Bunge Focuses on Keeping its Customers Satisfied

Oct. 13, 2011
Staying in close contact with its customers has helped Bunge improve its packaging quality.

Every day, a rabbi visits Bunge’s Oakville, Ont., Canada, 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 Oakville facility, which was named an IndustryWeek Best Plant earlier this year, packages edible oil products on eight packaging lines. Edible oils are delivered in bulk liquid form to the plant from Bunge’s Hamilton, Ont.-based 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 and are then chilled and plasticized, a process that converts them from liquid to a finished shortening product. After packaging, they are stored in a temperature-controlled warehouse for 48 hours to complete the process.

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.

To help ensure customer satisfaction, the plant has a robust program for customer complaint investigations and corrective actions. Packaging quality has been an issue for both production efficiency and customer complaints. The plant held a kaizen with a supplier of its plastic jugs in which it helped the supplier improve its changeover time for molds. This not only helped the supplier but resulted in improved product quality and has contributed to a reduction in customer complaints to Bunge. The plant also has instituted a quarterly meeting with its two primary packaging suppliers.

Plant officials have targeted constant improvements in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The plant has installed OEE displays that provide real-time information on machine operations. The displays help bring issues that interrupt production to the attention of operators and supervisors more quickly. The data collected on the reasons for the interruptions help the facility address the most serious issues.

Bunge Oakville takes a “safety first” approach in its operations that has resulted in more than 12 years without a lost-time injury. On the OEE displays throughout the plant, a safety message and a running score of days without a recordable incident are posted at the top of the screen. There is an active near miss reporting program and employees report an average of four per week.

Learn more about the IndustryWeek Best Plants program at www.iwbestplants.com.