For over 50 years, Gay Lea Foods has provided a vital link between Ontario dairy farmers and consumers located across Canada. Team commitment and support driven both by the company and their co-operative Members has enabled Gay Lea Foods to not only grow and expand product lines to remain competitive, but supports reinvesting in equipment and technology to keep the organization innovative and flexible - adapting to consumer needs and trends.
A great company with tremendous history and a thirst for continuous improvement initiatives, we were delighted to visit with Gay Lea Foods Co-Operative this month where EMC Members and Guests enjoyed an excellent corporate overview and participated in an in-depth plant tour of the facilities located in Guelph, Ontario on Wednesday, November 10th, 2010.
As Ontario's largest dairy co-operative, Gay Lea Foods is owned and operated by milk producers in the Province of Ontario. Roughly half of the Co-operative's 3,800 members are actively engaged in the production of milk, representing about 26% of the dairy farms in Ontario. There are five plants located across the Province - two in Southwestern Ontario, two in Toronto and one in Eastern Ontario:
Guelph - butter, aerosol and powder production
Clayson - fermented products, including sour cream
Longlife - fluid production
Teeswater - speciality powders
Madoc - Ivanhoe - cheese
Our host facility in Guelph provided a very warm welcome to a full house of participants eager to apply networking and benchmarking principles. In the spirit of such and with best practice sharing in mind, the Gay Lea Foods Team provided presentations on their corporate structure and philosophies followed by overviews from continuous improvement, quality, food safety and engineering standpoints. (Some brief highlights follow below). After a question and answer opportunity, our event concluded with a very interesting tour that showcased butter production in one facility and their powdered milk process in a new state-of-the-art plant located on the same property.
Our first presentation came from the Plant Managers who provided us with an overall glimpse of the facility and capabilities - enhancing our tour that would come later. We also discussed the Gay Lea Foods corporate philosophy in which their company pillars all evolve around the customer and the pursuit of "relentless improvement" - through operational excellence, leadership, partnerships and organizational capacity. Open communication and a commitment to providing resources and support among many other things such as sharing and the development of ideas has fostered teamwork throughout the facilities inevitably leading to their recognition as one of the top 100 Employers in Canada in 2010!
There were a number of excellent slides presented during our Continuous Improvement discussion. It was mentioned during this presentation that "all" continuous improvement is change and change is good if you are ready… if not, challenges can surface in training, competency and support.
The focus on their CI projects can be broken down into four areas and examples of items that would fall within those categories are also provided in the brackets following below:
Processes (proactive and systematic - lean, SQF 2000/MRP/ERP/preventative maintenance)
Products (product lines and customer needs - OEE, downtime, yield, quick changeover, shrinkage, NP/Processes, new lines)
Projects (budgets and savings - cost reduction, cash savings, faster schedule, inventory reduction, infrastructure, energy)
Problems (reactive firefighting - customer/consumer complaints, losses, delays, audit findings, oversights, safety issues)
Keeping in mind the corporate pillar that keeps everyone focused on the "relentless pursuit of improvement" - our Host touched on the steps that help determine "what" project to launch and thereafter - "how" to facilitate that launch to move forward - the following are points from his presentation:
What to Launch:
1. Data and dialogue = generates opportunities
2. Link to objectives = leverage
3. Scoping with stakeholder
4. Set goal(s) with champion(s)
5. Agree on project selection
6. Plan and resource the work
7. Remove obstacles (resistance to change/competing priorities)
8. Manage competing priorities
9. Execute and track to closure
10. Recognize, support and reward
How to Launch:
1. Dedicate resources and time
2. Personnel development
3. Find/generate the will (buy in)
4. Personal involvement and accountability
5. Collaboration and teamwork
6. Patience to practice
7. Consistency and perserverence
8. No fear of failure
9. Keep going
10. Keep learning
This led to an interesting discussion on the motivators behind launching various projects successfully. In this particular company, Gay Lea Foods Co-Operative believes the "buy-in" comes from a number of different areas including the power of instituting an open-door policy, developing a spirit of cooperation, sharing corporate results with employees, committing time and resources. Employees here can also be shareholders which provides them with a vested interest in helping the company be successful.
Like many companies regardless of sector today, one of their key challenges is the changing needs and requirements of Customers. To meet those needs, Gay Lea Foods took it upon themselves to institute a number of self and third party audits to stay abreast of changes. Sharing best practices between their facilities has also enabled them to become more responsive to this challenge as well. Also enabling their ability to adapt has been their adoption of HACCP throughout their plants and now they are taking on SQF2000 as part of the Global Food Safety Initiative.
From a quality assurance perspective, in conjunction with their focus on improvement, some of the opportunities and challenges they face include:
* The need for more benchmarking from a best practices standpoint
* Interdisciplinary approach - developing a team effort and involving the operators
This is a well-established facility with a strong engineering department. There are five permanent engineers and five on contract with a focus on capital projects, cost reduction and sustainability including:
* Process yield increases
* Sewage load reduction
* Energy recovery
* Water recovery
* Cleaning chemicals recovery
The Engineering department shared some of their challenges - opportunities for improvement - and interestingly enough, like many other companies, the Approvals and permit processes were high on the list:
* Time constraints
* Approvals and permit processes (CFIA, OMAFRA, TSSA, ESA, CSA, Ministry of the Environment, Toronto Metro Works Department (effluent By-Law compliance), Building Departments, Fire Departments, MOL (PHSR's), etc.
* Need to keep all documents on the server so that everyone can access them as needed
The Gay Lea Foods website is www.gayleafoods.com and provides information on their products as well as their Officers, Directors and Reports. There is also a good article from the Kitchener Waterloo Record - http://www.waterloochronicle.ca/news/article/125137 - "Plant Milks Its Products for All Its Worth" by Doug Hallett - that highlights the production capabilities and expansion initiative during their 50th anniversary in 2008.
On behalf of all of us, congratulations to the Gay Lea Foods facilities for being chosen as one of Canada's Top Employers for 2010 - a tremendous achievement and our heartiest congratulations!
Finally, very, very special thanks our Host - Gay Lea Foods Co-Operative Ltd. - and their entire Team for the warm welcome and for sharing their "relentless pursuit of continuous improvement" with all of us!
Best wishes everyone!