A beverage company was looking to optimize their process for launching new products. Products were being launched with quality issues, which impacted the timeline and increased costs, resulting in the whole project being over budget. The projects were cross-functional between suppliers, co-manufacturers, the client’s own internal manufacturing group and the marketing team.
How could they get everyone on the same page, get the tasks done that were needed and launch a quality new product on-time and under budget with no significant quality problems?
NW Food Solutions first worked with leadership to identify the key team members who needed to participate in new product launches. NWFS worked with the team to understand: 1) what was going well and 2) what the team thought could be improved with the current process. NWFS then helped the team create a thorough list and timeline of tasks that included actions that had been missed in previous projects – like written packaging specifications to communicate requirements to suppliers.
- NWFS created a simple excel based tool to track project tasks.
- NWFS set in place a weekly team meeting for communication of progress and reporting of obstacles that might delay the project.
- NWFS also developed a structured and thorough communication plan to involve the co-packer in the product launch process early on and throughout the project to improve quality and timing of the final packaging run.
- The new product was ready for launch on-time
- The co-packer delivered the new product with no quality issues
- The launch was under budget
- Changes to the launch schedule that were communicated late in the project were easily compensated for by the team
A local food company with lots of retail locations and a large central kitchen was looking to develop a FSMA compliant food safety plan in preparation for potential new business outside their own retail stores. The company also wanted to improve their technical knowledge and food safety practices in-house.
Create, document and implement all a FSMA compliant food safety plan and train a food safety team to audit and maintain the program.
For this project, NW Food Solutions recommended that the client establish a cross functional team to learn the FSMA and food safety requirements, create a food safety team and implement the associated practices. As part of the training, NW Food Solutions provided the client with assistance in establishing a cadence around the food safety meetings. We also recommended a process that ensured successful implementation through use of auditing, feedback and recognition as each portion of the food safety plan was deployed.
- NW Food Solutions performed an initial gap assessment to understand what documentation and programs were needed
- We worked with the client to identify cross functional food safety team members and began meeting with the team every two weeks
- At each meeting, we introduced a piece of the food safety plan curriculum and work with the team to determine gaps in their current program.
- We utilized scrum project management methodology to identify and assign tasks based on the team’s capacity over a two-week timeframe
- At the start of each meeting, the team reported on progress, showed off the work they had accomplished and asked for clarifications where there were questions
- As part of the team responsibilities, an internal audit program was established and the team began auditing the work they were implementing and making improvements based on results
- Regular report outs to leadership on team progress, and food safety metrics were also established
The client successfully documented and implemented a food safety plan for one of their main product lines, and the food safety team continued working autonomously to implement additional plans and maintain the current program. NW Food Solutions checks in with the team periodically to provide special trainings and support as needed.
A beverage client faced several challenges related to month end physical inventory counts which were being required each month by accounting to keep inventory accurate. The main issue was counting and reconciliation were taking up to 10 days each month, causing the client’s ERP system to be down for the first part of each month. This was leading to other challenges throughout the organization, including the team not being able to enter transactions for the new month until well into the second week.
How could they get accurate inventory counts more effectively and efficiently?
NW Food Solutions trained the client’s team tasked with solving the problem, in cycle counting principles. Then together with the team, NWFS defined deliverables for a new project to implement a cycle counting solution. NWFS also empowered the team by training them in Root Cause Analysis.
- NWFS worked with the team using SCRUM project management principles to implement the solution. This method of project management allowed the team to set the pace of the project and utilize their existing capacity to do the work.
- It also gave the team the ability to deliver, test and gain learnings from key functionality incrementally throughout the timeline, which led to a successful final launch.
- NW Food Solutions trained and facilitated the team through multiple Root Cause Analysis sessions so they could address the source of inaccurate inventory counts and start to increase inventory accuracy.
- Cycle counting implementation was delivered on time
- After one month, cycle counting reduced ERP downtime at month end from 10 days to 1 day
- Inventory accuracy increased from <70% to 90% in two months’ time
A local bottler was struggling to organize and communicate effectively with their production and warehousing teams. Product was making it out the door, but not always on time or in the right quantities. One person was responsible for starting both processing and packaging each day leading to delays and downtime while one team waited for direction. It wasn’t always clear to either team how much product was to be made or what orders needed to go out. Most of the team was part time or on call which made communicating more difficult.
