety is top priority for your food or farm business.  Two stories in the news over the past week have brought home the importance of developing and implementing COVID-19 practices in the food industry workplace:

1)  Oregon OSHA received over a year’s worth of workplace complaints in the past month as a result of the pandemic.
2) Several large meat packing plants in the U.S. have closed their doors as they have become hot spots for the COVID-19 virus with large numbers of employees testing positive.

With the Food Industry being considered critical infrastructure in the country, most food manufacturing facilities have remained open to ensure the nations food supply chain can meet the demand.  The FDA and CDC have both stated that there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted via food due to the nature of the virus itself.  The risk at this time, is to our food industry workers and their health and safety.

To protect employees and ensure a stable food supply chain, it is critical that food manufacturing companies take time to assess their COVID-19 practices including:

  • Developing a written COVID-19 best practices document
  • Training and implementing best practices in the workplace
  • Checking that the best practices are effective
  • Engaging the workforce in improving those practices

Adapting new practices into your workplace to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is a challenge.  Northwest Food Solutions has posted resources for food companies looking for help and ideas in implementing best practices.  If you have resources or ideas for best practices, please share them with us via email at info@nwfoodsolutions.com.  We will share these in our next newsletter.

Thank you to all the food industry and other critical infrastructure workers who are continuing to do the heavy lifting to keep our nation functioning. Stay safe!

Need Support to Keep Your Supply Chain Moving? We Can Help.

By Cheryl Collins

One thing is certain right now:  we are all experiencing some sort of disruption, and with disruption comes problems.  If you’re like most people right now, you are facing new and unprecedented challenges, and we’re here to help.

Problem solving is the core of our business; it’s what we do.  We have decades of experience working with clients helping them understand root causes of business challenges as well as helping them discover innovative solutions.  A problem solving mentality is needed now more than ever because “business as usual” no longer applies.  It’s time to challenge the status quo and implement solutions that will help with your business continuity.

Here are some examples of questions we’ve received that we can help with remotely:

  • I need help thinking through a reasonable leadership response in this escalating situation. Can we talk this through?
  • My team are scared. How should I lead through this situation?
  • I’m afraid about client continuity and cash flow. What can I do?
  • What do I do if someone my team gets sick?
  • We aren’t set up to work remotely.  What do I need to do to make this happen as efficiently as possible?
  • A lot of people are calling in sick and I’m struggling to meet demand, what options are available to me?
  • I’m trying to implement social distancing in the workplace but can’t figure it out, can you help?
  • My grocery business has tripled.  What can I do to keep up with demand?

We’ve compiled a list of resources for your reference  (here) and are updating that as we find more information.

In an effort to better meet your needs, we’ve also added a remote support service offering on our web page (here).

If you have a problem, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  We’re here to help!

Cheryl, Teri and Amy

NEW DATES! Preventive Controls Qualified Individual Training

July 1-2, 2020
Online – Web based
FSPCA Preventive Controls for Human Food Course – Blended Learning Option
Instructor – Teri Danielson

  • Class Overview

    Blended Course

    This course, developed by FSPCA, is the “standardized curriculum” recognized by FDA. Successfully completing this course is one way to meet the requirements for a “preventive controls qualified individual.”

    The FSPCA Preventive Controls for Human Food Blended Course has two parts:

    Part 1: Online
    Part 2: Instructor Led – Virtual

    To successfully complete the course, you must completed both Part 1 and Part 2.  A Certificate of Attendance will be provided after you have successfully completed both parts.

More Info

Mock Recalls – Testing the Front End

It’s your worst nightmare as a food producer – you get the call, whether it be from a consumer or a regulatory agency, and find out your company is in a situation where products need to be recalled.  Are you prepared?  How do you know?  What can you do to ensure you are ready should an event arise that requires you to recall.

First, don’t panic.  Preparation for a recall requires focus on four main areas:

  1. Assessment
  2. Team Preparation
  3. Traceability
  4. Communication

We are going to focus on the first area – assessment.

Assessment

This is an area companies sometimes forget to consider when creating a recall plan or running a mock recall.  The assessment area includes the initial notification that triggers the recall team to get together, data gathering and the decision whether or not to recall.  Questions to ask to help prepare include:

  • What are the ways we might learn about a recall?  Do we have processes in place to ensure that information gets to the right people?
  • Have we trained our employees how to respond and gather information from customers and others when a food safety situation is reported?
  • Do we have a simple way to objectively look at the data and information to decide if we are in a recall situation?

So what should your company have in place to address these questions?  A good starting place is to create a customer complaint record or log that walks through the common questions that should be asked when a customer calls in with a comment or complaint.  You may want to create a similar record for notifications that come from other sources, too, like regulatory agencies, suppliers or a media notification.

