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First Cliffstar-Way teams produce results in Dunkirk

May 24, 2009
Westfield Republican
The Cliffstar Way, also known as C-Way, was launched this past January. It is a new way of doing business for Cliffstar and it is becoming the Cliffstar Way of operating; how the company solves problems, makes improvements and conducts business. It is a cultural change; one which will help to grow and strengthen the company in uncertain times while making work lives and personal lives more rewarding. C-Way is focused on expanding the abilities of Cliffstar associates and rewarding them for learning and getting involved in the process of making the company better. The company wants to sustain and improve their associates’ wage rates and job security as well as involve as many associates as possible in directly improving all aspects of Cliffstar. Employees are able to participate in the program several ways. People may offer individual suggestions pertaining to just about any aspect of the company. They may also participate as a member of a C-Way team. These teams are generally cross-functional, multi-level groups of people assembled to define, analyze and make recommendations. The team leader has overall accountability for results, while the facilitator focuses on the problem solving process and is accountable for the skill sets of the team members. C-Way teaches team skills and problem solving tools to help them in this process. The teams come together, learn, produce, report findings and then disband. C-Way is headed by a corporate steering team (CST), including the CEO and corporate facilitator, as well as other cross-functional members, each serving a term. Each plant site has its own steering team with the plant manager and site facilitator as permanent members along with several other term cross-functional members. These teams sponsor the C-Way teams mentioned above. They gather opportunities based on associate input as well as other needs determined by management. From this list, they determine which teams are assembled to attack the available opportunities or problems. The corporate facilitator acts as the coach and mentor to the CST, plant steering teams and individual C-Way teams. Two teams recently presented recommendations to the Dunkirk Steering team. The Pallet team is comprised of four associates: Dustin Schauman, Tami Wills, Dave Huch and Joe Latimore, a team leader, Jack Pencek and a facilitator, Janet Szymanski. All are Dunkirk plant associates. The team came together as a result of team member Dave Huch pointing out pallet issues in the facility. Poor quality pallets are a potential safety hazard, as well as a source of finished product damage. The team defined the problem, stating, “The quality of Pallets is causing safety issues, downtime, product loss and lack of both internal and external customer satisfaction.” They also declared a goal to “ensure pallet quality, establish requirements for all wood pallets accepted, distributed and repaired, and guarantee associate safety and customer safety and satisfaction.” The team learned problem-solving and data-collection techniques and applied them to the problem. After analyzing the situation the team developed recommendations to address the root causes of the problem and presented them to the Dunkirk Steering Team (DST). At the final presentation of recommendations, team members reported they initially thought they would be asking the company for nearly $125,000 to buy a better grade of pallet. They surprised themselves when the recommendations they made turned out to save Cliffstar roughly that same amount in the next year. The Processing/Batching team is comprised of four associates: Wayne Seabolt, Phil Bull, Tony Schettine, and Tom Shaffer Sr, team leader. Janet Szymanski served as facilitator to the team. The team defined their problem statement as, “Inability to provide processing ingredients for batching on time while meeting all certified values.” The team’s goal was to prevent ingredient outages and certified value variances. The group used the newly learned lessons to gather data to determine root causes leading to the shortage conditions in the bottling plant. They developed a list of recommendations around procedures relating to batching and inventory control of bulk ingredients, as well procurement. The team presented recently their recommendations. Perhaps the most important benefit of C-Way is that Cliffstar associates have grown as a result of their participation in this initiative Pallet team leader Jack Pencek summarized his experience when he told his fellow associates: “It is not just about putting out cases of product. It is about making our jobs easier and about our safety… It is about wanting to come to work and feeling good about the job we all do every day. After participating on this team, I know my self confidence has been boosted. I also feel that this company has confidence in all of us employees to be empowered to make suggestions and take part in day-to-day operations. I am ecstatic to know that people still care about their work environment, and work hard to strive to make our jobs simpler, easier, and more profitable.” Cliffstar is very proud of each team member involved with this initiative and pleased to see new teams being formed to address additional business challenges. The Cliffstar Way is beginning to become embedded in the fabric of the company.

Article Photos

Submitted Photo
The Cliffstar Pallet Team, from left: Dustin Schauman, Joe Latimore, Tami Wills, Dave Huch, Janet Szymanski, Jack Pencek.



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