Growth from Certification: From Skeptic to Proponent

    Bel Brands’ certification experience
    After overcoming initial reluctance, the team at Bel Brands USA in Little Chute turned to food safety certification in its journey to become a world-class operation.

    Bel Brands recently embarked on a comprehensive certification process resulting in the Little Chute operation receiving the Foundation for Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) 22000.

    Chicago-based Bel Brands USA is the U.S. subsidiary of Fromageries Bel, a worldwide leader in branded cheeses with headquarters in Paris. The 144,000-square-foot Little Chute plant operates as a cheese converter and produces cold-pack and gourmet cheese spreads, cheese logs and balls, and sandwich spreads. Brands include WisPride, Kaukauna, Boursin and Merkts.  The facility employs about 200 workers and produces more than  25 million pounds of cheese per year.

    The company’s European plants already had undergone the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) process for food safety when Bel Brands USA decided to pursue FSSC certification. 

    FSSC 22000 certification demonstrates to consumers that a company has a robust Food Safety Management System in place.

    Bel Brands decided that FSSC 22000 would best suit its needs since it is focused on business process improvement along with food safety. “We knew that’s where we needed to go,” plant director Ed Blascak said. Bel Brands management contacted the WMEP a short time later.

    “The WMEP put on us on the right track,” Blascak said. “We had a lot of programs, policies and procedures but they needed to be brought to the next level.”

    As it got deeper into the certification process, Bel Brands discovered a business advantage to FSSC 22000.

    “It is huge. It changes how you look at your business,” Blascak said. “You are trying to bring it to world class. It is not one of those programs that you start and stop, it is all about continuous improvement.”

    The company made upgrades in its plant and invested about  $2 million in equipment, systems and technology improvements during the certification process and an equal amount since that time. The company also instituted a variety of training programs.

    “It was exciting to see the increased employee involvement and the interaction between departments grow throughout the process,” said Judy Sullivan, a food safety services specialist at the WMEP.

    “Everyone got involved and the facility made great strides, not just in food safety but in all aspects of continual improvement.”

    The investment in the certification process has had a variety of paybacks, including improved efficiency and tighter inventories. Product quality also improved and consumer complaints dropped significantly according to Blascak.

    “We were skeptical at first about the tangible benefits of certification,” he said. “I’m a proponent of certification and I wasn’t before. It solidifies the business and we feel better about the future,” he said. 

    Blascak credited the WMEP for its vital assistance in the process.

    “We’ve been very satisfied with the partnership,” he said. “You can’t do this by yourself.”

    Call today to find out how certification can help open doors to new business opportunities: 877.856.8588.

    Efficiency Gains from Profitable Sustainability: Kirsh Foundry Profits from Sustainability

    After a period of time where many foundries struggled to survive or disappeared, Kirsh Foundry in Beaver Dam is going strong and continues to invest in its operations.

    Kirsh is a manufacturer of high quality, engineered iron castings and serves many of the country’s world-class manufacturers, including Caterpillar, Ingersoll-Rand, and John Deere.

    The deep recession had a particularly damaging effect on foundries. Many disappeared or reduced operations, and according to Kevin Paul, vice president of operations at Kirsh several continue to struggle. Contrary to this market performance, Kirsh is making some aggressive moves and continues to thrive.

    The WMEP and Kirsh have forged a decade-long relationship. Through the partnership, the WMEP worked with Kirsh on ISO certification, Value Stream Mapping, the Profitable Sustainability Initiative (PSI), and employee training.

    About the impact of these initiatives, Paul said: “We’ve made some really good savings in the plant.”

    Founded in 1937, Kirsh is an iron jobbing foundry run by Jim Kirsh Jr. and Steve Kirsh, grandsons of the founder. The company has about 100 employees, including 85 hourly production workers, and the capacity to pour 2,400 tons per month in grey, ductile or malleable iron.

    Committed to constantly upgrading its capabilities, Kirsh continues to invest in innovative ways to serve the ever-increasing and changing demands of its customers.

    “We have witnessed Kirsh’s transformation from one of many foundries in Wisconsin to one that stands out in the state because of its desire to be better,” said Joe Brown, senior manufacturing specialist at the WMEP. “The assistance provided by the WMEP position Kirsh’s business to be more competitive in the marketplace.”

    Kirsh invested about $240,000 in a core-making machine, which creates an internal passage in the casting, as part of its involvement in the PSI. The new high-tech machine reduces set-up time and gas usage while improving cycle time. According to Paul the investment has made the plant more environmentally friendly while also improving the company’s bottom line.

    Kirsh is spending upwards of $1 million to move its core room closer to where castings are produced.  This will allow the company to streamline the department and make room for another department to move from a separate building.

    Another ongoing initiative has been the consolidation of Kirsh’s operations into a single building in Beaver Dam which lowers heating and cooling costs.“The goal is to reduce our footprint,” Paul said. “We will be more efficient and in a smaller space.”

    Kirsh also plans to invest in its molding area and will add a cooling conveyor, giving it a continuous flow of castings between departments.  The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2015.

    Contact WMEP to discover how Profitable Sustainability can improve your efficiency and profits: 877.856.8588.

    Partners in Success
    We’re successful because we want the same things you do.

    Cost and Efficiency
    How can you make your business more profitable and efficient?
    Increasing profitability through waste reduction, downtime reduction, improved resource utilization, operations improvement, grant utilization and enhanced financial systems.

    Certification and Compliance
    How can you meet the regulatory requirements for your industry and differentiate your business through certification?
    Pursuing the certification that sets a company apart as well as the certification needed to fulfill local, state, national and international qualifications and to achieve awards and grants.

    Where are the greatest growth opportunities for your company and how do you best pursue these opportunities?
    Growing revenues by reaching new customers and markets, developing successful new products, exporting, adding capabilities through strategic hires, and improving employee productivity.

    Winning Culture
    How can you best attract and engage talent?
    Developing an environment and processes that attract and retain talent, grow employees capabilities, and create an empowered workforce. Collaborating for mutual benefit within the industry and educating the next generation on job opportunities in manufacturing.

    If you want your business to grow or become more profitable call WMEP today to find out how we can partner for your success.

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