The mission statement of Dexter Southfield School in the Boston suburb of Brookline is “Our Best Today, Better Tomorrow.” That is a great mission for any business to strive for.
Dairy processors can apply that tenet to their manufacturing operations, strategic planning, marketing programs and employee training practices. Here are seven resolutions to consider for the New Year:
1.Be a more efficient manufacturer. It’s easy to fall into the habit of doing something because that’s the way it’s always been done. Audit your manufacturing procedures. Go through your processes step by step. Question why the practice is in place, eliminate unnecessary steps and re-write the procedure manual.
Review how the packaging line is laid out and determine if there is a faster way to fill containers. Evaluate each piece of equipment. Is it operating at capacity? Can it handle the output that the sales team is projecting? Do you need an upgrade?
Are you investing in the most update-to-date equipment? Read Allen Sayler’s column about seven alternative processes to heat-treatment of milk.
2. Look at your marketing from a consumer’s point of view. What does the shopper think when she sees your product in the dairy case or the freezer? Does she see your company the way you see your customer? What is your brand all about? How are you communicating this?
Anderson Erickson Dairy wants consumers to have a great experience with its products every time, CEO Miriam Erickson Brown told me when I visited her last year (see page 80). Of course, that’s easier said than done.
“When you have excellence as your standard, your work is never finished – things can always be improved,” Erickson Brown said. To get to that level is “a ton of work,” she admitted but it’s worth it because “we care really deeply about the brand experience.”
3. Truly understand your competition, but stay true to yourself. You compete with other dairies and depending upon what you make, you compete with other dairy foods. (Should I snack on yogurt or on string cheese?) You also have to take a broader view, as you compete for share of stomach or bladder, as the case may be. Look at how other processors of animal and vegetable protein products position themselves. What messages do nondairy beverage companies send out? Are your competitors promoting health and wellness or something else, like prestige, fun or friendship?
4. Do no harm. This is often attributed (wrongly) to the medical profession’s Hippocratic Oath. By “do no harm” I am thinking about sustainability (resource management), manufacturing nutrient-dense foods, keeping employees well and handling milk safely.
5. Play the numbers. Make sure you eat three dairy servings daily. Set a good example for your friends who work outside of the dairy industry. The other number to play is 60, as in Fuel Up to Play 60. This partnership between the National Dairy Council and the National Football League is intended to encourage children to be active. But adults will benefit from physical activity, too. Make time for yourself every day to walk, swim, run or play tennis. Find an activity you like to do, otherwise you’ll find reasons to avoid it.
6. Do what you do best and outsource the rest. Your company’s expertise might be in consumer marketing not dairy processing. There are plenty of dairies that will compete for your co-packing business. On the other hand, your company might be highly efficient at food processing, but would benefit by outsourcing the sales and marketing to a third party. Or, hire the talent necessary to do everything in-house.
7. Be a real team. Understand that your business is an organism of many cells (departments and individuals). Tear down the silos of manufacturing, marketing, procurement and administration. Owners must show every employee how each job impacts a co-worker’s. When one does not perform at one’s best, that failure will ripple throughout the company. Central to all of this is honest communication from the top down.
Here at Dairy Foods, we are doing our best today and striving for better tomorrow. We’ve invested in technology to bring you information in the way you want to consume it. Improvements to our website will result in a better experience on tablets and mobile phones. Just as you might follow a multichannel strategy, so do we. Our channels include print, website, social media, digital editions and live events. If there is something you’d like to see from us, call me. My number is below.
I wish you much success in 2015.