Berner Foods realizes the potential of its human capital on the shop floor with CDC Software’s Manufacturing Operations Management solution.
It’s not easy being a food manufacturer these days. Between food safety concerns, environmental issues and ever-changing consumer tastes, it’s a struggle for survival. One thing is for certain though – if you can’t keep pace with the growing demands of the industry, your company’s products will quickly be replaced on store shelves. In the words of Will Rogers, “even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.”
Berner Foods is not getting run over anytime soon. The 60+ year old company has evolved from a simple Swiss cheese contract manufacturer to the industry’s leading private label manufacturer of premium process cheese sauces, spreads, and toppings. Berner also operates the nation’s largest food grade soy production platform and has plans in the works to take on a new latte line. Berner’s manufacturing plant is currently 100,000 sq ft and they plan on doubling its size by next year. Within the next ten years, they plan to grow even more. “Our goal is to be a ½ billion dollar company in ten years,” says Gary Gold, Berner’s vice president of quality, and he isn’t kidding around.
In order to keep pace with its aggressive expansion, Berner had some obstacles to overcome.
First, Berner recognized that it lacked complete shop floor information that identified the root causes of production inefficiencies. In other words, when something went wrong and slowed down a line, the company would have to go back to the operators – perhaps at the end of the shift, perhaps the next day – and ask them to remember specifically what went wrong. This clearly was not correcting problems fast enough, or in some cases, at all.
Second, growth (of capacity and the business as a whole) was restricted by lack of visibility into the conditions and factors that were causing waste. Again, if you don’t know what’s causing inefficiencies, they can’t be corrected.
And thirdly, supervisors on the plant floor were wasting hours a day on paperwork required for line checks.
With future goals like the ones Berner had set for itself, it needed the right tools.
When Gold purchased a manufacturing operations software package in the summer of 2005, he was confident that he had found such a tool.
Gold found CDC Factory, a packaged manufacturing operations management system that standardized the best practices of lean manufacturing, OEE and continuous improvement. OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) is a well-defined set of methods to measure and react to changes in equipment performance within a factory. The result is expressed as a percentage, which can then be used to explain current production efficiency. It is typically applied to processes such as filling or packaging lines involving fast machinery that is vital to production.
Berner estimates that using the software package increased OEE by 68 percent.
CDC Factory provided a real-time framework that united Berner’s operations, scheduling, quality and maintenance processes. CDC Factory also engaged shop floor operators and empowered them to take immediate action with touch screens. “The system makes it easy for operators to enter specific reason codes for scrap and rework,” said Gold. “That gives us the level of granularity we need to take appropriate action. If the data reveals that we’re getting a lot of breakage in a certain line, we can walk down to the shop floor, talk to the operator, root cause it and fix it.”
In addition, within two weeks of first using CDC Factory, Berner reduced factory floor paperwork by 40 percent, leading to an immediate $30,000 annual labor savings.
CDC Factory captures information through a combination of real time automated signals directly from the lines (via either PLC’s or sensors) combined with contextual information added from the people on the shop floor. Contextual information is recorded through hyper-intuitive touch screens which alert an operator when the line is running slowly, is stopped or when product is scrapped. Through a big button alert the operator is required to enter the context behind the loss (i.e. the filler stopped due to “waiting for cheese”). Through the same touch screen the operator is provided immediate feedback on their line dashboard as to their OEE performance, clearly highlighting how they are performing for Rate (speed of the line vs. standard), yield (scrapped or wasted product) and utilization (uptime vs. available time). Through feeding back information in real time, CDC Factory shows an operator how they are performing both against their targets and previous best, worst and average historical data.
Gold describes the software as a “Swiss army knife” because while many companies offer products that focus on specific aspects of running a manufacturing plant (such as financials or scheduling), few offer an all-in-one tool.
But like a Swiss army knife, this tool cannot be effective if the operators don’t know how to open it up and take advantage of everything it has to offer. Perhaps the best part of buying the CDC Factory for Gary Gold was the company that came with the purchase. CDC (appropriately, the “Customer Driven Company”) Software offers potential customers the opportunity to undergo a three day workshop that pinpoints exactly how the software can help their company improve. After a plant purchases the product, CDC will send trainers to walk the floor with plant operators and answer their questions - providing an interactive training environment that helps all employees to more readily accept the new tool.
With the help of the right tools and the right training, Berner Foods continues to keep moving forward on the right track.