Once you have created the record or log, sit down with the employees in your company who typically handle customer calls and walk through some examples of how to gather information using the log, and when to escalate a complaint to the next level.   Having a process in place to quickly identify if a complaint requires further action, and knowing what information to gather from the customer will save time in the event of an actual recall, and help your team make a better decision.

Finally, using an evaluation template to lay out all the information you have gathered is a great way to help the recall team decide whether or not a recall is warranted.  A good evaluation template lays out the information in a way that makes the decision apparent.  We use a form with our clients, that includes sections to identify the category of issue, the type of hazard and the severity and likelihood of the hazard.

When we run mock recalls with our clients, we like to start with a mock customer complaint.  That way, the team handling consumer calls gets practice as well as the recall team.  And the assessment portion of the recall plan gets a good workout, too.  Next time you run your regular scheduled mock recall, try testing your notification and assessment processes, and see what you find.

If you would like to get a copy of our recall assessment form, drop us a note here.

The Science of Motivation

Motivation – it’s something we all struggle at some level.  Whether it is our own motivation, or we are trying to incentivize others to perform, it can be difficult to figure out how to get excited and create movement in the direction we are trying to go.  Our tool box consists of a carrot and a stick, and we either alternate between them or as more enlightened members of the 21st century, we lean towards the carrot.  Watch this Ted talk with Dan Pink, to get a different take on motivation and how thinking differently about what gets us moving as people can create some astounding results.  What if people are not motivated by the extrinsic, but by the intrinsic?  What if we are driven by an urge to direct our own lives, the desire to get better at something that matters and the yearning to work in the service of something larger than ourselves?  If this were true, how would you motivate yourself and the people who work for you?

 

 

Can Continuous Improvement Be a Matter of Life or Death?

With lean and continuous improvement, it’s foundational to think in terms of a problem being related to a process rather than people.  But as much as we teach and reinforce this concept, it can be very hard to internalize and practice the concept of process focus vs. people focus.  I often hear clients express disbelief and frustration over co-workers’ actions, especially when the behavior seems unexplainable and contrary to their own best interests.  When we can’t understand why people act in a certain way, it is easy to blame them for the unexplained behavior and categorize that behavior as “dumb” or “lazy”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I recently read an article on NPR.org that really drove this point home.  It was about the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and in the article, Dr. Boie Jalloh talks about a situation where doctors and nurses were forgetting to wash their hands between patients.  The wards in Sierra Leone contained 20 patients each and the handwashing station for the wards was across the hospital grounds, forcing healthcare workers to walk some distance in order to be able to wash hands between seeing each patient.  No matter how many times they were told to wash their hands, there was complacency in doing it, in part, because it was inconvenient.

It is incredible that even in the case of something that is life or death, like becoming infected with Ebola, and despite education level and understanding of the rules, people still were not routinely washing their hands when the act of hand washing was inconvenient.  I don’t believe these healthcare workers were lazy or uninformed.  If you imagine what these workers are going through, making rounds of 20 patients or more, cleaning up bodily fluids, listening to patients talk about their pain and suffering, and spending long hours doing this work, it is understandable how having to walk a distance to wash your hands after seeing each patient, might become a challenge.  It would be easy to say, “I’m going to skip the hand washing, just this once”.  And once could turn into four or five times.

How often as a manager, have we complained about our employees not following instructions, or not doing what we ask?  What we sometimes forget is how powerful a motivator it is to make the job easier and make the work more convenient.  If people in life or death situations are not able to follow instructions when the act of doing the work is difficult, what makes us think our employees will follow instructions in non-life threatening situations if the work itself is inconvenient?

Next time you are frustrated by a job that is not getting done, ask your employees the following questions:

– What is preventing you from getting the job done?

– What makes it hard?

– What would make it easier?

You might be surprised by what you hear, and you might learn that the solution is easy.

In the case of the health care workers in Sierra Leone, Dr. Jalloh reported that they were spending $20 per hand wash station to put at least one in each ward.

Spaghetti as an Improvement Tool

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Recently, we were asked by a client to provide more detailed instruction around spaghetti mapping.  If this is a new term for you, rest assured that spaghetti mapping does not involve throwing wet noodles at a wall to see what sticks.  It is a lean tool that helps you to visually see a process in action and glean from that picture, improvements that can be made to the flow.  Here is a short primer we put together.  Divertiti! (Enjoy!)

Spaghetti Mapping

Spaghetti maps are a visual representation of a process in action and show the “actual” work flow over a period of time.

