Candy Industry Blog

Continuous improvement works for all

September 21, 2011

Continuous improvement works for all

Yesterday, I spent most of my time attending the American Association of Candy Technologists’ (AACT) National Technical Seminar in Lincolnshire, Ill., a northern suburb of Chicago and a short drive from our offices in Deerfield. This annual event always brings out the “tekkie” in me, since the two days of seminars focus on a host of operational topics, from formulation issues to production improvements, from regulatory advisories to safety and traceability concerns.
After taking care of morning business in the office, I drove over to the AACT meeting and caught Richard Gordon’s presentation on “Effective Product Specifications that Satisfy Customers.” Gordon, who heads up Chocolate Potpourri, a family-run gourmet chocolate company that’s been in business for several decades, knows and understands what it means to adjust to market conditions.
his earnest entrepreneur has seen lovely as well as lean times. As a result, I was curious to hear what he had to say about dealing with “a customer who made what seemed to be impossible changes to product specifications of an existing product line.”
So what do you do, he asked the audience, when that phone call comes form a customer ― an important customer ― who tells you that your product is out of spec. “You first take a deep breath,” he said, obviously speaking with experience.
Having gone through every phase of running a chocolate artisan business, from mastering the craft to managing the business, Gordon can share stories about survival in which anyone can relate. In his case history presentation, the master chocolatier went on to explain how a customer had told him that the chocolate shells in his company’s truffles were too thick. While some might enjoy the extra chocolate a thicker shell delivers, this high-end account wanted a specific experience.
So what to do next?
Gordon, who’s a fan of Six Sigma Methodology and a tekkie at heart, I believe, decided to implement DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve and control). Although he’s not a fan of the abbreviation, the process works he assured us.
In his presentation, Gordon explained how he found the root cause of the problem, first defining ― in the customer’s words ― what was the issue at hand and then translating that into what his operations team could understand. And while Gordon’s crew already had a variety of measurements they undertook during processing, it was clear that those statistics weren’t doing the job.
Although I don’t have the space to get into specifics, let’s just say he and his team scrutinized the key elements of the production process, looking at tempering, one-shot depositing and enrobing. As it turned out, there were inconsistencies regarding depositing of certain centers and tempering parameters.
In addition, feedback from the beginning of the production stream toward the end wasn’t verifiable. Apparently, a shout out from one employee to another at the beginning of the line doesn’t always ensure changes are made.
After determining that some controls needed to be implemented, from introducing a go/no gauge that ensured correct truffle shell size to devising an inexpensive data collection process capturing tempering data and weight data, the production team soon had a real time-monitoring process in place.
As you can imagine, the benefits proved immense for Gordon and his crew. Hey, first, the customer’s complaints were addressed. Second, the company used less chocolate. Third, a new in-process quality control had been introduced. And fourth, the introduction of new data was going to allow Gordon and his crew to assess and analyze the information to help improve training, pricing and product development.
Moral of the presentation: being an artisan doesn’t mean you can’t access and implement continuous improvement practices and existing technologies to foster growth, both internally and externally. In this instance, art and automation can work together.
You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

A Venetian Carnival, a Jelly Belly sculpture and gourmet chocolates! Oh my!

Candy Industry takes you into the French Pastry’s School For the Love of Chocolate event in Chicago, held Feb. 25.

Candy Industry Magazine

candy may 2015

May 2015

Check out the May issue, featuring products from Sweets & Snacks Expo, how Enstrom's rebranding looks promising, and more!
Table Of Contents Subscribe

Healthier Food Options

A recent Nielsen report shows that consumers are calling for healthier options from food manufacturers. Do you think consumers will actually buy healthier versions of their favorite candy and snacks if they’re made available?
View Results Poll Archive

Candy Industry Store

M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\Candy Industry\natural-food-flavors-colora.gif
Natural Food Flavors and Colorants

Although many foods are appealing, and even perceived as natural, in spite of containing synthetic additives, consumer increasingly prefer food products which are fully natural.

More Products

Candy Industry's Kettle Awards

Kettle Awards

Since 1946, Candy Industry magazine has recognized leaders in the U.S. confectionery industry with the highest recognition possible, the Kettle Award. The distinguished recipients have captured this most coveted award by not only excelling within their companies, but by contributing to the greater good of the industry. It’s virtually a who’s who of past and present professionals who have left their mark as confectioners and business mavens. Learn more about the voting process as well as the annual Kettle Awards Ceremony by visiting our Kettle Awards Website


fb40   twitter 40    youtube40    linked   Google+

Clear Seas Research

Clear SeasWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.