July Edition 2021
#6 REILY FOODS: A CENTURY OF CULTURE DRIVING PRODUCTIVITY INTO THE NEXT
We think you'll love the feature story in this issue highlighting Reily Foods Productivity Award and the rich history of how their culture has evolved and matured over their almost 120 years in business.
July Edition 2021
Founded in 1902, William B. Reily would be proud of what this still family-owned coffee, tea and packaged food manufacturer has become. 119 years and going strong, Reily Foods has grown through acquisition, expanding from its original Southern roots in New Orleans into the now flagship Knoxville, TN plant and more recently acquiring their Boston facility making New England Coffee. But as Mike Bearden, VP of Operations, describes, the original family culture is alive and well with fourth generation family CEO, Bo Reily, telling stories of his days working in the Blue Plate Mayonnaise factory.
Reily-made products are a staple of the South and across the US with brands like Luzianne Tea, French Market Coffee, New England Coffee, Blue Plate Mayonnaise, Swans Down Cake Flour, Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm and Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kits, La Martinique Salad Dressings, and Tiger Sauce Hot Sauce.
Mike and Scott Watson, the Knoxville Plant Manager, were fairly new to Reily when they went on a junket to the Pack Expo tradeshow where they were looking to fill a gap in their need for operational data. Mike had had experience with MES in his past roles working for manufacturing giants but was struggling with how to justify the expense—and complexity—of an MES to a smaller company. On their way out of the show, they met Redzone. The rest is history—and now the future. Mike decided to trial Redzone in the Knoxville facility first because of the talent he had with Scott and Ryan Holliday, Strategic Project Manager, who had been with Reily for some 7 years. “So, whenever you want to make a change, you go where there’s energy, right? The energy was here with these two gentlemen. And the result was exactly what I wanted. It created competitive suction from the other two sites.”
“I’ve been here for about seven years.” Explained Ryan. “We’ve always had a strong family culture in the plant—family-owned culture—where we have the freedom to make our own decisions and make our own pathways. And what we began to see was multiple sub-cultures forming. With the addition of Redzone, those sub-cultures started to cross-pollinate and really polish into a shiny unified culture.”
“I have three very competitive plant managers,” Mike adds, “and that drives a lot of innovation and creativity. Collaboration has been a foundational pillar—which has been empowered by Redzone. Collaboration brings the best ideas up front. And it gives you that Darwinism where the best wins. That competitiveness reinforces each of the bright minds that may not have had a chance to interact on a daily basis in the past.
A WINNING CULTURE
So, is it any wonder that the competitive culture at Reily Foods, Knoxville resulted in their winning one of the coveted Redzone Productivity Awards for their 42% productivity improvement in the first 90 days? Apparently not to Ryan who said, “To me, the award was expected. Months after the implementation I saw what was happening. I’m just glad Redzone recognized it. When we received the award, I was like, Yep. I knew it. I knew it was coming!”
“I happened to be in Knoxville during the award ceremony, so I got to celebrate with the team.” Added Mike. “And then very quickly my other two plant managers called to complain that ‘The only reason we didn’t win is because we hadn’t been on Redzone for a year yet!’ I think it’s fantastic,” he continued. “I love to say, ‘Well, sure you could do it that way, but Knoxville’s doing it two points better than you.’ There’s no better way to get under a competitive plant managers skin…!”
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit for our success to Ryan,” chimed in Scott. “Ryan is able to do anything we can dream up and he was a huge part of our implementation success. And too, Amanda Tingle, our Quality Manager played a really, really big role, especially as we rolled into the Compliance module. It felt really good to win the award,” added Ryan. “It gave us an opportunity to celebrate with our teams and bring them all together to celebrate, and not just the award, but all the different milestones that we’ve accomplished over the last couple of years with Redzone. It was a great event for Reily!”
The Big Win And a success it has been. “Now, let’s not forget that we implemented all three plants during a global pandemic with lockdowns and travel restrictions—including our Redzone coaches,” continues Mike.
“We started laying out our plans with Redzone in January with what our miracle would be and at that time we were working seven days a week to meet our pre-COVID demand. That was draining on the staff. Before Redzone, our attrition was almost 16%; not horrible, but not where I wanted to be. Our dream of a miracle would be to run the plants on straight-time. Fast- forward to today—and throughout 2020, it was down to 5%. And we’re down to 5 days a week to give back work-life balance to our teams. Those are big wins in my book.”
“The other big win,” adds Mike, “Is that we turned the tables on the business from an operations perspective. The organization would ask ‘What are you able to produce?’ because operations was the bottleneck, and we were worried about people feeling safe enough to come in to work. Who else can make product? But, after the initial lock-down, the frontline teams came back with a vengeance and really did the unimaginable. They delivered an increase of 42% and Sales was elated that they could satisfy the demand. It really changed the dynamic on how the company perceived operations. When you have a compelling business need; you have the capability; you have energy; and you put all those things together, there’s nothing that’s going to stop you. And so, that was the story of last year.”
