Bunge Oakville: IW Best Plants Profile 2010

Dec. 14, 2010
A Well-Oiled Machine: A focus on the customer forms a solid foundation for Bunge Oakville's continuous-improvement efforts.

Bunge Oakville, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Employees: 49, nonunion

Total Square Footage: 98,000

Primary Product/Market: packaged edible oils and shortening

Start-Up Date: 1993

Achievements: First Canadian food plant to be both ISO 9001 and Canadian Food Inspection Agency HACCP registered; more than 12 years without a lost-time incident; kaizen events resulted in $1.02 million in cost savings over past year

Every day, a rabbi visits Bunge's Oakville, Ontario, plant to make sure there is no cross-contamination between the facility's kosher and non-kosher product lines. While a little divine intervention would be welcomed at many manufacturers these days, it's not the source of this plant's success. That falls to plant manager Rolf Mantei and his team's focus on customer service, high quality standards and careful attention to production and inventory management.

The Bunge Oakville plant employs a rigorous inspection regimen to ensure food safety and customer satisfaction.

The Oakville facility packages edible oil products on eight packaging lines. Edible oils are delivered in bulk liquid form to the plant from Bunge's Hamilton, Ontario, crushing and refinery plant and other suppliers. At the plant, they are stored outside in temperature-controlled storage tanks. When the plant is ready to process them, they are pumped into the facility through filters to the filling equipment. Bunge uses three packaging lines with seven different package formats ranging from a 3-liter jug to 1,000-kg totes. Shortening products are pumped into the facility but then chilled and plasticized, a process that converts them from liquid to a finished shortening product.

As consumers have become educated about the health risks of trans fats, the market has moved away from solid shortenings to liquid oils, and there has been a sharp increase in the demand for canola oil. Some 50% of the plant's production now centers around high-oleic canola, alternative oil blends and shortenings.

Customer focus is critical to the success of Bunge Oakville. Customers expect Bunge Oakville to deliver products with a 48-hour lead time, so most of the plant's items are made-to-inventory rather than made-to-order. That's no small task, given that the plant produces and handles 245 SKUs.

IW's 2010 Best Plants

See the other winners of IW's 2010 Best Plants award and find out how they made the top ten.

While Bunge Oakville has shifted to healthier oil products, that hasn't meant the plant could relax its efforts to be a low-cost provider. In fact, competition has become more intense, encouraging efforts to improve productivity. The plant regularly holds kaizen events. In 2009, for example, the plant held five kaizens dealing with issues ranging from equipment OEE to sales and operations.

To help ensure customer satisfaction, the plant has a robust program for customer complaint investigations and corrective actions. Plant officials have held kaizens with suppliers to improve packaging. The plant also has instituted a quarterly meeting with its two primary packaging suppliers. The meetings have helped the organizations understand each other's operations and enhanced communications.

Plant officials have targeted constant improvements in overall equipment effectiveness. From January 2009 to June 2010, OEE improved 72%. The plant has installed OEE displays that provide real-time information on machine operations. "Whenever a machine stops for any reason, it goes into alarm and a reason code is entered," says Carm Cafagna, production supervisor. "We look back to those reason codes to determine where downtime occurs and address those issues." Bunge Oakville takes a "safety-first" approach in its operations that has resulted in more than 12 years without a lost-time injury. So fittingly, a safety message and a tally of days without a recordable incident are posted at the top of the OEE displays.

About the Author

Steve Minter | Steve Minter, Executive Editor

Focus: Leadership, Global Economy, Energy

Call: 216-931-9281

Follow on Twitter: @SgMinterIW

An award-winning editor, Executive Editor Steve Minter covers leadership, global economic and trade issues and energy, tackling subject matter ranging from CEO profiles and leadership theories to economic trends and energy policy. As well, he supervises content development for editorial products including the magazine,, research and information products, and conferences.

Before joining the IW staff, Steve was publisher and editorial director of Penton Media’s EHS Today, where he was instrumental in the development of the Champions of Safety and America’s Safest Companies recognition programs.

Steve received his B.A. in English from Oberlin College. He is married and has two adult children.

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