Sargento Foods is an American food producer best known for its cheese products. Established in 1953 in Plymouth, Wisconsin, Sargento is one of the largest retail cheese companies in the U.S. today. Sargento was the first company to introduce, package, and sell shredded cheese in 1958. Sargento continued to reshape the cheese industry with the introduction of the first re-sealable cheese packaging in 1986. The company has 3 production facilities in Wisconsin. All 3 plants run three 8-hour production shifts Monday through Friday, also known as a 120-40, balanced, 8-hour, 5-2. The Kiel plant was operating 9 shredded cheese production lines with employees working overtime on Saturdays and Sundays to meet the increased demand for shreds. In addition, the plant implemented a weekend only crew, commonly known as "weekend warriors", as a short-term solution for high demand.
INDUSTRY: Food Manufacturing
WORLDWIDE EMPLOYEES: approx. 1800
REVENUES: $ 1.3 billion
HEADQUARTERS: Plymouth, Wisconsin
The Kiel plant looked to Coleman Consulting Group to design a solution to address the increasing demand for production of their shredded cheese products. The first challenge was to eliminate the weekend warrior shift. Weekend warriors can work as a short term bandaid, but it is a costly and difficult way to successfully manage long term growth. Some obstacles in the plant included recruiting, training, retention of employees, production quality, and workforce skill imbalance. Another challenge was managing a schedule change with the existing employees since approximately 40% of the workers have been with Sargento for 20 plus years and they were used to their schedules and overtime. Our confidential Coleman employee surveys determined that 20% of the existing workers were looking for an alternative schedule for a better work-life balance. Our challenge was to find a way to flex the current workforce to match the increased demand for production in a predictable way so employees could work overtime on a volunteer basis but still have time off for recuperation.
Sargento looked to Coleman Consulting Group to design a long-term alternative shift solution to ensure employees did not have to continue working seven days a week to keep up with increased demand for shreds.
The new schedule gives employees a minimum of 182 days off per year, an increase from the current 104 days
off, while still meeting the growing demand. These days off include built-in overtime that many employees requested as a way to maintain higher levels of income. Moreover, the new scheduling system gives every employee the ability to work more overtime on a volunteer basis. This is a big win for Sargento employees. The company is saving money by paying less over time, eliminating the need for costly "weekend warriors",
and has reduced the risk of burnout of their valued workforce.
Coleman Consulting Group had to reimagine not only the employee schedules but also every aspect of the business, including the raw materials, supply chain, sanitation, equipment limitations, and finished product storage or movement to retail. Our consultants facilitated discussions between plant management, the logistics teams, and corporate production schedulers to vet out the issues associated with implementing change. The new production strategy would allow the facility to operate with either a few or all 9 shredded cheese lines for up to 168 hours continuously each week. Running a 24/7 operation meant that all of the support departments needed to be prepared to help with continuous production to keep up with demand. From an employee perspective, the solution design meant that people would be added to shifts and some jobs would require additional cross-training. CCG worked with the supervisors to identify the training gaps and place employees with the right skills in the positions to offer the most significant coverage and flexibility in the event of issues. Based on an analysis of current sales demand, our consultants were able to determine that the plant did not need to immediately change all 9 production lines. Instead, we changed 2 lines to a 24/7 operation to start, giving the plant a flexible plan to increase or decrease additional lines as needed. In addition, this gradual change will allow the management team and employees to adjust to the new alternative schedule and learn how to anticipate issues before they arise. This leaves 7 current production lines intact for now, satisfying the employees that are not interested in making a change.
"Sargento had implemented a weekend warrior schedule to increase capacity. After two years, the effort failed. CCG worked with management and employees to make up and increase plant capacity."
-Frank Pereira, Managing Partner at Coleman Consulting Group