FOCUS ON GMPS
By David Beal
The ABCs of Good
The quality revolution, sparked by Toy- ota and its ability to produce more reli- able cars, has now turned its face to the
food industry. Think about it— 30 years
ago, a story about melamine-contami-
nated infant formula supplies in China
would never have made news in this country. But consumers now
know that the same deadly additives in Chinese milk can appear in
toothpaste or cough syrup in Guatemala and Georgia. We know
which California farm produced E. coli-laced spinach, and we hear
intimate details of a peanut processor’s factory floor.
Suddenly, the media and consumers are paying very close attention to food and
its origins. Want to start a conversation these days? Open a jar of peanut butter.
With today’s heightened awareness, food processors should ask, “Are we ready
for this kind of scrutiny?”
I visit a lot of food manufacturing sites every year and currently, I’d say the answer to the above question is likely “no.” And it’s not just because the cleaning
crew is typically made up of the newest, least-trained and lowest-paid employees—
clearly showing a plant’s priorities.
While food-industry executives are trying to do the best they can, their concerns
about low yields in tight markets has made it difficult to focus adequately on clean-
Leading Indicators for Lean Improvements in Food and Beverage Manufacturing
liness and safety. The most effective way
to improve quality, yield and the bottom line is by using the principles of
Lean or LeanSigma.
Recently, I was invited to tour a plant
that processes dairy products. While it
seemed clean and well-organized, a
closer look revealed a big issue that
many food manufacturers need to face:
lack of ownership and clear expectations
around food safety.
Three key issues surfaced indicating
that our dairy client could benefit from
a Lean business system: 1) poor process
yield (lots of expensive ingredients were
being wasted when they landed on the
floor); 2) ineffective capacity utilization
(the machinery couldn’t make enough
product to meet customer demand); and
3) unacceptable equipment reliability
(long set-up times, cumbersome
changeovers and constant machine adjustment).
On this particular line, cottage cheese
was being dispensed into plastic containers, weighed and then visually inspected
by a worker about three feet down the
conveyor belt before the containers were
sealed. Several minutes into the process,
the dispensing machine started to malfunction, sending globs of cottage
cheese onto the floor and walls.
The workers nearby merely glanced
at the flying curds of cheese and went
back to work. Nobody intervened until
the plant’s owner appeared. The employees had no ownership of the process
and saw no reason to stop the machine
or clean up the mess. In their minds, unfortunately, they were being paid to inspect and apply lids—not to produce
high-quality, safe food. They weren’t
lazy; it was a problem of perception.
That’s why, when we talk about the
fundamentals of Lean manufacturing, first
on the agenda is the visual workplace,
kaizen and yield—because we need to see
the process, own the process and know
that what we’re putting in is also coming
out. All three are inextricably linked to
the current demand for safe food.
While kaizen came out of the quality
revolution within Toyota’s pioneering