Portion of swiss cheese

The New Lean State at Berner Foods Driven by Technology

Thomas Cutler
August 14, 2014

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Berner Food & Beverage Inc. is best known as “a private label supplier of quality food and beverage products to most of the top retail chains across all trade channels.”

Although the company’s roots were producing Swiss cheese more than 75 years ago, its state-of-the-art facility provides a complete line of dips, cheese sauces, and best-selling beverage items. Berner Foods is the leading U.S. producer of private label Aerosol Cheese, Jar Cheese, retort Salsa Con Queso, and shelf-stable dips, retort Alfredo sauces, retort Iced Latte and Coffee Energy beverages.

Troy Grove, chief information officer at Berner, said, “Berner had a lean initiative team about 10 years ago. The concept has been ingrained into the culture, so now we use continuous improvement methods. We have someone dedicated to continuous improvement, and he brings together associates for various projects. Lean boasts a consistent focus on not only when new projects or processes are implemented, but also to improve on the line run rates for the various targeted parts per million (PPM).”

He added how important it is for a mid-sized food and beverage company to have high-quality people and a lean culture. It maximizes efficiency and allows for less overall waste.

The private label company can quantify error reduction using supplier scorecards as a metric and internal metrics that allow employees to measure how the company is improving. Berner uses TraceGains’ built-in reports to measure the success of the program and suppliers. By having supplier purchase order information, Berner Foods seamlessly translated data from the company’s ERP system to suppliers and back to R&D, Quality, and the Production floor.

“The ease of usage and lack of physical paper has allowed a tighter and more integrated process for Berner and our suppliers. The integration has allowed all departments to see the same data in seconds,” Grove said.

Like many food and beverage companies heavily invested in enterprise resource planning (ERP) technology, the process Berner experienced in leveraging existing technology solutions with TraceGains was not unique.

Grove recalled, “As our business grew and Safe Quality Food (SQF) became the standard and, in some cases for our customers, a necessary process for audits, we realized we could no longer track documentation the old way. Also, we needed to extend our supply chain approval process to the point of ship versus the point of receipt.”

The challenges Berner experienced are also normative in the food and beverage sectors. They had to re-evaluate the process flow through the company and get suppliers on board and trained. The result was to extend the supply chain and supplier scorecard by creating one system and location for the required SQF documentation. Proactive document notification internally and externally to suppliers resulted in a significant reduction of time and effort to track SQF requirements and ease audit document retrieval during an ongoing audit.

Berner integrated the ERP system for uploading POs (purchase orders) and COAs (certificates of analysis) information for suppliers while using TraceGains’ ActionForms™ – a built-in process for emailing forms through a template.

“This integration [between ERP and TraceGains] has been a benefit, driving lean process with error reduction, less paper, and more efficient tracking,” Grove said.

Looking ahead, Berner plans on using these technologies in new and different ways.

According to Grove, “As we grow, the system will grow around us. We’re already working on adding to our current integrations as well as creating new ones. We foresee TraceGains helping us improve our relationship with suppliers and improve our processes.”

Thomas R. Cutler is the president and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based TR Cutler Inc.TR_Cutler_Web Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium, including more than 5,000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 500 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler is the most published freelance industrial journalist worldwide and can be contacted at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com and can be followed on Twitter @ThomasRCutler.