In this sidebar to our April cover story, Karl Schledwitz, chairman and CEO of Monogram Foods, tells Andy Hanacek about the food safety accomplishments of the company in the past year. The pair also discussed worker safety and future initiatives for the company in those areas.
Andy Hanacek:Karl, thank you so much for having me out here to Monogram to the corporate headquarters out here in Memphis. I'll be visiting the Martinsville plant soon. So, thanks in advance for letting me go out and visit. I wanted to talk to you a little bit first kind of separate from the cover story about the food safety and employee safety initiatives and accomplishments that Monogram has had. I know that you guys take it very seriously and I wanted to make sure we gave your team members the due credit. Food safety first, you were telling me earlier you guys have reached some milestones in the past year that you're pretty proud of, what are they?
Karl Schledwitz:Sure, I don't think there's anybody in our business that wouldn't tell you that food safety is the number one risk that any company has and so we take it very seriously. In Monogram, we have five manufacturing plants, and we do a lot of co-packing for some of the leading brands in the country, we do some licensing of some major brands, and we also do a lot of private label. So as a result of that, we have a lot of different third party inspections. All of our plants are either SQF 3 or BRC certified, and of course they do their regular audits, but on top of that all your co-packers and private labels, many retailers etc. So, last year we had 46 independent third party audits in our five plants.
Schledwitz: And we got an A equivalent in all 46 audits. I'd like to say it reminds me of the grades I got in college, but that's more As than I got in all four years of college.
Hanacek:You and me both.
Schledwitz: We may never be able to replicate that again, but that is our goal. That's our standard. We are actually having sweatshirts made up that say "The A Team" and we’re giving them out to everybody that's in Q&A and involved in food safety, which is a lot of people but we take it very seriously.
Hanacek:What would you say the biggest challenge in getting that A grade, on such a consistent basis, is for your team? Obviously food safety is challenging, but what is the biggest hurdle they had to overcome in order to get that?
Schledwitz: The team will tell you that it is a focus; it is an unrelentless focus every day.
Schledwitz: It has to be part of every decision that is made has to have food safety at the forefront. There is no room for error and so it has to be number one at all time, and the behaviors we value, we say food safety and employee safety are the most important behaviors that we have in our company.
Hanacek:So, keeping that focus is obviously the paramount thing here with food safety, and you mentioned worker safety, employee safety. Let's talk a little about that. What accomplishments or what are you most proud of in terms of that area at the plant level?
Schledwitz: We have cut our workers comp mod in half and the recoverable rate average for a food manufacturer is 50. And we're right at 3 this year, and we used to be years ago above 6. We hired a woman to focus on it, Lynn [SP] of our Chandler plant and she has now hired other people in each of our plants and they work with HR. Part of our on-boarding for new employees has a employee safety component and then there’s continual emphasis in training and it too is part of the DNA of the company.
Hanacek:So, that focus alone is probably the biggest factor in reducing the rate or are there any initiatives?
Schledwitz: Focus and training.
Schledwitz: One of the other behaviors we focus on at Monogram is celebrating our successes. So we go periods of time with employee safety records, we celebrate them. We have cookouts for the entire plant. We celebrate out food safety records and a lot of recognition and celebration to go with it.
Hanacek:So food safety worker safety together, or one or the other, puts you on the spot just a little bit here and ask what's the next step for you guys? Food safety you've got all As, and everything, obviously keeping that, maintaining that would be a key step but in terms of maybe the worker safety where you still have room to drive things down, what's the next step in the evolution there?
Schledwitz: Well you are right; you can't beat straight As. Trying to maintain those is where it's at with food safety. We do have room to improve with employee safety. So this year we are actually incorporating that in part of bonus for eligibility for our senior plant folks that affect what happens in employee safety. So, we're making it part of the criteria of how much bonus you earn.
Hanacek:Okay, very good. Well, again thank you Karl. I appreciate you having me out, and you talking to me and giving me a tour of all this. I look forward to learning more about the company when I go out to Martinsville as well and thanks again.
Schledwitz: Great, thanks a bunch.