Successful improving in practice: Zeelandia | Cierpa
Cierpa blog - Succesvol verbeteren in de praktijk: Zeelandia

With 3100 employees all over the world, in 23 production plants from Kenya to Russia, Zeelandia has become a large international player. Still, Zeelandia hasn’t forgotten the local bakeries: the company still delivers directly to Dutch bakeries, without any intermediaries. That’s unique in the industry!

Hans van Helvoort is Quality Assurance Manager at the Zierikzee location. His focus is clear: don’t just solve, fundamentally improve!

The Zeelandia Zierikzee QA team, from left to right: Esther Steijns, Sandra Evertse, Hans van Helvoort, Ralf Foekens, and Mara Buyse. 

“A QA manager is always focused on quality assurance. Do systems and processes comply with legislation? Do we work according to HACCP food safety norms? Do we adhere to our customers’ norms, like BRC? First, you focus on working according to the rules, but you can always do better. Recording and improving the processes is a company-wide approach; from Purchasing to Logistics, from Development to Planning, we try to support our operational staff as much as we can. When we persevere, we can improve the process together.”

How do you discover improvement opportunities at Zeelandia?

“Improvement opportunities can come from a complaint from an internal customer, external customer or supplier. Or, a problem can be discovered through an audit or inspection. These problems need to be solved. We take these different steps: 1. Corrective action: address and eliminate the problem. 2. Root cause analysis: determine the cause of the problem. 3. Preventative measure: prevent it from happening again. And there’s a fourth and quite important step: over time we need to verify whether our action has had the intended results. Consolidation can be overlooked if you don’t pay attention; not just at Zeelandia but at any company.”

How did Zeelandia start improving?

“I started working at Zeelandia six months ago. Different meetings would produce action lists and failure lists, in different Excel- and Word documents. The Kaizen Cockpit was only used in the production department, to improve production procedures. But it wasn’t used to improve company processes. There wasn’t much overview of what other people were doing, and what you had to do yourself. That was quite obvious in the weekly meetings: 'Oh right, I‘ll finish that too.'  And then the task would be postponed for another week. Also, work procedures were focused on direct solutions, not on preventative actions." 

“We implemented the Kaizen Cockpit throughout the company. No more Excel sheets!”

“I really wanted to have a centralized system that could also hold my CAPA lists. That’s why we decided to implement the Kaizen Cockpit throughout the company. No more Excel sheets! The software enables you to link an action to a specific person, to data, and to steps, so it’s easy to keep things manageable. And another great feature is that it works via PDCA: Plan, Do, Check, Act. It’s a perfect tool to keep an overview.”

So how does the method work in practice?

“We used to have a weekly “complaints” meeting, and used different ways of reporting. Now, we meet once every two weeks. I open the Kaizen Cockpit and then we talk about all the actions with a Do status. Also, everybody receives an email on Monday with all outstanding issues.  It just works because everybody knows what to do.”

 “Instead of 90 minutes, the meeting is now over in 30 minutes.”

“We also noticed that complaints are handled more smoothly. Instead of 90 minutes, the meeting is now over in 30 minutes. Everything is dealt with, primarily because everyone has performed his or her tasks.”

 What about verification?

“Our department mainly focuses on Check. All actions that need verification can be taken out of the system and reviewed. This way we can verify tasks that have been done a couple of months ago. When things don’t run perfectly yet we need to adjust (the planning step); once they work the task can be secured and finished. I used Excel at my former employer. That did the trick too, but this just runs a whole lot smoother.”

What’s your golden tip for process improvement?

“Secure! Ask an appointed employee to check if changes were implemented correctly and whether these improvements work. You can‘t ask line staff to do it; people are busy producing. Someone needs to be offline to run the tests independently. Only after independent testing should an improvement become part of the line organization. Don’t forget to secure; it is an invaluable part of process improvement!”