The challenge of merging company cultures when it comes to worker safety
Brian Rodgers Interview Part 1 of 3
Butterball’s Sr. Director of Safety and Risk Management Brian Rodgers discusses the challenges of getting an acquired facility up to speed on worker safety and why some facilities take more time than others.
Andy Hanacek: Talk about the work that goes into bringing a plant into a standard that is so high. We’ve talked about it before. Talk about the challenges there and how you’ve overcome those type of things.
Brian Rodgers: When you do have an acquisition, you have two different cultures that are aligning.
Hanacek: And not just in worker safety. There’s all kind of culture issues, but…
Rodgers: Hopefully, they do align. Sometimes it takes longer than you would like for them to align. The goal is to have them align. When we talk about associate safety, and I’ll just talk about the Montgomery acquisition specifically, that acquisition for us occurred about three years ago. That was an interesting acquisition, because we were taking two very, very different company cultures and trying to merge them into one. While it has taken longer than certainly some would have liked for that culture to become closer and closer to one Butterball culture, we’re closer today than we’ve probably ever been, and we’re getting very close to having that particular facility do what we want, emulate the behaviors that we want. As we talk about safety, at that particular facility, we did the same at Montgomery that we did at Raeford. We have the Butterball safety process, so we’ve got this process that we use at all of our facilities, so we essentially just implemented that process at each one of those locations. Now, at the Montgomery facility, we had some challenges around maintaining head count. So that caused us… one step forward, two steps back in some cases, but we have since found some really good operational folks and some good safety folks. Things at that facility are really becoming stable, which is fantastic. From the safety perspective, we will implement the Butterball safety process there just like we will at any of our other facilities.
Now, to your point, where it becomes challenging is our expectation is here [holds hand up high] as to where the safety processes need to be, and we don’t always find that the companies that we acquire are at that level or even close to that level. There’s a fun opportunity for us to raise the expectation, raise that engagement, bring them up to the standards that we demand on a day-to-day basis. That’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. You can see the progress that is starting to materialize, especially at Montgomery, because they are a little more mature than Raeford. The Raeford acquisition was an acquisition that went pretty seamlessly, but the acquisition type was quite different operationally. From the safety perspective, we will implement the Butterball safety process to any new acquisition. We’ll start from the fundamentals, and we’ll build off those fundamentals to the point where we believe that facility is hitting all the basics.
Next: Part 2 on the learning curve of processing different types of meat
Jump to: Part 3 on Butterball’s milestone achievements
Be sure to check out our other Q&A interviews with Butterball executives.