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For more information contact:
Kathie Mahoney, MassMEP, kathiem@massmep.org,
Shari Worthington, PR Counsel, Telesian Technology,

Recipe for Transformation at New England Natural Bakers Includes Workforce Training Grant and Continuous Improvement

Elevated Employee Roles and Improvements in Production Provide Smooth Transition to ESOP

August 12, 2013 – Worcester, Massachusetts -- New England Natural Bakers (NENB), of Greenfield, Massachusetts, is the east coast's leading granola manufacturer. They thought they were a "lean" company. They had implemented many good procedures like FIFO and demand management and were cautious about the amount of inventory they carried. But they hadn't provided employees with tools or empowered them to make improvements on their own. This concerned John Broucek, owner and founder, as he was thinking about retirement. He wanted assurance that the company he had nurtured for so many years would be sold to someone with similar values and mind set.

The transformation started in 2009 when Broucek hired Susan Dorais as Director of Human Resources, hired a new controller, and rehired their sales and marketing manager. The objective was to embody NENB values and drive the company to operational efficiency. 

Susan Dorais contacted the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) in 2011 for assistance with a Workforce Training Fund grant to help with training costs. By that time she felt NENB had the culture in place to support the training. The company acknowledged that their employees are the experts at doing their jobs and wanted to empower them to get more involved.

The NENB work plan included:

  • Lean Training
  • Value Stream Mapping
  • TIPS (Team Involvement Problem Solving)
  • Kaizen focused improvement events

"Some people were a bit skeptical, but overall the employees liked the whole idea of the training," said Susan Dorais. "Once they saw the value in the changes that made their work lives easier, they jumped on board!"

NENB machine operators were aware that there were better ways to do things but lacked the tools or weren't comfortable enough to initiate changes on their own. Many felt that new equipment had to be purchased in order to improve productivity. Utilizing 5 S and Set-Up Reduction Kaizen, MassMEP worked with employee teams to make improvements and remove waste from processes, negating the need for expensive equipment purchases.

"By the time we had our final Kaizen, a Set-Up Reduction, participants were overflowing with ideas and creative solutions," added Dorais. "People had begun working as teams instead of pointing fingers or blaming other shifts. Now they are apt to work in groups because they recognize the value and cultural benefits."

"MassMEP has that certain personality -- they are listeners and coaches who know when to step back and when to get involved," said Dorais. "They have a professional grace and ease so that people do not realize that they are being guided to do things differently and come to the appropriate conclusions themselves."

The results at NENB speak for themselves:

  • Increased line efficiency >10%
  • Reduced mixing times by 9 minutes
  • Decreased waiting time before packaging by 22%
  • Reduced packaging waste from 20% to 12% (goal was 12.5%)
  • Reduced changeover time for packaging from 72 minutes to 66 minutes
  • Improved productivity = no need for new equipment = avoid cost of $105,000

"NENB is a role model in how to execute a continuous improvement initiative," stated Susan Janus, MassMEP Project Manager. "They took action on their own, experimented, and made things happen. Employees' roles were elevated. This allowed them to actively participate in the change, follow up on action items, and implement ideas. Not every company has the leadership in place to accomplish this; leadership that is willing to examine workplace culture, make adjustments where necessary, and successfully engaged their workforce in a powerful way. This is why NENB has been successful."

As Broucek neared the retirement decision, an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) emerged as the best solution for the 45 plus employees. It guaranteed the viability of the company's values based culture and preserved jobs while remaining at their current location.

"At NENB, everyone knew their focus, had the same ideals and goals, and was willing to work for those," said Janus. "In addition, Broucek will remain with the company in the role of General Manager, allowing the people and the company to function and prosper."

Today, New England Natural Bakers is the east coast's leading granola manufacturer, producing all natural, nutritious, and organic products of both their own brand and private label granola and trail mix.  In over three decades the organization has grown to 45 plus employees who share Broucek's vision and many of his passions. They are hard working people who take pride in creating good foods to promote healthy minds and bodies, in being conscientious about natural resources and the environment, and in giving back to their community.

About MassMEP
Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership provides services that help manufacturers transform and grow their organizations. From workforce strategies to lean training to supply chain management, MassMEP delivers positive, measurable, and sustainable impact on a company's top and bottom lines. Key programs include Innovation for Growth, Workforce Strategies, Systemic Continuous Improvement, and Value Opportunity Profile. For more information, visit http://www.massmep.org.

For further information contact:
Kathie Mahoney
MassMEP
100 Grove St.
Worcester, MA 01605
Tel: 508-831-7020
E-mail: kathiem@massmep.org
Web: http://www.massmep.org

PR Office:
Shari Worthington, President
Telesian Technology Inc.
49 Midgley Lane
Worcester, MA 01604 USA
+1 508.755.5242, Fax: +1 508.795.1636
Email:

© 2013, MassMEP, Manufacturing Advancement Center