In order to lead the way in a competitive market, you need to change constantly. Implement changes, optimize processes, ensuring people in the work place adapt, is not that difficult according to Eric van Roosmalen, Plant Manager at Dawn Foods. “Changes aren’t invented behind a desk.”
What are the most important developments in the food industry in your opinion?
“Consumers are increasingly critical and articulate. They complain more easily than before. Delivering high quality is, therefore, more important than ever. Adding to that, the traceability of products is essential. Were an accident to occur, you need to be able to identify what caused it. We also see that internationalization is increasing. Western Europe has actually become our home market. The market outside of that is growing. Additionally, today we know what sells today, is not per se attractive for the consumers of tomorrow. Consumers have a lot of choice and know exactly what they want. Products need to remain exciting and innovative or they need to appeal to health or sustainability.”
In what way do you anticipate this?
Cost reduction is a timeless method. It is and remains extremely important, but you will not make if you use it. We operate in a very competitive market. To survive, we need to adapt to our customers. That’s the reason we developed a vegan product line. We realize that we operate in an environment in constant need of change. This means we need to constantly adapt ourselves. Not just concerning product line, but also concerning organization.
What does that ask from you as a plant manager?
As a plant manager I apply a strict hierarchy: safety, quality, production. People need to come home healthy after a day at work. That is the basic condition required to be able to do one’s job well. I am convinced that a safe factory is an efficient factory. I need to be informed at all times. I use my network to stay up to date with trends and developments. I do not wait to see what my competitor is doing. Dawn Foods is an innovative organization and we are critical about our work methods. Everyday we ask ourselves: what can be improved, how can we structure our process more smartly, how do we ensure the “first time right-score”.
What does that require from your colleagues: now and in the future?
Continuous improvement is a mindset. You should never be satisfied with the attained result. Of course you are allowed to look back and celebrate your successes; that is equally important. But what we have achieved so far for the next term, is the norm. We always raise the bar higher for ourselves.
Improvement is a mindset, you say. How do you ensure your people adapt the same mindset?
That’s quite simple. Each change we implement has been invented in the work place and not behind a desk. The people in the work place are at the basis of our working programs. I often engage in conversation with our operators. The question is always ask them is: ‘What can we improve?’ Everybody has a different opinion on that, but not everyone is motivated to share their opinion. Due to past experiences, people sometimes think: Why would I say something about it if no one listens anyway? I then answer with: ‘let me know what can be improved, because you know what you’re doing.’ When people experience that they have influence and see how something can change, something called the fly wheel effect takes place. The improvements are implemented way more rapidly. That is beautiful to see.
You have been working at Dawn Foods since 2019. How do you like your role there?
The challenges I encountered in the beginning were bigger than I thought; but the chances I get are also bigger. Dawn Foods is a fantastic company to work at. The products are fun and recognizable. Also, they are tasteful: that is thanks to the specific technology we use. When you eat one of our cookies, je experience a real wow moment. It is not comparable with the standard cookie served with your coffee. But in the end, it is the people that make the difference. The people at Dawn Foods are very involved. The interactivity – what you give versus what you get – is pleasant. Especially when you take the time to listen to each other and to treat each other with respect, you achieve a lot of things. Everyone is prepared to take that extra step. That DNA is truly engrained!