SHARING THE WEALTH
Mike adds, “And bringing it back to our culture, our increased productivity has allowed us to add a really fun reward program to say thanks to our team members for being part of the family. It’s called Reily Bucks and it revolves around these cards that look like money with the founder William B. Reily’s image where the presidents usually go. Managers can hand these out to worthy folks, and they can spend the denomination on the Reily branded merchandise like hats, mugs, jackets, etc. People are proud to don their Reily gear.”
“And from a team standpoint,” continues Mike, “not only did everyone perform through the COVID-craziness, but Redzone gave us visibility to the stand-out performers whom we’ve been able to create career growth paths for. Scott began to define—and redefine—what skills we wanted each of the operator levels to have and now he can invest in upskilling those who show potential. We’ve driven enough stability into the business to confidently and predictably deliver our production volume so Scott and Ryan can turn their attention to even greater improvement opportunities. It’s a virtuous circle of performance plus investment resulting in higher performance and greater results that can fund more investment! We’re going to invest in our folks and that investment is going to make them better for Reily, for their community and for themselves.”
A CONTINUOUS JOURNEY
What will Reily be able to do with such an investment at Knoxville? “Well, it never stops, right?” Mike explains. “I mean, we are on a journey, and when it comes to continuous improvement and teaching our folks those tools and where we’re going, we’re kind of in our infancy. So, there’s a huge trajectory in front of us and we know we can get there. But, by definition it’s continuous. So, that’s where we continue to find new ways of using Redzone to help us on that journey.” Scott adds, “I mean our maintenance is a great example. Our maintenance group loves Redzone. We had a system before that would track work orders and that sort of thing, but they prefer Redzone to the old historical work order system. Redzone is real-time, so if I go out there today and see something, take a picture, make a work order—boom—it goes to the maintenance manager. He can delegate it or assign it to one of the people on his team. A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? They pull it up; they know exactly what’s being discussed or asked of them; and we’re getting a lot more work done as a result of that.” “We’re going to continue to skill up,” Mike continues. “I mean labor right now definitely has its challenges but from a standpoint of the employees we have, it really is about growing them, not replacing them. And that effort is going to take us to the next level of performance.” Scott chimes in, “Because of what we’ve created, it really turns the tide to where our folks are coming to us, asking how they can get these skills. It’s a pull versus a push. A perfect example is the fishbone diagrams. I mean, we made that one of the requirements to be an operator, so now our folks are asking, how can I get involved? How can I learn to do one of these?”
THE VIRTUOUS CIRCLE
Bringing it back full circle, how does Mike explain Redzone? “It’s funny because Scott and I knew we didn’t have the data we needed, so my experience told me we needed an MES. Well, I got my MES, but I really didn’t realize how much else I got in the box. Connecting the workers brought my 3 plant cultures together and that resulted in that virtuous circle of productivity that feeds the culture that produces more productivity. I mean, wow! I wasn’t expecting that. In fact, the response from our team continues to exceed my expectations every time I turn around. Not to mention the access I have to my peers in the Redzone community. That has been a tremendous resource to benchmark ourselves and really learn while developing relationships with other operations professionals.”
April Edition 2021
#5 EMPOWERING LEADERS OF TOMORROW WITH ACTIONABLE INTEL TODAY
In this issue we shine a spotlight on Ventura Foods’ Chambersburg, PA plant and highlight many of the factors involved in why they won the Redzone Team of the Year - East Award. Spoiler alert: their 20% productivity uplift in 90 days wasn’t the only reason!
April Edition 2021
As in each issue, the Factory Miracle cover story honors a Redzone award winner from the prior year. In this issue, we highlight the first win for Ventura Foods at their Chambersburg, PA plant. First, because the overwhelming sentiment from this team of leaders was characterized by QA Coordinator, Kathleen (Kate) Miller: “It’s a very rewarding accomplishment, but I think it’s just the beginning for us. I think it’s just a start. We can do a lot more and we’re going to get even better.”
Chambersburg was the first of twelve Ventura plants to launch with Redzone. Led by OPEX Manager, Ed Czarnecki, Kathleen, CI Engineer Tim Berkstresser and Quality Coordinator Amanda Bays, this Team of the Year for the Eastern US went from their proof-of-concept—posting an impressive 20% productivity improvement in 90-days—directly into the Redzone Compliance module and have since chalked up an additional 10% productivity with a reduction of on-hold product by 89%. Yet another first for Ventura, they were the first to deploy the new Redzone Date Code Validation where we will learn later how they’ve leveraged this feature. As any large manufacturing plant knows, deploying a new production platform across 37 lines is no small feat, and the team at Chambersburg took their role as trailblazers for Ventura very seriously.
They knew they were the most complex site in the Ventura plant network and that the new procedures and standard work needed to be relevant and easily adopted by the frontline workers. So they went right down onto the floor to get the frontline perspective firsthand. They set out to leave no stone unturned in making the lives of operators easier so there were no bad ideas. This fail-fast-forward philosophy netted tremendous results and achieved their goal of rapid adoption in spades.
