Volume 1 / Issue 12 / August 29, 2016
How one onion changed a plant six years ago: Part 1
Welcome to Part 1 of a 2 part peek at the Lean improvements of Edmonton-based Kitchen Partners. Jamey Heaton originally shared this article with us six years ago in the April 12th 2010 AFEE (Alliance for Enterprise Excellence) Weekly Update. We reprint it here in preparation for the Part 2 follow-up which will appear in early September.
Readers constantly ask ATJ to re-visit exceptional sites so they can see how leaders go about building success upon success. When ATJ asked Jeff Clarke, President and CEO of Calgary’s Kitchen Partners (a highly respected Food Product provider) his response was instantaneous. He was excited to share their improvements and infrastructure changes. “There have been many!” he is quick to add. In the next issue you will meet, James Maitland, Kitchen Partners Vice President of Manufacturing who is preparing to share Part 2 of the Kitchen Partners story with us.
Here is a case study that just about anybody can learn from. It is drawn from a very innovative Edmonton-based Agri-Food Processor who has more than a little lean and six sigma thinking in his background. He’s a leader who sees lean for what it is: an opportunity to increase productivity and eliminate waste while adding value for his customers.
When you read this article, keep thinking of the simple things you can do in your own operation. If one onion in this article can have this big an impact on a large processing plant, what might be in your plant that could generate a similar result?
Kitchen Partners started their Lean journey back in 2008. Like most companies starting this journey, there were many bumps on the road to becoming leaner. However, Kitchen Partners feel that a key part of their Lean success has been due to the investment in their people. The training was specific and designed to equip Kitchen Partners practitioners with an understanding of Lean thinking that would enable them to effectively apply the Lean tools needed to achieve improvements.
Jamey Heaton,Vice President of Manufacturing & Supply Chain for Kitchen Partners, describes his workforce as, “ ethnically diverse, and for most, English is their second or even third language. To help make our training relevant we use real-life examples wherever we can – and this is where the Life of an Onion at Kitchen Partners’ began.”It began during one of their monthly Continuous Improvement Training Sessions while discussing ‘Lean’s 7 Deadly Wastes’ (Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over Production, Over Processing, and Defects) that related to their business.
As Jamey described it, “When it came to the waste of motion, people struggled with it as they thought the current way was the only ‘right’ way. To highlight this waste, we spotted a lowly onion and decided to walk with it. We use a lot of onions, 225,000 kg per year to be precise, and they are used in every department so why not talk about onions? Better still, why not pretend to be one onion and see what happens to ‘us’ as we go through the process?
The connection between Waste and Movement was unclear as we tried to explain what the customer would be willing to pay for. They struggled with the notion that the customer did not want to pay for the movement of the onion (inside the plant) and only for its transformation to the customer’s receiving dock. So we decided to map out the ‘life of an onion’ at Kitchen Partners – one that ended as Lasagna for one of our customers.”
Walking the flow of the onion!
Each team member was asked to visualize an onion and walk to where the onion’s movement at the plant began. First, the onion was taken off the truck and inspected to ensure it was sound. As each team member walked the path of the onion starting at the truck, the lights began to come on.
Let’s take the onion’s journey:
• Onions were offloaded from the truck
• Moved by forklift & dropped at the holding cooler
• While waiting, a pallet label is added
• Pallet placed in a rack in the cooler
• Waits until required, onion then pulled from the rack
• Moved into the vegetable trim room
• Top, bottom, and skin removed
• Onion rinsed to eliminate skin or dirt
• Chopped into a bag in a green vegetable bin
• Bin weighed
• Bin dumped out into a batching truck
• Continue dumping until correct weight is in the truck
• Moved truck to the holding cooler
• Waits in inventory for up to 2 days before needed
• When needed, move to kitchen for lasagna filling
• Weight double checked
• Move to kettle to be cooked
• Pumped into bags to be cooled
• When cool, bags loaded into a tote
• Waits until required for lasagna assemble
• Move Bags from the tote to a small grey basket
• Moved to assembly area
• Emptied into a large white container
• Moved to measurement
• Measured into smaller container equal to the quantity of lasagna filling per layer
• Added to the lasagna which is then made
• Filled lasagna is placed on a rack
• Moved to the freezer to freeze
• Wait (frozen for 24 hours)
• Moved from freezer to boxing room
• Cased and palletized
• Moved to holding freezer
• Waits for order
• Lasagna picked and restacked onto another pallet
• Pallet wrapped
• Moved (Shipped) to our customer.
By now, everyone could see the complexity, and the opportunities. So what was Jamey’s next step? “We began discussing how many steps added value to the onion? There were many different answers but when we sat down and analyzed it there were only 7 the customer was willing to pay for. They were the trimming, chopping, cooking, cooling, assembly, freezing and boxing. The rest was simply movement. When we added up the time, less than 20% was adding value from the customer’s point of view.” Some more lights went on.
So what did Kitchen Partners do?
“We sat together with each of the different departments and asked, ‘What can be done to reduce the waste without capital and what can be implemented quickly?’” Here were their results:
1. Onions checked, labeled, and put away in a standard
spot right from the truck (A reduction in two handling steps)
2. Holding totes moved closer to the assembly area
3. Filling now measured directly into the pan.
(Intermediate container eliminated)
So what is still to come?
1. Chop onions directly into a batching truck on a floor scale.
(Saves multiple transfers, plastic liners, and the washing of vegetable bins)
2. Pack lasagna pans directly from assembly line and blast freeze
them in their case. (Saves 3 handling steps. Avoids washing of freezing racks)
3. Figure how to manufacture into bulk containers and
pump the filling directly to the pan (Eliminates another 2 steps)
Taking a deep breath Jamey concludes...
“It was very valuable to us all. After we completed it, it became clear to everyone that this was just the beginning of our journey. Our staff members were excited and quickly noted that as one opportunity was revealed and resolved another two – or more – were revealed. And even more lights went on. The team has learned that there are many steps in a process that you don’t realize - until you map it out – and then work to eliminate the ones that don’t add value to the customer.”
The Newsletter extends its appreciation to Kitchen Partners for sharing their experience but what has this Lean experience meant to Kitchen Partners? Jamey shares a few with us:
Stay tuned for Part 2 in our Next Issue ATJ appreciates the value Kitchen Partners will provide in sharing the thinking and the transition steps from this article to their 2016 operations. The transition will be a treat for everyone no matter what kind of business they are in.