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Standalone Quaker success v3.1 rev 8/31/04p. 1

Success Story

Food for Thought – Team Tools at Quaker Oats


Employees at the Quaker Oats plant in Danville, Illinois, struggled with the company’s highest per-case cost and the inefficiencies of small-scale production. Some regarded the plant as a lost cause, and closure was the only answer. Today, however, the Danville facility is one of the most efficient operations in the industry. LightSpeed Learning's Team Tools training played a key role in their dramatic turnaround.

"LightSpeed Learning and their affiliate, the Belgard Group, taught us to think about what needs to be done rather than what you know you can do. The critical difference is that you don’t limit yourself. You can learn skills later."

Steve Bruner, Plant Manager, Quaker Oats, Danville.

Understanding the Problem

The Danville facility was plagued with continuing waste and productivity issues. Relations between management and union were already strained and had suffered further during a recent strike. When plant leadership changed in 1990, the outlook was not encouraging. Prices for finished goods were falling and the entire cereal industry was in decline. A consultant recommended that the Danville plant be eventually closed.

The issue was survival

To keep the doors open, the Danville plant had to show dramatic increases in productivity and performance. Employees, management and union leaders would have to overcome scale differences and become cost competitive in their primary production categories. To survive, they had to reach world-class levels of productivity growth and waste control.

The new leadership realized that slogans and posters were not going to cut it. The traditional management/worker control paradigm that had gotten them into trouble was not going to get them out. To have a chance, they needed to change the plant culture, particularly employee morale.

Fertile Soil

Although the task may have seemed impossible, the plant also had a solid potential for success. Local leaders were ready for sweeping change and willing to do what was necessary to support it. The Danville plant demonstrated three essentials for a successful transformation:

1) The plant management had the Autonomy and Authority to promote and protect the change to a high performance environment.

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