Before Redzone, the floor was rife with paper and according to Tim, frontline teams were spending much of their time “dotting ‘I’s and crossing ‘t’s” instead of making the product and processes better. Having started as a Quality Technician, he conveyed the old process of Package Appearance that entailed what he called arts and crafts where they were to cut out the pieces of packaging, tape or paste them onto a piece of paper with all the necessary information and send off to someone else who entered all of that information into the computer. Those sheets needed to be checked by supervision as they were used on the floor for QA checks for each production schedule. The art still needed to be filed, so techs would end their day filing packets of 7-10 pages from across the shift. And as with most paper processes, it was a challenge when an auditor called up one of those checks because, of course, someone had to pull that paper and reconcile it with the actual production run in question.
Now the team has all production and quality data stored digitally in Redzone, so not only is the original information stored, any subsequent need for that data is accessible with a few clicks on the iPad. This, in Tim’s words, “Took us from a quality control (QC) function—checking other peoples’ stuff—to a proper quality assurance (QA) type of job.”
“What’s really important here,” Ed adds, “is the ability to get to the data when we need to. I get phone calls from quality morning, noon and night and even on the weekends asking ‘Hey, somebody said something was wrong with this run. Can you look it up and tell me what we’re doing?’ I can easily pull it up; pull the report and email it to them in five minutes. So, it’s not what I see in the artwork, it’s all the data. All the data they need is in the system.”
Matt Stowell, Production Supervisor weighs in, “The vision for this plant and the frontline supervisors, is to be more analytical in our work and more continuous improvement focused. Now, it’s night and day. We pull up the data, analyze the information and off we go.”
And data they have… According to Ed, “We produce roughly 1600 SKUs with 285 variations of 56 different date codes. That was a big issue for us. With the addition of Redzone, we created between 10 and 12 thousand characteristics to fulfill our customer requests for Best By, Shelf Life and the like. In fact, we’re up to 15,000 characteristics now. With that much variation, we wanted to make it easier on inspectors, so we use blind code dates in the background in Redzone, and they roll out at the appropriate times to match the run.
Now, operators type in the information stamped on the box and if it doesn’t match the codes in Redzone, we know right away. No more stopping the line for a first case check. No more arts and crafts! In the past, we may have run for a whole shift before realizing we were using the wrong dates.”
Kathleen weighs in, “I’m highly involved when we have customer audits or even an SQF audit, and just having Redzone to bring up and show all of our quality checks makes us confident in the data that we show the auditors. I think that helps the confidence on the floor that everybody is entering in the right data.” “Audits will make you nervous.” Added Karen Cornett, QA Manager. “They get you all hyped up and worried. ‘Are we going to find the paper? What are they asking for?’ We don’t have to worry about that anymore. In fact, it’s only a matter of minutes to pull up a SKU, a date, or a line. Everything is already right where we need it.”
You can imagine how proud the team is to have created such an innovative process with a brand-new feature of a brand-new product. Proud enough to shut down the plant for the socially-distanced cover photo! “I was really excited to hear we had won a Redzone award.” Said Jamie Gearhart, A-Team Team-Lead, “It was refreshing because we all worked so hard and pulled together to really accomplish something. Coding errors were one of our biggest problems before Redzone. The operators really love that if they make an error, it is automatically caught, and they can fix it right away before producing bad products.” Crystal Selak, QA Team-Lead for the A-Team adds, “It felt really good being recognized as the flagship plant for Ventura. I know how much we contributed to the company’s improvement by just suggesting, ‘What if we try this? It might be better.’ I mean, there was so much paperwork and different people did their artwork in different ways. Now, everything is so much more organized. It’s either right or it’s wrong.”
And not to be left out, Carla Ryder, another A-Team Team-Lead shared her thoughts: “It was nice to win the award and was kind of shocking to me to see how much we implemented in such a short time. In the past we never knew if people were doing their checks properly, but now you’ve got the data you need in front of you and the data in Redzone to know you did it right.” “I would say that there are a lot of key players in the plant here,” adds Donnie Hughes, Operations Manager. “Many have been very involved with developing Redzone throughout the whole process. You really see the pride, the self-worth, in those people out there. The award meant a lot to them. It was actually pretty amazing in here that day.” “And you see that pride whenever we send them a high five or a good catch,” adds Carla. “If they do something special and don’t get the recognition, they let us know.”
With this broad alignment across the team, you can see why they won a Team of the Year award, but that isn’t the half of it. To truly implement a new solution at this scale takes a village and that is how Ventura approached it. They saw the value of everyone-to-everyone communication so took advantage of it. Matt explains, “The ability to communicate more digitally has really opened up a lot of doors and I only see that increasing. We get a lot of input from the floor because now they have a voice and they no longer have fear or anxiety about raising an issue. It has really paved the way for more solutions.”
