How Conagra rewards packaging line workers for cutting waste

Pan Demetrakakes in Optimization on June 07, 2018

One of the best strategies to improve packaging operations is to solicit ideas from the people who are on the plant floor, actually dealing with the machines and packaging materials. And contests are a great way to incentivize employees to come across with ideas. Here are three recent examples of how Conagra Brands cut waste, improved packaging line operations and saved money.

Conagra Brands established its Sustainable Development Awards in 2009. Employees are asked to submit innovations or projects that reduce water, waste, energy and costs across the company’s numerous business channels. So far, the projects developed for the contest have decreased Conagra Brands’ carbon footprint by more than 189,000 metric tons, conserved 3.5 billion gallons of water, diverted more than 207,500 tons of solid waste from landfills, reduced solid waste by nearly 98,000 tons and decreased packaging by 32,000 tons. Award winners receive a $5,000 grant from the Conagra Brands Foundation for use in their community on sustainability-focused public service projects.

Gail Tavill, Conagra’s vp of sustainable development, talks with Packaging Digest about how three of this year’s Sustainable Development Awards pertained to packaging.


How many entries does Conagra Brands typically get per year for this contest?

Tavill: This year we received 57 entries, which is consistent with the last three years of the program.


How are winners chosen?

Tavill: Winners are chosen by a review committee made up of a cross-functional leadership team. Leaders from our grocery and snacks business, health and safety, procurement, communications, supply chain and R&D functions are all part of review process.


New cutting assembly in use in Troy, OH, plant.


New cutting assembly from Troy, OH, plant.


Can you give details of how the Slim Jim operation in Troy, Ohio, eliminated more than 500 tons of waste annually? What modifications did they make, to which equipment?

Tavill: After realizing a significant amount of time and money went into replacement parts for a cutting assembly, our Slim Jim facility in Troy, Ohio, modified equipment to allow for a quicker and less expensive repair option. Rather than replacing a whole assembly, the plant created a modular design that was more robust and allowed for replacing small sections at a time, which was both faster and more efficient. The improvement helped reduce unplanned stops and film waste, eliminating over 500 tons of waste annually.

Winner from the Troy, OH, team: Jeff Erwin, Troy plant manager; Mike Tracy*, supply chain svp

* Conagra Supply Chain executive, not on winning team


NEXT: The David Seeds operation in Waterloo, Iowa, saved 225,000 bags of seeds a year (see photo at top of this page)



Production efficiencies, ecommerce challenges, sustainability trends, new bioplastic technologies and more are among the topics on the agenda at the new Packaging Education Hub at EastPack 2018 (June 12-14; NYC). This free educational program will have more than 15 hours of can’t-miss presentations, demonstrations and hands-on activities. Register to attend for free today!

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