Miracle Stories

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of Its Slices at Alive & Kickin’ Pizza Crust

September Edition 2020

It is a common expression to describe how the coming together of individual pieces results in a better overall outcome and that is truly the case at Alive & Kickin’ (AK) Pizza Crust with three plants in Green Bay, WI and an additional plant in Prior Lake, MN. Since starting their production system journey in March of 2019, AK Pizza Crust has synchronized each ‘slice’ of their business to become a productivity power house!

With growing demand and a tight labor market, the leadership at AK knew they needed to take their bakeries to the next level. But given that their OEE was already in the mid 70s, they questioned how much further they could go. Only six months later and they were winning their first Redzone Productivity Award! For plants with original OEE baselines greater than 70%, double digit productivity gains are no small feat! But the Walker and Cornell plants in Green Bay outright crushed their numbers with 19% and 18% productivity uplifts respectively. AK’s frontline success story is characterized by six Cs – Culture, Communication, Collaboration, Collective Action and of course, Celebration – with an outcome of continuous improvement!

Growing demand is a good problem to have for any manufacturer, but being a 24/7 bakery, the work week can be long and for those on the frontlines, the overtime was getting overwhelming and people were getting burned out. As the AK leadership team explored options for getting more productive and easing the burden on the frontlines, they saw the Redzone platform at another food plant and immediately recognized the difference from the MES systems they had been considering. Now, they’ve translated their productivity gains into a fixed rotation schedule that allows the teams to plan their time off with family and friends. What better investment could you make in your culture than a better work-life balance for your employees?

The social elements of the platform fit with their desire to evolve their culture. They were managing from the top down, enforcing directives from on high and writing-up employees who did not comply. This is no longer the case at AK where the operational teams on the floor have taken ownership and are now driving their own culture with team leaders coaching the way forward.

Take the production team, for example. It was not always easy to find and keep supervisors on the floor who could handle the regular interchanges with Maintenance and Quality. “There was always some tension,” says Brian Meshak, Production Manager, “but now the teamwork is there. For example, I had a hard time staffing supervisors for line nine. People kept quitting on me. But when Ozzie Gonzalez became my first shift supervisor, he really stepped it up. He partnered with Jose Rodriguez, the maintenance tech for that line, and developed great teamwork. It was just really nice to see how they ran with it.”

It was similar for the first shift supervisor, Michelle Asencio who was promoted when Tyler Berendsen, was moved up to Production Manager. Tyler explains, “Michelle had been here six and a half years, but when the supervisor spot became available, she was afraid to take it.” The cultural shift that AK had created with Redzone made her feel comfortable in taking on the role. It gave her a ‘playbook’ with built-in guide rails for her job. Tyler continues, “The teams have everything in one place and if in doubt they can call. They can chat. We all are an extended team at their fingertips to lean on. That’s how I view this; everything we need to do our jobs is all in one place.”

Communication ➜ Collaboration➜ Collective Action!

Increasing communication is always the pathway to more productive collaboration. Bringing Production, Quality and Maintenance together for huddles has changed the game – even in a COVID-19 world where we can’t actually ‘huddle’ closely together. “In fact, we never stopped doing huddles in the Walker plant,” says Justin. “We felt they were important so we just stand six feet apart, we use the chat feature, or we can now use headphones with the app. We can even communicate with our other plants more than we ever could.”

For Brian, communication now results in a valuable digital papertrail. “Now when I come in, I can see what the second and third shift were doing, which is really nice. By recording the results of their huddles, they let me know what happened, what went wrong or what went right. So having that knowledge is a really big improvement when I start my day.”

Brian describes, “When it comes to communication between the Maintenance and Production teams especially, it has improved greatly. Now with production and packaging both having Redzone, if they hear something or see something they can just, ‘BOOM’, enter a ‘sense’. The operator explains the problem with words, pictures and/or video, and Maintenance is there within a couple of minutes. They understand the problem, so they can bring the right tools and parts right away. It saves everyone a tremendous amount of time.”

Building on communication, the Maintenance team found that they could impact the overall productivity right out of the gate. According to Maintenance Supervisor, Brandon Bougie, “We usually had a hit list of all of the activities that we were trying to get done – but never finished. On this platform we established a maintenance forum that collected about 100 actions in the first 90 days and the team made it their mission to resolve each action one at a time.” This forum continues today.

Brandon continues, “When we found out that there was a Maintenance module, we were even that much more excited about it and the guys in the department really took to it. I’m especially proud of the first shift Maintenance team and, as Brian mentioned, Jose. Like Brian, one of the things I like most is the communication tools. Now everybody has a voice.”

Going back to the ‘digital papertrail’, QA Manager, Scott Ditzman, raves about the differences they’ve experienced. “I’ve been in the quality world for about 25 years, and I’ve always worked on paperwork. It’s always been about paper, paper, paper. The auditors come and they want to see that hard copy. You flip through the books; you flip through the pages and you check pages daily for all the signatures. I mean, the huge improvement for me was how we were able to digitize our checks and our processes to actually go to paperless.”

“It’s been an absolute game changer!” Scott exclaims. “I’m more responsive to customer requests and can collaborate with them using real data. Just today there was a discrepancy on a Tableau report sent to a customer. They called back, confused, and in a matter of 20 seconds, I corrected the error and gave the customer all new reports. They were ecstatic!”

Scott continues, “I think my team as a whole within the Quality department, functions better. Although many were worried about getting iPads, after their first day of training all they saw was fun. Redzone made their jobs more fun! During the first week we only had a few missed checks because now everything is triggered for them. And I know there’s definitely an improvement between Quality and the Production team. Communication has definitely brought a cohesiveness between the two departments and they work closer together. They’re sharing information. They’re collaborating now.”

A culture of teamwork is now the outcome of the coming together of frontline workers, managers and an executive team that went the extra mile to make a difference.

How did it feel to win the Redzone award? “Winning the Productivity Award was exciting!” Brandon recalls, “I was fortunate enough to be on stage to accept the award in Vegas. I mean, we thought we were running as efficiently as we possibly could. Then you start breaking everything down, breaking down our processes, implementing standard work and it was pretty surprising how much more we could do with the same amount of effort.”

Scott beams, “I was really excited about the award and I’m glad we won it. But I’m all about improvement for the company. I was hoping that people weren’t going to say, ‘We got the award. We’re doing everything great,’ and let off of their improvement focus. But that hasn’t happened. Everyone continues to strive for perfection at AK and Redzone has been a great partner.”

And the recipe continues. Since winning the award, the AK Pizza Crust team has continued their improvement and can now boast a 22% productivity uplift! Not even a global pandemic can stop this team of teams!

Claudine Bianchi is suis ultricies lacus sed turpis tincidunt id. Vel elit scelerisque mauris pellentesque pulvinar pellentesque. Tristique nulla aliquet enim tortor at auctor urna nunc.

related articles

Miracle Stories
Reily Foods: A Century of Culture Driving Productivity Into the Next
June 19, 2022
Read More
Miracle Stories
Redzone 2020 Awards Edition
June 17, 2022
Read More
Miracle Stories
Empowering Leaders of Tomorrow with Actionable Intel Today
June 18, 2022
Read More