faces of the frontline: manufacturing’s all stars

Shannon Bone
Companion Baking

A catalyst for innovation and sustainability

Faces of the Frontline - Shannon Bone - Companion. Baking

Having an employee who exhibits leadership and can drive innovation and sustainability is invaluable for any factory. For Companion Baking in St. Louis, MO, Shannon Bone, Safety and Sustainability Manager, is that person. Her relentless pursuit of excellence, coupled with her strategic problem-solving abilities, has not only enhanced operational efficiency but also contributed to a culture of environmental responsibility. 

Shannon’s remarkable efforts in waste reduction and her ability to inspire and lead teams underscore her value to the company and demonstrate why we chose her as our latest Face of the Frontline. She’s an indispensable asset, transforming challenges into opportunities and setting new benchmarks for corporate sustainability and leadership.

“We Need a Safety Committee”

When Shannon started working at Companion Baking, her supervisor noticed right away that she got things done. After she’d been on the job a year, when the company was looking for new ideas to reduce the incidence and severity of accidents in the production facility, her supervisor asked for her input. Shannon immediately suggested a Safety Committee and dove into researching how to put it together and run it.

Her supervisor gave her free rein on how she structured the Safety Committee, and Shannon went to work. She asked her coworkers for volunteers and formed a group of six interested people who met monthly to discuss safety topics, share observations and ideas, and conduct monthly walkthroughs of the facility. Employees rotate on and off the committee to keep perspectives and ideas fresh. 

“There’s a lot you can learn from listening to everybody around you,” Shannon explains. “And there’ve been a lot of different people that I’ve interacted with at this job. Some people within the company, and we’ve had some other specialists come in and visit or do consulting that I’ve really learned a lot from.”

Walkthroughs and Safety Training

Under Shannon’s leadership, the Safety Committee has not only addressed immediate safety concerns but also laid the groundwork for long-term improvements. One notable initiative spearheaded by the committee was implementing regular safety walkthroughs — committee members walking through designated areas with a list of what to look for, such as ergonomics and spills. Using Redzone, the Safety Committee stores the safety checklist and photos and documents their findings.

The committee also holds training sessions that help employees learn best practices and equip them with the knowledge to identify and mitigate risks in their daily tasks. New hires receive safety training from day one on the job. All employees can access Redzone safety videos for further training. This has helped employees become more vigilant and proactive about safety, further contributing to the reduction in workplace incidents.

Building Trust and Collaboration

The Safety Committee started a forum on Redzone to discuss safety issues and opened it to everyone to allow easy access to information on the factory floor. Shannon’s inclusive and collaborative approach to leading the Safety Committee actively encourages participation from employees at all levels, reinforcing the idea that it takes a collective effort to achieve the desired outcomes. 

Shannon’s dedication to safety has built an environment where employees feel empowered to voice their concerns and suggest improvements. This open communication channel helped quickly address safety issues and built a sense of trust and collaboration within the workforce.

Boosting Productivity and Morale

Apart from the obvious reduction in accidents, the company has seen an increase in productivity and morale. When employees feel safe, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work, leading to better overall performance. 

The goal of the Safety Committee was always about protecting their fellow employees, which it’s done extremely well. An interesting side benefit is that by reducing the number of accidents as well as their severity, the company saw a 61% decrease in safety costs over the last three years.

Waste Not, Want Not: The Waste Watchers Committee

Companion Baking had a problem with money falling out the door as a result of waste product it couldn’t sell and wanted to reduce that loss. Owner Josh Allen had set a goal of the company achieving zero waste going to the landfill in 2024. So, six months after starting the Safety Committee, Shannon’s supervisor talked to her about another project: Starting another committee focused on waste.  

Shannon started the Waste Watchers Committee with the primary goal of reducing the company’s environmental footprint. Under Shannon’s guidance, the committee quickly began to identify areas where waste could be minimized and resources could be better utilized, resulting in many benefits to the company.

A Shift from Trash to Compost

Shannon and the Waste Watchers Committee used several methods to effectively reduce waste. One step was to reduce the volume of waste product. Raw waste bread dough has a significant amount of water in it, resulting in a size well beyond that of baked bread. So Companion Baking started baking all the waste pieces of dough to make them smaller. 

The next step was to shift from traditional trash compactors to compost compactors. This change allowed the company to compost any waste dough and decrease the frequency of trash pickups, thereby reducing costs and fuel consumption. 

Additionally, the company installed bins for compost, recyclable waste, and trash. With the help of a waste reduction consultant, they’ve implemented new processes and trained employees to make it easy to reduce waste and properly dispose of it. 

Better Products = Less Waste

Another initiative was to introduce a systematic approach to analyzing waste product. This helped the company identify which products generated the most waste so they could adjust production accordingly. This data-driven approach optimized production processes, leading to better resource allocation and increased efficiency.

Saving the Planet and Improving Morale 

While the overall goal was to reduce waste, Shannon and the Waste Watchers Committee also saved the company money on waste management costs. Companion Baking has reduced the waste sent to landfills by an impressive 92% since the initiative started in 2017, keeping the company on track to meet its goal of zero landfill waste in 2020. This drastic reduction in landfill waste demonstrates the company’s commitment to sustainability.

Additionally, the initiative improved employee morale and engagement, as workers saw firsthand the positive impact of their efforts. “I would sign up again [for the Waste Watchers Committee] because of Shannon. She’s a good leader. She’s very passionate about what she does, and she’s very dedicated. That motivates me,” says Ivan Mendoza-Colon, Baker. The Waste Watchers Committee’s achievements and effectiveness showcase Shannon’s leadership and innovative thinking.

Everyone Makes a Difference 

When Shannon first launched these committees, her goal was to create a safer work environment and reduce factory waste. She ended up creating a workplace where every employee feels safe and valued and has a sense of purpose and commitment to the company’s values. 

This collaborative atmosphere not only fosters innovation but also strengthens team cohesion. Employees feel proud to be part of initiatives that have such a positive impact on their workplace and the environment.

Shannon’s leadership, dedication, and vision in running the Safety Committee and the Waste Watchers Committee have been instrumental in uniting teams and elevating morale. Her inclusive and motivational approach has created a culture of safety, sustainability, and collaboration. Her efforts serve as a testament to the power of effective leadership in driving meaningful change and promoting a positive workplace culture.

Read more about Shannon and our previous Faces of the Frontline, and download our ebook.

Additional stories from Faces of the Frontline: Manufacturing’s All Stars.

Tales of Triumph from the Factory Floor, Vol.1

As part of our “Faces of the Frontline: Manufacturing’s All Stars” series, our eBook highlights some of the inspiring stories of frontline workers at BetterBody Foods, Gorilla Glue, Empire Bakery, Allied Wire & Cable, and ASR Group. Discover how they have not only transformed their company’s factories, but have also become true champions of innovation and all stars in manufacturing.