Spaghetti maps can be used to determine:

  • Bottlenecks
  • Motion waste
  • Transportation waste

Spaghetti maps are used to track:

  •   Product Flow
  •   Paper Flow
  •   People Flow

Spaghetti mapping is often done as part of a 5S exercise to look at an area before “set in order” to determine optimum placement for items needed every day in the workplace.

Spaghetti mapping can also be used to optimize the flow of equipment or materials through a process.

It is best to spaghetti map the process before and after the change to see how the improvements made impacted the process.

Creating a Spaghetti Diagram should be done with or by the operators or those that use the process.

DETERMINING WHAT TO MAP AND HOW LONG TO MAP:

  • Why are you mapping? There are an infinite number of reasons to map, and you should customize your mapping to answer your specific questions about a process
    • If you are wanting to improve the set of tools used daily by a person in the workplace, then map the person doing their job
    • If you are wanting to improve forklift safety, you might map the forklift travel route vs. pedestrian travel route over a time period
    • If you are wanting to reduce process time in a paper process, map the process that the paper follows through the building
  • Is the process you are mapping discrete or continuous?
    • For discrete processes that have a defined start and end, map the process from start to end
    • For continuous processes, determine a time frame that best represents the process

SUPPLIES NEEDED TO GET STARTED:

  • Overhead views of area, drawn close to scale and labeled
  • Colored Pencils (one color for each flow being tracked)
  • Step counter
  • Stop Watch
  • Team, Operators, People impacted by the flow
  • Actual Process

 STEPS – Discrete Process:

  1. Record the process name, person being observed, date, and time period you will be mapping.
  2. If you are mapping a discrete process, record and number the process steps on the side
  3. Start at the beginning of the process and label it as the “start”
  4. Draw a line from the start to the next part of the map based on what you observe
  5. If you are mapping a discrete process, recording the corresponding process step number next to the line
  6. Do not leave out any flow movement, even if the paper gets cluttered with lines. This is opportunity and it is important to capture it.
  7. For discrete flow process, time the process from start to finish
  8. For people flow, ask the person to wear a step counter and record the number of steps taken during the process mapping.
  9. For material flow or paper flow, walk the process and determine step counts between moves.
  10. If processes are different at different times of the day or with different products, you may want to create multiple process maps to view the different variables.

 STEPS – Continuous Process:

  1. Record the process name, person being observed, date, and time period you will be mapping.
  2. Start at the beginning of the process and label it as the “start”
  3. Draw a line from the start to the next part of the map based on what you observe
  4. If you are mapping a continuous process, number the line and on the side of the paper, write the activity related to the movement
  5. Do not leave out any flow movement, even if the paper gets cluttered with lines. This is opportunity and it is important to capture it.
  6. Record all flow that occurs within your predefined time period for continuous flow processes
  7. For people flow, ask the person to wear a step counter and record the number of steps taken during the process mapping.
  8. For material flow or paper flow, walk the process and determine step counts between moves.
  9. If processes are different at different times of the day or with different products, you may want to create multiple process maps to view the different variables.

Operator Flow EXAMPLE:

BEFORE

Operator traveled 3580 steps in 20 minutes to slice bread, bag, place on tray, roll to closer, add closer and retray.

 

Before spaghetti map

AFTER

Operator traveled 530 steps in 20 minutes.  Long stretch of tables eliminated.  Slicer and closer co-located.

After spaghetti map

 

 

Baseball and Genuine Leadership

Lately, I have been reflecting on what it takes to create an atmosphere where people want to go to work every day; where people are inspired to do their best work every day.

There are multiple elements that have to be in place.  One of those elements is something I like to refer to as genuine leadership.  What does that mean?  Leaders who are genuine trust their people.  They understand that trusting people to use their creativity and ingenuity to figure out the best way to get a job done is a powerful way to motivate and achieve success.  These leaders see business goals as an experiment, where you try something to reach a goal, and if that doesn’t work, you adjust and try something else.  To a genuine leader, failure is not scary, it’s a learning opportunity.

Leaders who are genuine put people first, above profits.  Because they know if you put your people first, it inspires immense loyalty and people are willing to do what it takes to get the job done.  Profits and success are a natural outcome of this kind of environment.

And lastly, genuine leaders are good storytellers.  They can rally people around an idea or a goal by telling a compelling, heartfelt story, whether it be about winning games, improving a work environment or selling a brand.

But don’t take my word for it.  One of my favorite examples of someone who epitomizes the genuine leader can be seen in the documentary “The Battered Bastards of Baseball” about Bing Russell and the Portland Mavericks.  This documentary demonstrates how genuine leadership can be used to build a great working environment, and inspire people’s passion around an idea or brand.  Check out this awesome documentary on youtube or Netflix.