And the solutions have come bi-directionally between the implementation team and the floor. Tim explains, “I’ve never let best get in the way of better. But I think one of the people that proved that to me was Ed, because his strategy was, ‘Just do it and let’s see if it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll fix it.’ And that’s how we did it. We went out, we started doing stuff and there’s a lot of stuff we did two or three times until we got it right. I share Kathleen’s opinion, that we have just scratched the surface on what we can actually do, especially what we can allow the people on the floor to do. I think the frontline teams have gone from being reactive and have now transformed into being more proactive—and not just with Redzone, but with everything.”
“One of the things I really like is that I get to see all the chat room activity.” Says Eric Varner, Operations Manager. “As a manager, you look at what people are typing and see what’s going on. You can see the chats on first shift, on second shift or on A-B-C-D teams. We’re a 24/7 operation, so it’s nice to have that feature in there. And each one of them can communicate amongst themselves, plus we can see it.” “And across departments,” adds Karen, “so it’s not only just processing, production, or QA. Now we’re all communicating. That’s made our efficiency even better than what it was before, because now we’re talking, and we can see everything in real time.”
Ed weighs in, “There’s so much more opportunity just to standardize and improve. As you’ve heard, a 30% productivity improvement is only the beginning for us. We just need to continue to remove the roadblocks for the people on the floor to make it easier for them to succeed. The easier I can make their job, the happier they are, the more likely that they’re going to come to me with ideas. I get five to six emails a day—even on the weekends. Now the floor teams are suggesting the improvements, where in the past it was more of a push. So overall, our culture has really improved. Communication is key to everybody and working through the process by getting everyone’s feedback—both ways—from the floor, all the way up to the plant manager. We have the data to empower management decisions. And we have the data to see who our up-and-coming leaders are. And that gives us tremendous confidence in what we can do in the future!”
December Edition 2020
#4 REDZONE 2020 AWARDS EDITION
As 'Plant of the Year' winners, Marianna Beauty, explained... being a manufacturer of hair care products for salons, three out of four of their revenue streams essentially disappeared overnight due to Covid-19. To remain a viable business, they realized that they needed to pivot to a totally new category – hand sanitizers and soaps – one that the country desperately needed at that time. “We wouldn’t have been able to do that,” Mike Cate (CEO) explains, “if we didn’t have sound processes, systems and people that were really educated on what was going on both with our customers and on the floor in our manufacturing processes. To me, Redzone is not a system, it’s an entire business process capability that if you embrace it, impacts every phase of your operations.”
December Edition 2020
To be a contender for Redzone Plant of the Year (PoY) award, we need to see outstanding productivity, product quality and safety, as well as great teamwork. But those are representative characteristics of all 147 nominees for the three categories of Redzone Community Awards. For the top prize, we also want to see a clear sense of identity, a collective mission and a cultural transformation that results in a unified team from the shop floor to the top floor.
Indeed, to be named the best of the best in this category is really as much about the intangibles that make a manufacturer a great place to work as it is about the work itself. It is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer of all three finalist for the 2020 PoY, that they are great places to work, and not just because of Redzone. We see the true driving force behind these plants is how the people in them not only embrace Redzone, but why! The most successful candidates are those that have committed to personal transformations, both of themselves and for their whole teams.
Take Capstone Nutrition, for example. Although Capstone won a Team of the Year award for 2020, they had also won a Productivity Award in 2018. Their leadership team is very driven, and their CEO Jared Leishman was already on a path to invest in their culture with a philosophy that it would ultimately lead to improved results. It did, and you can see the sophistication of this plant with their philosophies literally plastered on all the walls. When James Hinkle, Plant General Manager, discovered Redzone, he immediately saw how it aligned to their tagline ‘Life Improved’ for their employees but moreover, it aligned to their strategic pillars of success – Trust, Science and Performance. Their implementation has not only connected each of their teams together – and to each other – but the clear alignment between Redzone and Capstone philosophies on production has better enabled their shop floor to connect with the business. Indeed, by flipping their pyramid, their business transformations were given a better ability to take root all the way down to the shop floor.
The other PoY runner up is the Nestlé Purina PetCare plant in Clinton, IA who took home the Redzone High Baseline Productivity of the Year award in 2020. Their Redzone Implementation team also took home an in-house, Nestlé Purina Best in Show – CEO Award granted to projects that support their strategic vision. This plant was a target rich environment for Redzone just given the scale of the facility. Basic communication was problematic due to the size and complexity of the factory and data for making operational decisions was scattered across multiple systems requiring days to consolidate. Breaking down the communication barrier by empowering each associate with a voice and an iPad resulted in a domino effect of shop floor ownership and engagement.
Such a digital transformation enabled a culture transformation of teams sharing knowledge and learning with their peers. Again, as is typical in PoY contenders, this was indeed a sea-change for the organizational culture with leadership providing round-the-clock support and attending coaching huddles. The response was immediate, and they quickly achieved new highs – even topping the stretch goals laid down by leadership. Again, Redzone was an enabler, but clearly the people and their culture are the success story at Purina.
