Better and Better: Continuous Improvement Takes Attention, Engagement, and Heart
Mike Thelen first learned of Seaboard Triumph Foods through a mutual acquaintance where he then met Mark Porter, COO. “I quickly found that he and I shared similar views on leadership and management. I could tell he was someone willing to work with me, sharing similar beliefs, but understanding I had a perspective that could bring something unique to Seaboard Triumph Foods,” he said. “It was too tempting of an opportunity to walk away from.”
Thelen, recently promoted to Director of Continuous Improvement at STF, uses his experience to ignite the “people first” mentality that drives the company culture at the new pork processing plant here in Sioux City.
Continuous Improvement is the ongoing effort to improve product and processes by using Lean Management. Lean Management seeks to achieve small changes, little by little, to improve efficiency and quality. “When Continuous Improvement, or Lean, was first shared with the world, virtually all of the learning and understanding was focused on tools,” said Thelen. “It wasn’t until years later that organizations started to understand the significance of culture and real Employee engagement and respect.”
As the name implies, the Continuous Improvement model is based on the necessity of change. “We can’t reach our goals by doing things the same way today that we did yesterday, nor can we expect one person to have all the answers,” he said. “Improvement requires that all of us be invested and engaged with the process and each other. This means listening to the folks on the line and creating a team-based culture that encourages feedback and buy-in.”
Thelen notes that Continuous Improvement always starts with safety. Seaboard Triumph Foods uses technology to help increase food safety, minimize waste, and streamline workflows. “When it comes to technology, the key is understanding what you are automating and why,” he stated.
The use of these Continuous Improvement principles right out of the gate is one of the reasons as to what makes Seaboard Triumph Foods so different. “We’re a brand new organization in a brand new building. We’re a start-up. We are learning as we go, so there will be challenges, but the best part about having Continuous Improvement as part of the recipe is that we’re not just measuring and improving in-line performance; we’re also continually monitoring leadership, training, development, interaction—everywhere. That’s how we’re going to be the best, by engaging everyone, every day.”
Thelen added, “The energy and passion among the leaders, folks who’ve been in this industry for some time, is amazing. There’s a lot of heart in this business. And now we can turn that heart into meaningful results, not only for the products we produce, but for the teams of people who help make them.”
Seaboard Triumph Foods is currently hiring team members for a variety of positions in its new Sioux City facility. Learn more here.