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ConAgra Foods, Inc.


Food (meat producer)


$27 billion


Interim Management and Process Improvement; Performance NOW


A principal of MainStream Management (“MainStream”) was engaged by ConAgra Foods, Inc, North America’s largest food service manufacturer. ConAgra Food was also the second largest retail food supplier in the country with annual sales in excess of $27 billion. MainStream assumed the role of Operations Manager in a 262,000 square foot sausage manufacturing facility. As Operations Manager, MainStream was responsible for all production and maintenance, including plant expenditures. The facility had been in operation for five years and had always reported disappointing operating margins. This union facility had an empowered workforce but in many instances this influence was used negatively. It was a common occurrence for orders to be shorted and for meat blends to be discarded due to age caused by downtime and the wrong inventory being pulled. Overtime at the plant was running at a rate of 38% when MainStream assumed operational control.


As Operations Manager, MainStream worked closely with all aspects of the company, including production, maintenance, QA, safety, and other support groups. It was discovered that in the past, issues were hidden rather than being adequately addressed using root cause analysis. The decision was made to separate the Plant Manager from the Production and Maintenance personnel to allow problems to be adequately addressed. Hourly preventative maintenance (PM) teams were created to work on continuous oven racks, vemag stuffers, and stuffing horns. Inventory teams were established to ensure meat blends were properly identified and First In, First Out (FIFO) was utilized for inventory management. In addition, daily meetings were held to discuss prior day results, schedule, safety, and other company news. In addition, a program was created to recognize employees and teams for high performance and openly rewarded them when justified with lunch and public postings noting their accomplishments.


The actions taken by MainStream resulted in a 60% reduction in downtime, due primarily to utilizing root cause analysis and PM programs. Employee attendance improved dramatically due to attitude change and reduction of hours available, and the weekend work was now focused on preventive maintenance to the equipment. The inventory was evaluated daily by the Supervisor and Operations Manager to ensure nothing had to be thrown away. In addition, overtime reduced to 12% due to higher efficiencies and reduced downtime. Parts spending, which historically had been over budget on an average of $160,000 per month, was reduced and brought back to budgeted levels.

Upon conclusion the engagement, this facility and its 390 employees were averaging 220,000 pounds daily, a 23% improvement from when our engagement began. The budget was met the first year of MainStream’s engagement and in the second year the budget was exceeded by $2.5 million. During the latter stages of the engagement, the company held their corporate annual sales meeting at the facility to highlight and discuss the positive changes that had occurred.

ConAgra Foods: Projects
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