I’m tremendously proud to announce that Factora has been awarded with the 2015 Premier Foods Supplier Excellence Award for Decreased Costs.
Journey to world class manufacturing: Premier Foods
We won out over 1,200 other suppliers to win this award. Today I’d like to share with you not only my thoughts on this achievement, but those of the leaders on the Factora and Premier teams…
Looking back, the tipping point came when we started delivering the first key results of the first project. And the people at Premier were saying ‘Holy cow. They actually did it.’ I could see them suddenly realizing: ‘We can start thinking about our process as a reliable thing we can control.’ (On second thought, they’re all British, so they probably didn’t say “Holy cow.” But you get the idea.)
The key to our success never hinged on sitting in the corner looking at a computer screen. It was using our tools and our skills to allow our client to understand what was really going on in their plant. Our job at Factora is to expose information. And with that information, and only with that information, they can figure out how to run their plan better.
A focus on business value
The focus is always on business value. We hunt down the big financial opportunities. We take on projects that deliver a significant payoff. Today, and year after year.
The Premier Foods story is a classic one for us. Premier manufactures a series of well-established food brands, over a number of sites, each one operating with a range of aging machinery. When Factora came on the scene, many of the processes in place had been there for years or decades. Premier knew their plants were not operating at peak performance, but like any manufacturer without an MES, needed help in figuring out why.
Getting to the nitty gritty, solving the mystery
“We had lots of problems in the past to monitor our waste streams and look to improve our waste streams, which are quite complex” says Karl Smith, Factory General Manager at Premier. “But if you can’t measure, you can’t improve. We tried all sort of things. What we found out, before Factora came, was that we couldn’t get to the nitty-gritty of what was causing issues. Occasionally, some things did work. But we could never decide why.
“With Factora, we get key insights into all the key processes. Water activity, line speed, roller speed, heat, all that great stuff. Now we understand what levers to pull to ensure that we stay in control consistently and to ensure that our yields are very very good.”
“One of the things that really annoys me is when people say it’s a black art, it’s a mystery,” says Christian French, Process Engineer, a 20-year manufacturing veteran for whom a more rigorous approach to process could, clearly, not have appeared too soon. “What Factora’s allowed me to do is put some proper science behind the myths and legends, put some data-driven fact in there.”
“They’re destroyers of myths and legends,” chimes in Brendan Williams, Site Finance and Project Sponsor. It’s clearly a frequently-expressed sentiment at Premier. “Factora provides us with facts and data that take all the myths and legends away. And allows us to make effective business decisions that not only save money, but deliver the right quality product.”
Culture change, without even leaving the plant
But creating change in plants that have been in operation for decades is more than finding the right solution. It’s about earning acceptance, plant-wide. Everyone in the plant working together to make the change happen.
Over and over again, the biggest challenge is the impact on culture. We’re changing the way they’ve worked for years. The only way we can be successful is through a process of constant human reinforcement. Helping them move from the stance of that’s never going to work to I never would have believed this line could run this well. And I saw that, literally, at Premier.
My biggest personal moment came when I was talking to Karl, about making additional improvements to block weights on the noodle line. And Karl said to me, “We never had the confidence we could do it before. Now that we have Factora, we believe we can.” I was ecstatic. More than ecstatic.
Not only does every manufacturer need an MES, in the future every manufacturer will have an MES. Manufacturing is being transformed into a data-driven process; manufacturers are relying more and more on data-driven insights, to be competitive and to differentiate from their competitors.
The solutions that Factora puts forward are all about empowering manufactures with real-time information. To make the decision they have to make as quickly as possible, with as much information as possible, as directly as possible with the people on the shop floor who need to make the decisions.
Once we turn the lights on and they can see the data, what they see transforms the discussion. It’s an enlightenment. I can’t tell you how often I’ve suddenly seen: “Wow! If we can do that? Well, we can do this! It’s not until people see those early rewards and that success, that they can see what could happen next, see the real potential.”
Factora was first engaged to work on one project for Premier, on one site. This expanded to multiple projects across three additional sites. All under the direction of our lead manufacturing consultant, Steve Diggines. He’s been the driving force behind all our Premier projects and the primary manufacturing consultant driving the results.
“We started with Premier on a joint initiative to prove that we could turn an art to a science” says Steve. “This award demonstrates that we as a team can not only understand these processes, but that we can use this knowledge to transform the manufacturing operation. The thing that has impressed me the most? It’s the change in the mindset of the line teams, and seeing them embrace the initiative.”
No question, the level of trust and buy-in from Premier is the only way this could have been successful. It has truly been a team effort, a transformational one. Again, let me express how tremendously proud I am of the Factora and Premier Foods teams.
And with all the success behind us with Premier? I still see tremendous potential ahead. The door has been opened; the view has changed; we’re looking at a whole new area of strategic opportunity.
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