But there can only be one winner, and perhaps the deciding factor between these deserving nominees and the winner, Marianna Beauty, is how their new culture enabled them not only to survive the challenges of 2020, but to thrive because of them.
Unlike the runner ups, it was literally ‘do or die’ for Marianna Beauty. People still bought pet food and nutritional supplements. In fact, they bought more which brought on significant increased demand – an otherwise good problem to have.
But, while the whole world struggled through what Mike Cate, CEO of Marianna Beauty, called “The valley of despair” describing the 45 days following the first broad closures in March, three of Marianna’s four revenue streams dried up overnight. “We had to pivot,” he explained, “and I don’t think we’d be nearly as successful as we were this year if we hadn’t put the work in with the implementation of Redzone and our business processes.”
But this is a happy story of people, process and technology that enabled Mike, Cory Jensen, the COO of Marianna, and the entire team down to every frontline worker who stepped up to transform the business.
What set Marianna apart is the scale of their transformation, encompassing their entire production operation as well as the speed at which they accomplished it. Looking back, it happened just-in-time to face an existential threat of a generation that very likely could have closed their doors.
Business transformation is often driven from ‘on high’ with leadership announcing sweeping initiatives that last a year or more in hopes of creating a ‘new culture’. But when you spend time with Cory and the Marianna team it becomes clear that their success comes from a “Team effort and it starts at the bottom”, as Eric Nichols, Production Manager says. Hundreds of individuals creating their own shop floor culture, with everyone pushing in the same direction, making 1,000s of small improvements toward a common goal. As Cory says, “Every push on the wheel contributes to positive forward momentum” and that momentum is spinning into a productivity juggernaut.
Starting with a 50% productivity uplift in their first 90 days – that won them a 2018 Productivity Award – Marianna have since chalked up a 97% productivity uplift plantwide!
To truly understand the Marianna story, however, you need to understand those individuals who saw the opportunity afforded to them by a platform like Redzone and how they adopted it to drive that bottom-up culture and miraculous results.
In the July Edition of Factory Miracles we highlighted Marianna’s 2019 Productivity Award with stories of frontline miracle workers, Durga, Mike, Jamahl and Becca (who all grace the cover photo of this issue) but if you ask them, they will credit their broader operations teams’ commitment and contribution. As you climb the organizational ladder you hear the same sentiment from Cory, Eric and Ken Copponi, Maintenance Manager. People are everything at Marianna. That is itself a cultural miracle.
But if Marianna’s culture ‘starts at the bottom’, their success is clearly driven from solid leadership at the top. Cory and team may have won a Productivity award but the very next day, he had set his sights on the PoY. With the help of his coach Grant Ford, Cory drove hard to get the rest of the modules deployed and then never let his foot off the gas to get all teams engaged.
And when looking for an example of inverting the pyramid, just sit down with Mike Cate. When speaking about the frontline teams’ response to the pandemic, Mike explains, “I would say that the performance on the floor, totally exceeded expectations. You gotta remember that while we were navigating the product changes required to pivot effectively, people were getting sick! And they were dealing with issues outside of work that required them to keep their families safe and what have you. Navigating through what we did, I couldn’t be more proud of the execution on the floor.”
As described, it took lots of small transformations that translated into a giant one for the business.
Being a manufacturer of hair care products for salons, three out of four of their revenue streams essentially disappeared overnight. To remain a viable business, Mike realized that they needed to pivot to a totally new category – hand sanitizers and soaps – one that the country desperately needed at that time. “We wouldn’t have been able to do that,” Mike explains, “if we didn’t have sound processes, systems and people that were really educated on what was going on both with our customers and on the floor in our manufacturing processes. To me, Redzone is not a system, it’s an entire business process capability that if you embrace it, impacts every phase of your operations.”
Marianna is a typical example of a company that has gone all-in on the Redzone journey, increasing their productivity and successes with each successive module.
They were a model deployment for their first phase resulting in a Redzone Productivity Award in 2019 with a 50% uplift. Marianna drove one of the most aggressive Compliance deployments across the Redzone community resulting in an additional 10% productivity and were paperless within 73 days plantwide. Their Maintenance deployment was very strong as well with a 46% productivity uplift through reduced downtime.
And because good is never good enough, Cory continues to drive toward continuous improvement, focusing on changeovers. And with classic Cory Jensen competitiveness, a single focus line was not enough, so they are focusing on two at a time.
As if in preparation for a global pandemic, Marianna’s investment in people, process and technology prepared them not only to survive the virus, but to thrive in spite of it. They posted record months in sales and units produced in June and July of 2020 – the best two June and Julys in the company’s 50+ year history. Their resulting 97% productivity uplift enabled them to produce nearly twice the throughput compared to the two years prior with the same labor headcount. In the final analysis, when all indications – and most competitors – were heading toward a losing year, Marianna will post a 2% increase in revenue but a whopping 56% increase in profitability. TAKE THAT COVID!
