What is in this article?:
- Lean-Manufacturing Recipe Reinvigorates Century-Old Clabber Girl
- Inviting a Fresh Perspective
Clabber Girl has embraced lean manufacturing as a means to reach continuing milestones.
You don't pass the century mark without having done many things right, and Clabber Girl Corp. is well past that landmark age. Indeed, the Terre Haute, Ind.-based company, best known for its Clabber Girl brand, has been making baking powder for the retail market since 1870.
Like any manufacturer of any age, however, Clabber Girl faces a wealth of challenges in its bid to remain competitive for the next 100 years -- including reining in costs, improving productivity, and keeping current with new processes and technologies. Plus one of its manufacturing structures is more than a century old, bringing with it inefficiencies inherent in a six-story vertical structure built for another time.
"All of these are forces that led us to say, 'We can't continue to do [business] the same way we've been doing it,'" explains Gary Morris, president and COO of Clabber Girl, Terre Haute, Ind.
To that end, the company has embraced lean manufacturing as a means to reach continuing milestones. Clabber Girl is slightly more than halfway through a 24-month lean training program delivered by Purdue University's Technical Assistance Program. Focused first on manufacturing and distribution (both supervisors and hourly workers), the training ultimately will roll out across the remainder of Clabber Girl.
Morris is receiving the training, too. "If I can't be behind it, if they [the employees] can't see that I'm passionate about it, then they're not going to be," he says.
While Clabber Girl's manufacturing processes call for a significant amount of automation, it is a batch producer of a variety of products rather than a continuous-flow operation. In addition to the Clabber Girl brand, the company produces private-label products and regional baking powder brands, and its foodservice line includes Royal dessert products such as gelatins and cheesecake mixes.
Value-stream and process mapping exercises have revealed multiple opportunities for cycle-time reductions in this environment, the company president says. Formula changeovers and packaging and labeling are prime examples of such opportunities, as is material movement.
"There are opportunities for improvement all along the way," Morris says.
For example, he says the company has realized a huge reduction in the material wasted during the filling process on its production lines, thanks to the problem-solving techniques shared by the Purdue instructors.