6. What’s your advice as the next step for these companies?
Chilton: Small companies need to set standards for product yield and waste expectations to begin the process. Larger companies need to implement continuous improvement programs to manage the process. There are always opportunities for improvement in any size organization.
7. Regarding the interesting bakery case study you referenced in your presentation: What surprised them about Alchemy’s audit? What surprised you?
Chilton: The bakery was surprised at the quantity of acceptable, finished product that graders were throwing out at the packaging line. When a representative sample was collected and presented to management and QA, they were shocked that more than 50% of the product thrown out could have been packed. It was evident that retraining was necessary to improve consistency in this process.
From our perspective, we were surprised that waste was not being measured at different stages of production. The company just used a formula to measure waste from the total facility based on the raw pounds produced to the finished product packed. They weren’t weighing or measuring any of the graded-out and floor waste product from each packaging line. We were also surprised that the specifications for mixing, depositing and packaging were not well documented, which is vital to set the necessary standards to meet customer requirements and reduce food waste.
8. How common is having overly restrictive standards that needlessly increase waste?
Chilton: There is not a high likelihood that companies have standards that are too restrictive leading to additional waste. There is a greater likelihood that the standards have not been well defined and documented in the first place. Mutually agreed-upon specifications by the company and customer provide the basis to produce acceptable product and train personnel to meet the requirements.
9. What’s your advice if there’s a dramatic difference in food waste numbers for parallel packaging lines or on different shifts?
Chilton: In this case, the root cause of the problem should be analyzed to determine the cause of the difference. It often is due to a combination of factors involving personnel and equipment. Retraining of personnel to understand the importance of producing product to specification and reducing waste is a good start. Once trained, employees must be accountable to perform. For equipment implications, a study should be completed for each stage of production to identify differences in the lines that may be resulting in higher waste on one line versus the other.
10. Do most companies quantify the amount of floor waste per packaging line per shift in some form?
Chilton: Unfortunately, no. Many companies do not measure floor waste by weighing and reporting the amount of waste in each department, much less to the individual line or shift level. Measuring waste is a key step to improving waste. Generating this information by line and by shift allows a company to identify sources of waste and inconsistencies in their process. We have helped companies implement these types of waste reporting systems, and have seen dramatic improvements in waste reduction once the measurement system is in place. In addition to quantity, it is wise to report the loss in dollars per pound based on the product value to really see the impact waste reductions and improvements have on the organization.
11. How can companies know they’re making the right measurements and doing it accurately?
Chilton: Reducing waste directly correlates with improving product yield, which is a huge benefit to companies. It’s important to measure waste at each major stage of production: in the bakery example, that includes, the mixing, depositing, baking and packaging steps.
Best practices include setting achievable yield standards at each production stage, measuring loss at applicable steps such as cook shrinks and measuring the floor waste. Companies need to implement process control plans that measure product yields and floor waste at key steps in the manufacturing process. Daily Product Yield and Floor Waste Reports will quickly shed light on problem areas to drive improvements.
As I like to say, you treasure what you measure.
Jeff Chilton, vice president, professional services, Alchemy Systems, has more than 30 years of experience in the food industry, specializing in food safety, quality assurance and plant management. Prior to Alchemy, Chilton was the founder and President of Chilton Consulting Group for 18 years, helping clients achieve and sustain GFSI certification under the SQF, BRC, and FSSC 22000 standards along with USDA and FDA Regulatory Compliance services for HACCP and Food Safety Plan. Chilton is a certified SQF Auditor, SQF Consultant, Preventive Control for Human Food Lead Instructor, and International HACCP Alliance Lead Instructor. Prior to starting Chilton Consulting Group, Chilton was a Plant Manager at two large food processing companies and a Director of Quality Assurance. Chilton earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and Management from Tampa College, Tampa, FL.