Marianna has embraced the key strategies that make Redzone and the rest of the community successful:
- People-First: Empower frontline workers to realize their full potential and personal growth
- Everyone-to-Everyone Communication: Giving everyone a voice that brings everyone together and keeps them on the same page
- Continuous, Continuous Improvement: A culture where no one sits on their laurels and are always looking for the next thing that can be better.
That’s why they are the Redzone 2020 Plant of the Year!
November Edition 2020
#3 - A CASE FOR CULTURE
Soft Gel Technologies builds an already strong culture into a challenge-busting powerhouse.
Most Redzone customers will talk about the dramatic changes to their culture after starting on the Redzone journey, but what about those who already had a robust, team-oriented culture? For Soft Gel Technologies, winner of the Redzone 2019 West Coast Team of the Year Award, Redzone enhanced an already close-knit, collaborative culture and accelerated their maturity as a continuous improvement machine.
November Edition 2020
“Soft Gel is a custom manufacturer of soft gel, liquid filled capsules, and we specialize in difficult to encapsulate formulas.” Says Steve Holtby, Soft Gel’s President and CEO. “We really specialize in doing unique-to-market items that are difficult for other people to encapsulate. We have very specialized equipment and very specialized technical people who can do things that other manufacturers won’t even touch. We do a lot of small, custom runs and focus on bringing more value versus battling it out over pennies.”
“We were culturally in a really good place when Redzone came to us,” Steve adds, “But what I tell other CEOs who visit us, is that by giving every employee a voice – and they use it – it gives them ownership. Once they have that ownership and begin to see that their ideas and suggestions are incorporated, it gives them pride. And once they have pride, the rest becomes easy!” Steve continued (with genuine pride in his team on his face), “And when people have pride in what they’re doing, their work becomes more than a 9-to-5 or graveyard grind. They look at the numbers and come together as a team and the growth becomes exponential – in both business and people growth.”
Soft Gel had already advanced beyond the traditional siloes that often form in mature companies and the result is a longer than average tenure of a dozen years or so across their 120 employees. When they discovered the Redzone Production System, it uncovered opportunities for improvement that might not have been visible to the team before. Looking back, they had already tackled the low-hanging fruit, and didn’t really think there were significant gains to be had. When the team began to embrace the enhanced communication and data available to analyze and support decision-making, some unexpected outcomes emerged.
Valentino Lascano, Plant Manager, continued, “I think it’s a lot about how we do it. The way I describe Soft Gel is that we’re able to take on the challenges that we do – the hard to encapsulate materials – is because of the teamwork. It’s because of the expertise. It’s why we don’t have a high turnover rate.”
“It’s because of those people that have been here the longest that we’ve gelled as a team. We know what to expect from each other. We know our roles and responsibilities and we execute those to the best of our ability. That is why I think that when we see a challenge; when we know we’re going to go up against a hard deadline or something like that; that we pull together and can pull off miracles.”
And Val isn’t alone. In fact, he has surrounded himself with a strong team of supervisors who came up through the ranks, starting on the production line as Spreaders and have grown into supervisors.
Isaac Pitones is a production supervisor who has been with Soft Gel for 13 years. “I’ve seen a huge difference since when I first started here.” He says. “For some reason, the supervisors I worked for were very territorial and didn’t let one team into the other teams’ area. When I got promoted, I said ‘I don’t want to be like that. I want to hear from every team member.’”
“When I started getting more data to help me understand the challenges we faced with tough products, I started to see the opportunities to make them better. I’d talk with my team like, ‘Hey, let’s do this or let’s do that. Let’s work it out together.’ We as a team would use the data to support our ideas and work with R&D to improve our processes.”
Anthony Allman is an Encapsulation Supervisor who started at Soft Gel as his first job and considers Soft Gel his second home. Anthony explains, “This is where I learned to work. This is where I worked my way up into management. And I’ve seen the company change. For example, when Redzone came in, I started feeling like there was more trust in us – the frontline supervisors – to start making decisions.”
Anthony adds, “Redzone really helped us dig deeper into solving the tougher problems. We were always ‘trying this or that’ but now we can test it out. We can try everyone’s ideas to see which ones work best. I learned to trust that operator’s idea because we could track the results. Now, nobody cares who the idea came from, we figured out how to do it better together. This was a huge shift from the early days that Isaac described, when we just ‘did what the supervisor told us to do.’”
Isaac continues, “And the best part is that that team dynamic applies all the way down to the operators. Jose Casas is a lead in blending and when Redzone first came out, he took the initiative to show his team and even on other shifts that ‘This is the way you do it.’”
Valentino chimes in, “Take Luis Navarro, for instance. He would shy away from doing doctors rounds using the iPad. Younger teammates like Danny and Ivan noticed he was missing some of his checks, so they started walking with him, showing him how to do it. And so, after a week or two he got more and more comfortable with it, because they made sure that he was okay with it.”
