Van Den Brink Poultry increase efficiency and reduce waste

Business improvement ideas that came from two groups at Van Den Brink Poultry resulted in increased efficiency and reduced waste at their company’s factories.

Van Den Brink Poultry has run their workplace literacy and communication programme for over 75 staff across Auckland sites for the last two years. The programmes are funded by the Tertiary Education Commission’s Workplace Literacy and Numeracy Fund.

Learners are challenged through critical thinking and problem solving to find a way of improving their current workplace. The programme has been a real benefit to participants, with the creation of a clear and achievable career progression for staff. Some of them are now on a pathway into NZQA formal qualifications as a result of boosted skills and confidence they have received in the programme. More broadly, the programme is a signal of Brinks’ commitment to implementing ideas and the confidence of its participants to put their ideas forward.

Sarah Balfour, a director at Upskills, the training provider that delivered the courses:  “Our kaupapa at Upskills is grounded in growing the potential in learners and their organisations. Throughout the course of the Step Up programme we workshop and unpack different models and tools that shift awareness around thinking about communication, product waste, and continuous improvement.

“When you empower your staff with the tools to express their ideas with confidence, the return on that investment is huge and that’s what we’ve seen with Step Up.  From cost benefit thinking, pitching an innovation, growing digital literacy and becoming more confident in their interpersonal and team interactions, participants can stand tall in all the learning they are taking away from being part of the programme. What’s even better is that these skills, tools and thinking flow out to impact their colleagues and even families and communities.  Brinks is creating a powerful learning culture and foundation literacy and numeracy is a key part of that.”

Four learners in one group chose to reduce chicken breast portion waste as an improvement project. The annual cost of this waste is significant. As part of the programme the team learned:

  • how to write persuasive emails (having never written emails before)
  • to co-ordinate meetings with the site manager, engineers, health and safety, and human resources
  • to express their ideas (having been too shy to talk to management before the course).

The four came up with various ideas and persevered until they identified a solution, one that could be made out of pieces of scrap metal that the factory engineers already had on hand. Meaning very little time and cost to create.

In the first week of implementation, wastage was reduced by around 90 per cent.  This has the potential to save the company a huge amount of money annually.

The other project involved knife sharpening. This learner group brainstormed ideas identified that improving the factory staff’s ability to sharpen knives properly would reduce time waste, accidents, product waste and improve overall efficiencies.

They displayed phenomenal teamwork and addressed the issue from many angles:

  • inviting supervisors in for meetings
  • requesting data from Health and Safety managers
  • requesting a new knife sharpening tool be purchased which would benefit both shifts
  • preparing an online presentation for key managers in the business
  • creating an uplifting and informative video on how to sharpen knives
  • becoming the 'expert users' of the new knife sharpening tool.

Now instead of staying sharp for three-four hours, the knives remain sharp for three-four days!

Course participants talked positively about what they had gained from the programme, in terms of the contribution they had made by improving the business and how it had built their confidence and skills.

“I learned I can focus on work and on answering questions and I can do 2 or 3 things at the same time. And ever since I grew up I don't like to share things… But I learned on the course that to share is a good thing and how to share my ideas with other people as well.”

“The best thing was improving my knowledge and skills in doing my own job and understanding more about the importance of everything we do daily. I can now confidently do my job without asking and raise up issues that need to be fixed to the charge hand and supervisors. I use what I learned from the course to empower other workers. “

“I believe my communication with management, my team and with others at work is a lot stronger now.  I feel I am more patient with teaching others what I know and have learnt from the course.”

I apply everything I have learnt from the course everyday with my work, as I am leading by example.”

Van Den Brink’s two learner groups jointly won the 2020 Skills Highway Learner Group Champion Award.