How could the team more effectively communicate the daily or weekly priorities to a rotating and part time staff? How could the team improve cross functional communication within their permanent full-time team?
NW Food Solutions proposed a cross functional daily stand up meeting with the leadership and gained approval. We pitched the idea to the manufacturing team and asked to begin meeting each day for 15 minutes. NWFS suggested the team start by listing and tracking what needed to be received, what needed to be made and what needed to ship; for the following day. We did this around a white board that was visible to everyone in the company. Slowly, most of the information pertinent to the daily operation found a place onto the board; employee safety, production schedules, customer orders, actual results, employee recognition, etc. NWFS helped the team generate metrics related to the categories on their board. Teams outside of manufacturing started to attend the standup weekly to gain information and solve problems. The meeting was still going when we checked a year after our engagement with the client ended.
- NWFS helped create a daily operations board linked to the top priorities in the company and made it visible to everyone
- NWFS trained the operations team to identify emerging problems and mitigate issues before they become problems
- NWFS implemented a cadence of reviewing operations performance, plan, and metrics each week with senior leadership
- NWFS helped create an effective forum for all teams on site to work together in solving problems they encounter
- Production to plan metric improved from 80% to mid 90% range in 6 months
- Daily bottling capacity rose 26% within 1 year
- Site schedules were created and posted; departments started sharing resources
- Daily shift start up time was reduced from roughly 30 minutes to less than 10 minutes
- Production accuracy to plan and on time shipment metrics were created and began driving daily priorities on the operations team.
After a few years of working with a client, the scheduling and planning process revealed itself as the next big problem to tackle. Planning tools were disconnected and the operations schedule changed frequently, sometimes more than once in a day. Write-offs for expired product were large and out of stocks proved to be a constant battle for the supply chain team. In short, the process in its current state was causing a lot of waste, rework, and frustration for everyone involved.
Stabilize production scheduling and reduce inventory outages and write-offs.
As is common in our approach to problems, we started by mapping the current state process to see where waste was occurring. Having experience with fixed repeating schedules we introduced the concept to the team, they liked it and we decided to read The Production Wheel Handbook together. To start, we performed analysis and grouping of products and equipment and took steps to understand economic order quantities, historical demand, and inventory costs. From here it became clear how to calculate stocking levels for inventory and how frequently a product needed to be manufactured. Once we had inventory levels and manufacturing intervals determined, the client was able to sequence products to be made on a weekly basis. The fixed repeating schedule allowed the team to control inventory levels more precisely and prepare for the next product more efficiently.
Our client has been able to stabilize their production schedule week to week, inventory levels are managed appropriately to prevent out of stocks, and the team feels confident in adjusting inventory levels to meet demand. As a side benefit, the team created a visual capacity plan which allows them to see equipment capacity out 8 to 12 months and communicate visually with the leadership team on capacity utilization relative to demand.
• NW Food Solutions introduced multiple approaches to production scheduling and assisted the team in determining which one fit their needs best
• NW Food Solutions taught the team techniques for visualizing production processes and how to build tools for allocating equipment
• NW Food Solutions assisted the team in developing demand forecasting tools
• Client learned a lot about their own processes and was able to spread that knowledge across multiple departments
• Planning and scheduling team became more confident in their control and adjustment of inventory levels
• Reduction in dated product write-off dollars
• Increase in production schedule stability
• Increase in on time service
When we started NW Food Solutions, we didn’t realize there would be such a vast need for help with inventory management practices. As a provider to small and medium companies who are growing, improving inventory accuracy and reducing time spent managing inventories almost always comes up as a problem. Some of the solutions we’ve worked on with clients have been relatively easy coming from our background, but others have been incredibly difficult and intense. Each client has different challenges. One of our early clients was struggling with the ability to effectively plan production, and their production schedule was changing frequently. After setting up a daily improvement meeting with the production team and observing their progress we realized a primary reason for schedule changes was lack of available component inventory.
Reduce daily impacts to the production schedule.
