News

News

September 13th, 2011

Cedenco’s five-year training plan for cultural success

Cedenco Foods is a leading food manufacturing company, supplying domestic and international customers with a range of added-value agricultural food products, with a strong culture of continuous improvement underpinned by staff training. Back in 2009 the company made headlines when it went into receivership, but it’s the untold story that’s most significant on how Cedenco continued to grow and diversify through a significant period of change up to the present day, with a loyal, skilled workforce to take them there. Now under the ownership of Japanese food ingredients company Imanaka Foods, Cedenco continues to go from strength to strength. Cedenco’s fresh-produce processing and growing locations are in Gisborne and Hastings, and each site hosts a predominantly seasonal workforce of 250 and 90 workers respectively. Cedenco’s manufacturing excellence manager, Debbie Tehau, says they made the decision to nurture and grow the capability of their people to drive productivity improvements throughout the business long before the changes at a governance level came into play – and it shows. “Business excellence starts with the skills of our people, we believe. We continually assess our skill needs right across the business, and we’re committed to meeting those needs at every level with the right training, at the right time,” says Debbie. The company put a formal, five-year continuous improvement plan in place in consultation with Competenz account manager, Wayne Carpendale, with the aim to develop a company culture driven by an educated workforce with a strong sense of ownership in their workplace. In 2007 Cedenco engaged their Gisborne site staff in food safety and health and safety training, and Level 2 food and related products processing training through Competenz, the industry training organisation for the food manufacturing sector. This had a number of positive spinoffs - including improved productivity and an unexpected but welcome boost in staff morale. The seeds of a company-wide cultural shift were being firmly planted, and from there Debbie was given the ‘green light’ to engage their Hastings site staff in similar training during her one-and-half year secondment to the Hawke’s Bay. “We planned the training around our low-production season and, at that stage, dedicated each Monday over a 16-week period to engage our Whakatu staff in training,” says Debbie. “We started with literacy and numeracy linked in to health and safety training; most of our seasonal staff spoke English as their second language. Then everyone went on to complete their national certificates in OSH. “Employees that were really suspicious of the training were soon singing its praises – they realised the skills they were learning enhanced their lives at work and at home. “They soaked up the learning like sponges, and started turning up early for our sessions. We saw their self-confidence grow significantly, along with their understanding of our operating procedures and their roles.” Employees who once struggled to complete important forms on-the-job could now write full incident reports, and step-by-step instructions to guide others through tasks. “Our team’s literacy, numeracy and communication skills improved so much the trainers were moderated to prove our staff did the work themselves! That’s how dramatically their skills improved.” With a new-found confidence the team immediately began sharing their own ideas to make their workplace even more productive. “One man told us he needed to stop and de-fog his safety goggles every five minutes so he could see what he was doing, and he suggested we buy fog-resistant goggles to reduce the downtime this created,” says Debbie. “This simple idea made a huge difference to our team’s productivity; it eliminated a problem that everyone on his line was experiencing – and that’s just one of the many improvements our workers suggested that we’ve since implemented and benefitted from.” As part of their continuous improvement strategy, Cedenco also developed a number of cross-functional improvement teams which include members of their individually quick frozen (IQF), evaporator (EVAP) machine operators, and other team members from all other business units, including sales. Now Cedenco is taking further steps to lift the overall skills and capability of its people. Debbie is well-qualified to lead and manage the training programme, which aims to equip staff with the tools to identify and implement change to maintain an environment of manufacturing excellence. The programme has the full support of Cedenco’s managing director, Tim Chrisp, and that of the company’s entire senior management team. “Having a person of Debbie’s calibre and experience to dedicate to the continuous improvement role is key,” say Tim. “Debbie has been instrumental in the planning and implementation of the programme to strategically upskill our team.” Debbie holds advanced-level total production maintenance (TPM) qualifications and is currently looking at her Level 5 competitive manufacturing (CM) qualification. Debbie was also one of the country’s first Competenz-registered workplace assessors for competitive manufacturing, up to Level 3. “With Wayne’s help we successfully mapped 26 of our employees’ basic TPM training to count toward Level 2 Manufacturing Core Skills qualifications, which are NZQA-accredited,” says Debbie. “The manufacturing core skills qualifications will dovetail nicely into the next steps in our plan, to upskill the team in competitive manufacturing or ‘lean’ qualifications.” It hasn’t been easy, but as we make our way around the inner workings of Cedenco’s Gisborne site it’s clear their staff are motivated, dedicated, and hold a great deal of respect for what Debbie and the team have helped them to achieve. “Everyone in the Cedenco ‘family’ contributes to manufacturing excellence, and we feel our structured approach to training to grow and recognise our people’s skills is what gives us our competitive edge.” Cedenco's manufacturing excellence manager, Debbie Tehau (right), discusses the evaporator lines with experienced operator, Dwayne Rehutai (left).