Advisory board assists with being proactive in today's competitive marketplace.

Nearly 10 years ago, senior management at privately-owned flavor supplier David Michael & Co., Philadelphia, created a Strategic Alliance Advisory Board, which includes both the company's board of directors and outside senior technical and business managers from the food and beverage industries. The company's formation of this advisory board is an extension of David Michael's historically innovative approach to maintaining leadership status in the highly competitive flavor industry.

External members of the advisory board consist of six individuals that have more than 200 combined years of industry experience representing suppliers, manufacturers, research, engineering, purchasing, quality management and sales. The group provides outside-the-company points of view on key industry issues, enabling David Michael to be proactive and innovative in their approach.

Recently, Dairy Foods magazine had the opportunity to interview Skip Rosskam, president and COO at David Michael, to get his perspective on the success of the company's Strategic Alliance Advisory Board.

Q: Next year, the Strategic Alliance Advisory Board will have been in existence for 10 years. How has the supplier-manufacturer relationship changed in the 10 years, and how has the Strategic Alliance Advisory Board made David Michael a more effective partner in product development during the past decade?

A: The group has helped us to better appreciate and understand the needs of our clients, since the members have all previously worked for major food and beverage companies. They are able to take a critical look at what we do and how we do it, while providing constructive critiques that have assisted us in sharpening our focus on the existing and future needs of our clients.

Q: To date, what has been the board's greatest accomplishment?

A: It was their efforts in guiding us through a total technical repositioning, which was called the New Technical Order. This initiative was all about providing our clients with a more timely response on samples, research projects and technical information. We created baselines of our performance and have improved our on-time performance and productivity every year since.

Q: How do David Michael's customers and potential customers benefit from this sounding board of food industry experts that gather four times a year?

A: One of the direct benefits to our clients is priority access to the advisory board members, both on a strategic and tactical basis. For example, the vice president of research at a major international food manufacturer traveled to Philadelphia specifically to attend an advisory board meeting, where he was given time to discuss critical issues he was facing at his company. Clearly, he felt comfortable in talking to a peer group in what turned out to be a very productive environment. At other times we have deployed a member of the board to work specifically with us and one of our clients on projects.

Q: How does the dairy industry as a whole benefit from David Michael's Strategic Alliance Advisory Board?

A: All of the benefits of the advisory board are available equally to all sectors of the food and beverage industry. To the extent that the board has personal experience in product development, production, quality assurance and marketing of dairy products, this industry benefits. Several members have had many years of experience working in the dairy industry, and thus are able to offer detailed solutions to issues facing our clients in this industry.

Dairy Food's quarterly ice cream columnist Steve Young has been a member of the Strategic Alliance Advisory Board since its inception.

Q: Steve, what knowledge have you gained from being a part of David Michael's Strategic Alliance Advisory Board? How has that assisted you with your dairy industry efforts, particularly when providing guidance to marketers and food scientists with their product development efforts?

A: As much as we help David Michael understand and manage issues, both technical and non-technical and internal and external to the company, as members of the Strategic Alliance Advisory Board we also take away new, novel and innovative approaches, concepts and even new product ideas that can be applied in other ways and at other times at other companies. This helps keep those companies, many of whom are dairy processors, fully up-to-speed on cutting-edge flavor technologies and approaches, product development, cost management, supply chain management, food safety, project, research and production management, and other issues important in the competitive marketplace.