Our client was using a monthly physical count to track component inventory which is an out of date practice. We worked with the client to create a perpetual inventory using Google sheets, trained on the basics, and supported the implementation of cycle counting. After several months, the client was still struggling to move beyond 50% inventory accuracy and they were ready to abandon the new process. We encouraged them to carry on, reminding them this is about continuous improvement and all changes need adjustment. We knew we needed to respond quickly and get the problem-solving process going immediately with the team. We stopped the process, and worked with the team to understand the challenges, make sure the solution addressed the problem, and people had the tools they needed to move forward. Working with the team, we determined there was a lack of data input consistency, inadequate resources available to maintain the perpetual inventory, and the team had lost confidence in the tool.
We worked with the client to restructure the team and responsibilities, including rewriting job descriptions, to ensure the employees could be successful. Within 6 weeks, inventory accuracy was up to 85%. Things were so successful that the team went on to implement similar processes for inventory management in other areas of their business at the request of leadership.
- NW Food Solutions trained the team on industry standard inventory management practices
- NW Food Solutions trained the team on process mapping and problem-solving tools
- Client team gained confidence and respect in their ability to successfully manage inventory
- Inventory accuracy improved from averaging around 35% to 85%
- Production scheduling was stabilized and overtime reduced
- Inventory management practices were shared across the organization and improved
- Team gained confidence in their ability to control and improve a process
At NW Food Solutions, we pride ourselves on our innovative and flexible project management techniques. We excel at helping our clients break down massive deliverables into pieces of work they can handle. We guide leaders in understanding complexity and prioritization to help project teams succeed. All businesses face project management challenges and we find great satisfaction in helping our clients achieve excellence in this area.
One of our clients put our claims of excellence in project management to the test with the very first project we worked on together. The client was facing a critical customer food safety audit in 6 weeks. The last audit from this customer resulted multiple corrective action requests and a re-audit. This was a big customer and they were losing faith in our client’s ability to perform; the pressure was on. The team was skeptical about their ability to address everything and be ready for the re-audit in time since the to-do list was several months’ worth of work.
Improve critical food safety programs and pass an upcoming client audit.
We worked with our client to structure a project using Agile/Scrum methodology. We scoped the project with leadership to ensure we understood the objective, measures, requirements and that we had appropriate resources to meet the deadline. Then we worked with the team to break the project in small two-week sprints, getting accomplished what the team could manage, and focusing on the most important requirements first.
In addition to addressing specific customer issues on the list of requirements, we also went back and ensured policies were preventative so they would not crop up again on future audits, and we worked with the team on sustainment practices. Prior to the client audit, NW Food Solutions performed a mock audit to give the team extra practice.
The team passed the customer audit with flying colors and utilized the group we organized to work together on an on-going basis as an internal audit team.
- NW Food Solutions trained team on Agile/Scrum project management methods
- NW Food Solutions trained team in conducting and facilitating a food safety audit
- Client team gained confidence tackling a complex project in a short period of time
- Team passed the audit and regained confidence with their customer
- Team learned project management techniques
- Implemented a process and team to continually improve food safety performance
A very small food company landed a very big customer requiring SQF certification. The company provided training for one employee in HACCP, Preventive Controls, SQF 8 and Internal Auditing in the span of 2 months and tasked that employee and a manager with documenting and implementing an SQF compliant food safety program. The company called NW Food Solutions to help project manage the process.
Create, document and implement all required SQF 8 food safety programs and be ready for a final audit within 5 months.
Knowing that 5 months was a short time frame to get a lot of work done, Northwest Food Solutions realized that development of a detailed timeline and tracking of progress would be critical to hit the target dates. We also recognized that regular weekly meetings with the client and making ourselves available for questions and document reviews as needed would also be critical. The client was able to make significant progress each week with Northwest Food Solutions support and flexibility.
- NW Food Solutions performed an initial gap assessment to understand what documentation and programs were needed
- We helped the client identify an auditor and recommended a training audit prior to the final audit to provide extra support for the client in making their deadline
- We created a custom SQF implementation timeline for the company to track progress
- We met weekly with the client managers and quality assurance specialist to provide training and support for specific programs and to assist with progress tracking
- We also provided document reviews and answered questions during the week as needed
- Prior to the audit, we performed an on-site practice audit
- We also assisted the company in performing a mock recall
The client passed their final SQF audit and achieved certification within 5 months.