January 16, 2015
Stop the Guesswork
View Article Online
Software helps a processor get weights and quality right the first time—from the plant floor to the corporate office.
Michael Foods, Inc. is a multinational producer and distributor of egg products and refrigerated potato products, as well as a distributor of cheese and other dairy-case products for the foodservice, retail and food-ingredient markets. With annual sales of nearly $2 billion and more than 3,000 employees, the Minnetonka, MN-based company offers a variety of valued, recognizable brands such as Papetti’s, Crystal Farms, AllWhites and Simply Potatoes.
|A Michael Foods quality operator uses InfinityQS ProFicient software to ensure egg product weights are within specification limits. Source: Michael Foods.
“We had been practicing statistical process control [SPC] to improve the operational efficiency of processes and machines within our manufacturing facilities,” says James Hunkins, senior manager of quality systems development, Michael Foods. “However, data collection was largely performed manually since the analysis software we used was developed for quality assurance rather than statistical analysis. Because the software didn’t offer the necessary capabilities to understand the value of the collected data, we realized we needed to improve our overall statistical approach to quality so we could reduce the amount of product we lost through overpacking.”
To take its data collection and analysis to the next level, Michael Foods selected InfinityQS ProFicient, a real-time quality and manufacturing intelligence platform powered by an SPC analysis engine. Individual lines at each plant integrated the software with scales and calipers to collect weight and dimension data. Now, they also are beginning to track temperature and set point data on the machines. The Lenox, IA facility, which was first to deploy the software, is also collecting data to evaluate packaging performance and track gas checks, leaker checks, line speeds and machine settings.
In addition, Michael Foods is using InfinityQS Dynamic Scheduler across its operations to ensure operators are completing certain checks on schedule. This feature provides operators with a timed checklist for scheduled quality checks and automatically reminds users when it is time to collect data.
The ProFicient software has helped Michael Foods obtain operational intelligence. Its production lines now run within tenths of a gram of target for weight control. In fact, Michael Foods set—and met—the goal of paying for the enhanced SPC project through resulting productivity gains.
On the plant floor, the intuitive user interface, charting options and real-time feedback empower operators to make informed decisions. On the company’s cheese lines, the software has taken the guesswork out of choosing settings for each variety of cheese and streamlined communication among operators. The software also has helped plant managers reduce inconsistency through the identification of standardized settings. At the corporate level, Michael Foods’ operations and quality executives can easily identify variation trends and use control reports to help determine the root cause of variations.
“The immediate impact that InfinityQS ProFicient had and the awareness it created were tremendous, much more than I ever thought possible,” says Hunkins. “Now, we can look at operations as a whole and make big-picture decisions about what should be done going forward. Management is using data to make informed decisions and plan for the future.”