Anthony adds, “This is a little emotional for me, but when COVID first hit, my entire squad didn’t want to come to work. They were scared. I tried to keep myself together, but I was stressed out too. Then my lead, Hector Escobar rolled up to me and said, ‘Look, I’m gonna be honest with you. I don’t want to work either. But if you’re going to stay, I’ll stay with you.’ That rocked me, but we went to talk to everyone and calmed the team down. That was my miracle that day.”
And that deep, team culture persists up through all the levels of the business. Anthony adds, “I used to keep my issues to myself because I didn’t want to bother management, but now that we have communication in Redzone that everyone sees, I’ve learned that managers and leadership actually care what we’re doing and want to help. They genuinely support us and that was a big shift for me personally.”
Steve weighs in, “And I think part of why it all works is the culture that had already been built, and the trust with those employees. Redzone helped us level up our culture but bringing a system that creates so much visibility like that can bring fear. And we all acknowledged that at the beginning. But because we had worked through that, the team bought into the system, and saw, ‘Hey, we’re all working to make this better for all of us.’ Because the culture of the company had already shown that we care about our people.”
EYES ON THE PRIZE
Is it any wonder with a culture like this that they won a Redzone 2019 Team of the Year? Despite the business already running well, they posted a 48% productivity uplift in their first 90 days and have continued to chock up additional wins with Compliance (10%) and Maintenance (+10%).
When asked how the team felt winning the award, Valentino recalled how he felt running up to being nominated. “We had seen companies take that award and receive that type of recognition, and that was great to see them do it. But we looked at each other and asked, ‘Why weren’t we recognized? What’s it gonna take for us to do it?’ because we knew we had a team that could win. So, we said, ‘2019 is going to be our year!’ and we rallied our efforts toward that goal!”
Valentino continues, “That was our singular focus because we realized that we had come so far. We had done so much. We were so different than we were from previous years that more than wanting it for me, I wanted it for us. It was for us, and we did it!”
Isaac adds, “I will say that the frontline teams were really happy. Everybody was yelling and screaming. So, it was great to be honest. Super great.”
“All I saw were smiles,” adds Anthony. “It definitely brought pride and joy to the company. Definitely.”
“It’s easy to think, ‘Okay, we won the award. Now what?’” says Steve. “Except, now it’s a matter of, ‘Hey, how do we do that? Look what we saved. Look what we did.’ And that’s where the award adds to our already strong recognition of the team.”
So, what’s next for Soft Gel? Steve sets the stage, “So, now COVID has brought us a lot more business. But we haven’t had to hire a whole bunch of new people.”
“Why? Because these guys have figured out ways to be more efficient so that just allows us to take advantage of that and say, Okay. Now, the company can become stronger as we move forward without having to just throw more money at it, because we have people that have thrown themselves into it and already made it as efficient as possible.”
Valentino adds, “We’re still finding opportunities. That’s why we’re still on the Redzone journey with the Continuous Improvement modules. It almost seems never-ending, if you will, because if we’re constantly looking for ways to do it better, then that alone is going to put you in a position where you’re always striving to be better. So, with action behind that mindset – there’s no shortage of opportunities. That’s what jazzes me up, to be honest with you. It’s the possibilities. It’s like there’s so much more left to be uncovered because we haven’t tapped into all of our potential yet. And Redzone has really helped us see those possibilities.”
September Edition 2020
#2 THE WHOLE IS GREATER THAN THE SUM OF ITS SLICES AT ALIVE & KICKIN’ PIZZA CRUST
Read how cross-functional teams power beyond an already high baseline together
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.
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!
July Edition 2020
#1 - ALL HANDS ON DECK AT MARIANNA BEAUTY
Award winning plant on the frontlines of COVID, Marianna Beauty wins the day!
For most companies, turning around a culture; aligning Production, Maintenance and Quality teams; and transforming the plant into an award-winning productivity juggernaut would take years. Marianna Beauty took just 12 months!
July Edition 2020
And while no one could have foreseen the global pandemic that hit in March, the cultural shift that resulted allowed Marianna to pivot their entire business in just 3 weeks. The agility allowed the team to switch production from shampoos and conditioners to hand sanitizer and hand soaps…keeping orders flowing and helping to get essential product into the hands of the American consumer.
This is a story of American ingenuity and could only happen with their ‘all hands on deck’ attitude.
Newly promoted Chief Operations Officer, Cory Jensen had grown through the ranks, working in a ‘draining’ culture that battled 400% staff turnover and resulted in reliance on 50% temporary workers. When he saw the results of an employee engagement survey, Cory knew something had to change. He knew that traditional shop floor software wasn’t going to turn the dial. It had to be about getting people thinking and interacting differently on the frontlines. “For us, the whole point was to give the people on the floor a voice and then for us to follow through with action.”
He had heard about a new breed of software from an industry connection, and it seemed to have made a big difference quickly. The more people he asked, the more seemed to have the same story; that connecting people seemed to be turning into results; increasing cooperation and problem solving on the frontlines and changing attitudes that people had held for years.
