In my articles I’ve talked about the need for national food sector strategy and the reasons for and benefits of doing that. So let’s say that somehow we manage to develop the leadership among companies, governments, researchers and so on, to actually develop a Canadian National Food Strategy and the commitment is there on the part of all for Canada to become the “Global Leader in the Food Industry.” Then what? Well, as in all organizations, strategic plans can either sit on the shelf or actually be implemented. Let’s assume we go ahead and implement it.
So clearly, the first steps are to analyze the global market, “business unit” (for example, Red Meats) by business unit and “brand” (for example, Canada Pork) by brand, and decide which of our markets’ needs, wants and demands we can serve and choose to go after. Then we need to establish close relationships in the “Innovation Value Chain” in those business units (basic and applied researchers, commercialization resources, investor resources, etc.) to have the best technologies and products in the world in that sector.
Then the challenge becomes how to make it happen at individual business and value chain levels. I would maintain that all the tools are there. Let’s take a look at some approaches that have now been around a while, but still aren’t being implemented to the degree they should be in the food sector. These go back to the introduction of such techniques as Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, Lean Enterprise, and Value Chain Management.
This starts with Process Control. It means understanding our processes and what the sources of variation are in those processes, and addressing those sources of variation to bring the variation down – to bring the process under control, if you will. Then, once the process is in better control, the next step is to start a system of Continuous Process Improvement to take the level of Standard Variation in the process to lower and lower levels – eventually to the Six Sigma level. This should also take an organization into the level of strategic/business planning to improve its overall output based on customer satisfaction needs (Hoshin Kanri, Balanced Scorecards, etc.). What is critical to quality? And it takes them into the area of Supplier Quality Management to better meet market needs and reduce variation and improve productivity.
Closely tied to this is the whole Lean Management approach that looks to eliminate waste (increasing sustainability as well as productivity), reducing complexity, reducing time in the process (reducing production delays and inventories), and into such areas as Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and Improved Energy Efficiencies (reduction in usage, use of alternative sources, and so on).
Value Chain Management
And of course, once the organization has started to understand customer needs and finding ways of better meeting those needs, and working with suppliers to reduce variation, eliminate time and waste from their processes, it must then also look at its supply chain logistics to find ways to improve service, reduce costs and improve reliability. And it must look at things like packaging to again find ways to reduce cost through Efficient Package Design and Package Design to Improve Production Efficiency. In general the organization must work closely with its suppliers to accomplish its strategic goals.
This then gets into the area of Value Chain Management which, simply put, involves development of closer collaboration between organizations and their supply chain partners at both the supplier and customer levels. It generally means collaborative planning to meet market needs and ongoing close collaboration to improve quality, reduce costs, and increase both environmental and financial sustainability, with the end result of making all participants in the chain more profitable and competitive.
This type of approach can be implemented at the enterprise level and in your value chains, even without a Canadian Food Strategy, to the benefit of the individual enterprises. But imagine the success that lies within this approach if it could be implemented all along the “business unit” and “brand” value chains in the name of making both the participating enterprises more competitive, and also making the Canadian food industry the most competitive, innovative, productive and sustainable food sector in the world. The potential is inestimable, but so powerful it is hard to imagine. But I have worked with these approaches both in senior management roles and as a consultant. They work!
Gary Fread is president of Fread & Associates Ltd., consultants to the food industry. He has spent 25 years in management positions in the food processing industry, with a background in sales, logistics, purchasing and technical areas. He has worked with Procter & Gamble, Campbell Soup and Morrison Lamothe, and is the past president and CEO of the Guelph Food Technology Centre. He is active in many food industry associations and organizations, serving on the boards of several. Contact him at [email protected]