Clabber Girl, the Terre Haute, Ind.-based company best known for its Clabber Girl brand, has been making baking powder for the retail market since 1870. But like any manufacturer of any age, the company faces a wealth of challenges in its bid to remain competitive for the next 100 years, including reining in costs, improving productivity, and keeping current with new processes and technologies. One of its manufacturing structures is more than a century old, bringing with it inefficiencies inherent in a six-story vertical structure built for another time.

“All of these are forces that led us to say, ‘We can’t continue to do [business] the same way we’ve been doing it,’” explains Gary Morris, president and chief operating officer of Clabber Girl.

Clabber Girl embraced lean manufacturing as a way further its ability to reach milestones. The company is more than halfway through a 24-month lean training program delivered by Purdue University's Technical Assistance Program. Focused first on manufacturing and distribution (both supervisors and hourly workers), the training ultimately will roll out across the remainder of Clabber Girl.

Morris says he receives the training, as well. "If I can't be behind it, if they [the employees] can't see that I'm passionate about it, then they're not going to be," he says. Manufacturing processes call for increased automation, as the batch producer makes a variety of products. In addition to the Clabber Girl brand, the company also produces private-label products and regional baking powder brands. Its foodservice line includes Royal dessert products, which include gelatins and cheesecake mixes.

Value-stream and process-mapping exercises indicate that it has multiple opportunities for cycle-time reductions, Morris adds. Formula changeovers and packaging and labeling are a few key examples of such opportunities, as is material movement. And the company has experienced “a huge reduction” in material waste during the filling process on its production lines, courtesy of problem-solving techniques shared by the Purdue instructors.

“One of the interesting things I like about having them come in is they don’t know what they don’t know, and they ask questions we take for granted,” Morris says. “It causes you to sit back and say, ‘That’s a darn good question, why didn’t we ask that.’ Our plan is to make sure the company is financially viable and successful for the next 100 [years]. It's entirely possible, but you need to use all of the available tools, lean manufacturing being one of them."

Source: Tortilla News, Industry Week