So they gave the teams ‘a voice’ that connected everyone to everyone else via the Redzone platform and the entire plant team jumped in with both feet! The frontline teams started using the forums, chats and action boards without training and soon conversations turned into collaboration to get the job done better, overcoming unexpected problems from day-to-day. Information that had been ‘general’ in the past, quickly became ‘specific’ to the blockages in whatever area they were dealing with. Comments and feedback flowed; production volumes increased immediately; and the biggest surprise was that this came from the frontline teams themselves.
From the Production Team to the Quality Team and then on to the Maintenance Team, that communication lit a spark in each individual and it caught on like wildfire. It began with Productivity but the same thing happened with Compliance; when one line got it, the next line wanted it too so they could compete with each other and get recognized. And once everyone was connected with Maintenance, the flood gates opened and everyone was driving to ‘Win the Day.’ Little by little, Marianna’s own people created the culture that snowballed into miraculous results.
People like Tiffany the Quality Inspection Supervisor whose role was transformed from administration and auditing to leading and coaching the frontline team for a safer and more compliant environment. “It’s so much easier.” she says, “It took out all of the paperwork, reduced manual steps and changed my role and how I interact with the people on the floor, and they have more ownership as a result.”
People like Mike Bevar, who went from being a line operator to a Maintenance Technician and led the integration of clean, inspect and lubrication into the operator’s daily activities. “The thing that has surprised me most is how much more engaged the operators are with the equipment now. In the event of an equipment issue, we always have a conversation about why.”
Cory added “I started to see how much further and faster we can go, when this new technology gets into the hands of the teams at the sharp end of the stick.”
People like Durga, who is from Nepal and had a difficult time getting his ideas out for people to understand. With an iPad in his hands, he could now take photos of the equipment, draw his ideas, and translate his words into the languages that others on the team (some non-native-English speakers) could understand.
His ideas found themselves getting acted upon, flowing to the Daily Forum via Redzone and worked on without hesitation.
If it felt ‘right’ and everyone was looking at it the next morning in the same stand up meeting, somehow the usual hesitations – going up and down chains of command – just seemed to dissolve away. The team just fixed stuff, the work improved and the collective will of the team just seemed to take over. This tool literally catapulted Durga’s contribution to another level to help the team ‘Win the Day.’
And win they did! Marianna Beauty won the Redzone Productivity of the Year award for 2019 due to their phenomenal productivity gains. Cory proudly quotes their productivity uplift of 50% in the first 90 days and the team continued to deliver a 93% gain in the coming months!
CEO Mike Cate shares his thoughts, “I want our people to know that we’re winners and we’re winners not only because we got an award, but because of the effort and the energy applied to obtain that award.” he said. “The thing that I was so excited about was seeing the real financial gains that came as a result of the work that Cory and the team did. Makes my job easy, man, delivering 40% more volume with the same or fewer people. I believe in delivering budgets because of people not on the backs of people.”
And Marianna has rewarded their people’s performance with pay raises and promotional opportunities. “You have to reinvest in the people who get you home” says Mike. “It’s an incredible change” acknowledges Cory who describes “We went from a situation where we thought we were lacking talent, to one where we have a full ‘pipeline’ of emerging leaders from the shop floor.”
Cory and Mike aren’t the only ones who are proud. As Mike said, “You can bet that every team member in our business knew that we had won that award.” Just ask Production Supervisor Jamahl, who said “I felt recognized and very proud of our team, the whole company’s efforts had been noticed and we were worthy of winning an award out of all the companies who have Redzone.”
And from line-lead Becca, “I felt incredibly proud to be a part of a business that won an award, really felt like we accomplished something as a team. It was fun too, to have a company celebration with a plant-wide cook out!”
Fast forward to March, 2020 – and the unthinkable happened. The coronavirus engulfed the world in a global pandemic. Like many businesses outside of direct food production, it became all about survival. And although the world still needed shampoos and conditioners (albeit in reduced volumes), three of Marianna’s four major segments basically went away overnight. Their largest customer shutdown 98% of their operation, the cosmetology school distribution business, shut down, distribution of products through hair and nail salons just stopped.
In a matter of three weeks, Cory and the connected operations teams were able to pivot 75% of their production to hand sanitizers and hand soaps. Three weeks! In Mike’s words, “If we didn’t have the ability to pivot quickly, I’m not sure these doors would be open right now. Our new business processes enabled us to make that pivot, keep people safe through the communication process, but also stay productive. Cory has taken a real leadership role” says Mike, “he really drove things down to the floor level, created empowerment, and created team alignment that made sure we had accountability and ensured our success.”
Today, Marianna’s operations are thriving in spite of COVID-19. Thanks to this ‘all hands on deck’ approach (with an unlimited supply of soap and sanitizer), they are selling as much product as they can produce and their teams have adapted to the new normal of masks and social distancing on the frontlines. In fact, as the cover photo shows, they are quite fashionable with their masks – many produced by employees.
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