West Liberty Foods saves $2M with cloud-based lean manufacturing solution
West Liberty Foods, a turkey processor based in West Liberty, Iowa, was formed in 1996 under the guiding principles of the Iowa Turkey Growers Cooperative, which carries on Iowa’s rich farming tradition. Their grower/owners are committed to animal health and welfare while delivering superior-quality turkeys—a philosophy that has helped family farms grow and thrive for generations. The continued success of West Liberty Foods is due to the dedication, enthusiasm and support of its grower/owners.
West Liberty also knows the importance of taking care of the community. From partnerships with local schools and service organizations to corporate donations and employee wellness programs, West Liberty Foods strives to make a positive long-term impact through its business.
The company now owns four meat processing plants (Tremonton, Utah; West Liberty, Iowa; Mount Pleasant, Iowa; Bolingbrook, Ill.) and a cold storage distribution facility in Bolingbrook, which mainly produces products for customers to sell under their own brand names.
The company primarily provides meat for other marketing brands, producing 90% of its product for customers, while selling only 10% under the West Liberty Foods brand name. West Liberty Foods also produces prepared beef, chicken and pork for nationwide foodservice customers, such as Subway, Walmart, Costco and Kroger. Because West Liberty Foods services national customers, it is inspected more than most food manufacturers. As such, processing lines must be reliable and food processes need to be documented for USDA and other agency inspections.
While the technicians and leadership team in the plant were diligent in taking notes, recording paperwork and inputting data into the system, maintenance personnel had a difficult time finding and analyzing the data to make the best business decisions. If the team wanted reports, they had to request them from the IT department. They weren’t able to get a full view of what was happening at the plants because they couldn’t see the data in time to react to a problem. Between recording the information and then running the reports, it took an average of 3-4 days before the team really knew what was happening in the plant. With manual entry of information, sometimes the info wouldn’t get recorded or it would get lost. Manual input also opened itself up to inaccuracies and the tendency for the tasks to fill the time allotted, regardless of whether they could have been completed in less time.
West Liberty Foods needed a system that would give them a real-time view of what was happening at their plants, so the maintenance team could fix problems as they happen and discover long-term issues affecting downtime.
West Liberty Foods implemented Leading2Lean’s CloudDISPATCH to deliver real-time information in their plant operations.
Implementing CloudDISPATCH helped West Liberty Foods save $2 million in maintenance costs. That’s because CloudDISPATCH tracked West Liberty Foods’ budget for spare parts and provided an understanding of where money is being spent. With the Leading2Lean system, the maintenance team came in not only under budget, but also realized $2 million in savings in the last two years.
Before Leading2Lean, based in Wellington, Nevada, West Liberty Foods didn’t have a real-time reporting system to truly measure workforce utilization. Today, West Liberty Foods tracks all tasks in real time. Because of that real-time view, the company was able to identify and act on opportunities to improve efficiency, which resulted in 88.5% utilization last year, and is on track to achieve 90-92% this year.
In the first West Liberty Foods facility where Leading2Lean was implemented, machine uptime (operational availability) was at 86.6%. After two years, the same facility led the company at 96.3%, a 10% improvement. One of the key driving factors is that Leading2Lean gave the company visibility into the manufacturing process, and provided team members the ability to drill down to issues. The maintenance team was able to put in place a preventive and predictive maintenance schedule to prevent those problems from happening again.
The Leading2Lean scheduler also assisted first-line supervisors to be more effective schedulers to better manage maintenance technicians’ time. Also, it helped the company standardize work and reporting companywide, so leadership and maintenance staff could determine where to focus efforts. Even with four locations, leadership can see what’s happening with all machines companywide, such as which ones are the worst performing, so the company can determine where to invest capital dollars in repair or replacement.
“Leading2Lean helps maintenance teams maintain our world-class standard,” says Chad Williams, corporate maintenance manager at West Liberty Foods. “Everyone has real-time visibility into what’s happening at our plant. If we have a problem, we can quickly get to the root cause of it. Leading2Lean has not only saved us money, but it has also improved our processes and made us more productive with the resources we have.”
Initial perception from a typical workforce is that greater transparency and visibility to tasks and issues on the plant floor means Big Brother is looking over everyone’s shoulders more. However, after using Leading2Lean, some of the employees who worried the most are now the best technicians at recording information and giving more detailed descriptions.
“They have come to see it as an indispensable tool in their work,” Williams says.
Because of greater transparency and accountability with Leading2Lean, West Liberty Foods has seen an improvement in company culture—one of greater transparency, accountability and engagement. With Leading2Lean, along with other company initiatives, employee turnover at West Liberty Foods was reduced by 50%. Furthermore, the ease of use, even for those employees who have little knowledge of computer systems, has allowed them to quickly engage with CloudDISPATCH.
Before West Liberty Foods implemented Leading2Lean, the company would need to ask the IT department for the information they needed. Leading2Lean allows anyone to quickly generate and view reports right from a web-based browser.
“Before, I’d have to run 10-15 individual reports to get the same information I can get with one report out of Leading2Lean,” Williams says.
Because the company is handling high-quality perishable food items, West Liberty Foods maintains strict company guidelines and procedures, along with defined regulations required by the USDA.
“We use specific chemicals, ammonia refrigeration and isolation as parts of our food safety process,” Williams says. “The USDA requires that we have a clearly defined process that we follow consistently. The system allows for easy and clear visibility into this process, which has been great in working with the USDA.”
Likewise, West Liberty Foods boasts sanitation prerequisites in order to enter the clean area. Maintenance staff go through the proper procedure, dress in personal protective equipment, enter the room and do work on a particular piece of equipment. If they find a component that needs to be replaced for example, they typically would have to leave the room, get the component and then go through the process to enter all over again. Now, Leading2Lean allows maintenance staff to order the parts through the system. The parts team delivers the spare through a window, which avoids the risk of contamination entering the room.
“Keeping the technician on the job saves a lot of time for us,” Williams says. “Leading2Lean allows for easy and clear visibility into this process, which has been instrumental in ensuring the best and safest product for our customers and documenting compliance with the USDA.”
Leading2Lean has helped improve West Liberty Foods’ maintenance and operations at its plants, saving $2 million in maintenance costs. The company has also reduced employee turnover by 50%, achieved 89% utilization of its maintenance workforce and improved operational availability in at least one of the plants to 96%—an increase of nearly 10%.