Between the numerous food safety certifications to ensuring the smooth operation of equipment and manufacturing functions, maintaining a food processing facility can be costly. That’s why West Liberty Foods set out to reduce its maintenance costs with the help of Leading2Lean, a cloud-based lean manufacturing operations solution.
“Our prior internal server-based system was no longer going to be supported, which was going to push us toward upgrading to a newer version or an alternate solution,” says Chad Williams, corporate maintenance manager for the West Liberty, Iowa-based meat processor. “During the process, we looked at both server and cloud-based solutions to help us understand the pros and cons of each system. In the end, our deciding factors were customer service, cost and user friendliness of the Leading2Lean system.”
Leading2Lean, based in Wellington, Nevada, provides a real-time reporting system for plant maintenance activities. West Liberty Foods maintenance technicians collect data on the plant floor via their tablet, which connects to the plant’s internal WiFi. Within two years of implementing Leading2Lean in its first facility, West Liberty Foods improved operational availability to 96% (a 10% improvement), reduced employee turnover by 50%, achieved 89% utilization of its maintenance workforce and saved $2 million in maintenance costs.
“The savings we’ve experienced have been directly and indirectly influenced from using the Leading2Lean system,” Williams adds. “Some of the direct factors include increasing maintenance efficiency, visibility on maintenance repair cost, and reduction of mechanical downtime. Indirect factors would include a reduction in MRO inventory tracking, reduction of inventory adjustments and culture change within the maintenance departments. Our team members on the production floor drive the systems and have a good visibility on what is going on daily in their plant, which provides them a feeling of empowerment.”
Previous to implementing Leading2Lean, West Liberty Foods had to turn to the IT departments for the information needed to effectively monitor the plant. “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.
Today, Leading2Lean generates and lets users view the report right from the web browser. And, because West Liberty Foods produces high-quality perishable foods, Leading2Lean allows for greater transparency, accountability and operational excellence in meeting strict food safety guidelines.
“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,” says Williams.
West Liberty Foods currently monitors all maintenance activities, including utilities and wastewater at its four production facilities—West Liberty; Tremonton, Utah; Mount Pleasant, Iowa; and Bolingbrook, Ill.—with one facility already integrated with the entire Leading2Lean piece to improve production efficiency.
“Cloud-based solutions will certainly be part of the future of West Liberty Foods and the likely future of virtually every other company and industry worldwide,” says Dave McDowell, director of IT for West Liberty Foods. “A cloud solution relieves the customer of responsibility for the hardware infrastructure, which underlies every application. It also eliminates many of the administrative duties required for application maintenance and upgrades. This allows companies to implement solutions more quickly. However, it is important to note that it is not simply that the application resides in the cloud that makes it the best solution. It is all about the app, not just where it resides.”