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Successful Implementations in Lean

Continuous Improvement Is No Fish Story at High Liner Foods

By Karen Myhaver, Project Support Coordinator, MassMEP

High Liner Foods (USA) Inc. is the US subsidiary of the Canadian based company. In their Portsmouth, New Hampshire plant, they produce some of the country’s highest quality frozen seafood under the Sea Cuisine and Fisher Boy® brands, as well as private label seafood products. Art Christianson, Vice President of Manufacturing, recognized the company’s need to reduce the cost of goods sold in order to be more competitive. The company also needed to open up capacity and drive down warehouse costs. Internally, they had formed groups to review process improvement options; members of their supply chain were included, like their carton supplier. Through these activities it was determined that Lean training would be beneficial to the company. Soon after attending a public Lean event put on by the New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NH  MEP) Christianson contacted project manager Christopher Tsakiris and arranged to have the NH MEP provide training to all one hundred twenty of High Liner’s Portsmouth staff.

Christopher and other NH MEP associates facilitated seven TimeWise® LE107 Principles of Lean for the Process Industry events at the company. This training combines classroom work with hands on "factory" simulations so students can apply what they have learned. These exercises help familiarize employees with Lean principles, terms, and tools. High Liner employee groups also participated in Value Stream Mapping exercises which help to identify process problems and determine improvement strategies. Then they were taught how to utilize the Kaizen, a Japanese term which roughly means "to take apart and put back together in a better way," to make improvements and remove waste from their processes.

Waste Streams Kaizen Yields Cost Savings of $250,000+ Per Year
The High Liner plant needed to cut down on the waste that was generated during production. By using Value Stream Mapping, a cross functional team of employees from all departments analyzed the areas of the process that generated the waste streams and identified continuous improvement ideas which would reduce or eliminate unnecessary costs and even generate additional revenue to the facility. Improvements were made to overall fish utilization for greater yield and better retention of the bread crumbs on the product. This enhanced overall product quality as well as eliminated waste. Paper board is now being recycled rather than disposed of. As a result of these efforts, High Liner Foods (USA) has seen an overall costs savings of more than $250,000 dollars a year.

Warehouse Kaizen Reduces Freight and Warehousing Costs
High Liner was utilizing several refrigerated warehouse locations throughout the country to store and distribute its products. The cost of storage and of transporting between facilities was significant. A Kaizen event was held focusing on warehouse utilization. The ideas that were generated and implemented had a tremendous impact on the company’s storage and freight bottom line. Other positive results included making the best use of space in the current freezer by racking and pallet optimization – changes in how the stored products are configured and what constituted a "full" pallet. The improvement in space utilization, combined with freight cross- docking, helped reduce freight costs and eliminate the number of outside warehouses needed for storage.

Through other 5s Kaizen activities, like cleaning, sorting, reorganizing, recycling, etc., High Liner reclaimed 120 sq. ft. of floor space and 7,000 lbs of stainless steel.

Oil Usage Team Kaizen Saves Approximately $200,000 Per Year
The price of cooking oil as a commodity has risen approximately 50% in just a few months. A significant number of High Liner’s fish products are battered & breaded and then "quick fried" in cooking oil to set the breading in place before they are flash frozen.  This is the process that allows the customer to prepare the product at home in their own oven.

The company needed to address the impact of the rising cost of oil on their process. A Kaizen team was formed to research oil usage throughout the process and to evaluate process technology improvement options which would increase efficiency. Improvements were made using several capital expenditures and modifications to the fryer sanitation processes and plant operating and maintenance practices. Additionally, waste oil is now recovered and sold for bio fuel. The annual savings from these improvements is approximately $200,000 dollars.

Up to $2.2 million saved!
The results from the Kaizen events in the Warehouse, Oil Usage, General Waste Stream, and additional events conducted at High Liner Foods (USA) Inc. have produced a savings of up to $2.2 million dollars.

The people who best know the processes and process issues are the employees who work with them every day. By engaging a cross section of our employees in the Lean Kaizens, we have been able to bring out wasteful and unnecessary steps that were otherwise not identified and make improvements using our employee’s very creative ideas. The Kaizen Process change was viewed as somewhat threatening to some of our employees, but the MEP instructors did an excellent job in teaching and coaching our teams in the process.
— Art Christianson, V.P. of Manufacturing. 

About High Liner Foods

High Liner Foods Incorporated is a Canadian based company that has been processing and marketing high quality frozen seafood products since 1899. Their headquarters is located in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, where they have one of the world’s most modern fish processing plants which focuses on serving the retail and food service markets of North America. The United States subsidiary, High Liner Foods (USA) Inc. has a plant located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire where they produce some of the highest quality frozen seafood in this country under the Sea Cuisine and Fisher Boy® brands in addition to private label seafood products. In fact, they are the largest supplier of retail private label processed seafood in the United States, producing over 50 different labels for U.S. grocery retailers.  From restaurant quality seasoned fillets to value-added fish and shellfish, High Liner Foods USA distributes its products through most major retail chain, club stores across the country, and to institutions for school food service programs.

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