Monthly Archives: August 2012

Meeting the Need for Hearing Protection

Everyday life can be a pretty noisy event.   A whisper is about 30 Decibels (dBA), a noisy restaurant: 82 dBA; a lawnmower: 90 dBA, a siren at 100 feet: 140.  Consider what our ears deal with on a daily basis in our homes, on the street, and elsewhere. Add to that the noise an average food industry worker hears during the day, and one can see that our ears are sensitive instruments for hearing in a very noisy world and a very noisy industry.

According to the United States Department of Labor’s website, “The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 30 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to hazardous noise.” In food industry operations, the sounds of forklifts, motors, vehicles, conveyors, cleaning equipment, hydraulic equipment, etc. can all be sources of noise. They also can be the source of hearing loss, if ears are left unprotected.

There are at least 60 million ears out there that need some help combating this daily assault of workplace noise. To combat hearing loss, a wealth of NRR (Noise Reduction Ratings) rated products are available through Nelson-Jameson. These devices, such as earplugs and earmuffs bring decibel levels down and reduce the risk of hearing loss. These reductions are key in noisy environments, as louder levels of noise can adversely affect hearing.

Nelson-Jameson can help you select the right hearing protection for your business. Noise levels and needs differ from operation to operation. NJ stocks earplugs and earmuffs made from different materials with different features including the following: metal detectable plugs, disposable plugs, reusable plugs, banded and clip versions of plugs, hard hat model earmuffs, collapsible earmuffs, and many other options from which to choose. Each product is shown with an easy-to-see NRR rating, so you know, if used correctly, how effective each product can be in protecting your employees and yourself.

Get in touch with Carol Blakey, Safety & Personnel Product Manager at 800-826-8302 for more information on finding the right products for your facility or visit our website.

To learn more about NRR ratings, visit our Learning Center.

Featured Column: Pulling No Punches

For the next three months, “The Wide Line” blog will feature a series of columns authored by Dan Strongin, a well-known name in the food industry.

You are a professional buyer, and I can’t possibly know anything more about your particular job or your particular business than you do. I also know that most likely you didn’t come to this site to only read this blog.

We are both professionals. I want to make these posts truly useful to you! You won’t find fancy marketing language here listing the benefits of buying from Nelson-Jameson, though there are many. You get enough of that sort of language in the market today and I am at that glorious stage in life where I only agree to do things if I believe in them. And I believe in Nelson-Jameson. I have reason to, but more on that later.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to pull no punches. If what I write upsets you, don’t let it! I will challenge, needle, and push you. No matter how much anyone knows, you can’t grow without pulling out some dead wood, and you can’t evolve without killing some sacred cows. And that never feels good until after the fact.

I may not know about your particular job as a buyer, but for more than a couple of decades I was a buyer, a good one, and in a few different industries. I know more than most about the supply chain, because I have spent years studying it, and what I know about price, true cost, and inventory can make your company a lot of money.

So strap on your seat belts, put on your crash helmets, and get ready, because, like it or not, we’re going to be talking about statistics. Statistics!?! Feeling sleepy? Don’t worry…I am not talking about abstract statistics and squiggly symbols, but practical statistics, and statistical thinking, because everything about effective buying has to do with prediction, probabilities, and lowering exposure to risk.

This week though, I would like to focus on a terrible syndrome I suffered from when I was a beginning buyer called the myopia syndrome.

At that time, the only thing I looked at were the individual items suppliers sold. If I needed an item, and they were the only ones who had it, I bought it no matter what the price. If they were one of a handful of people who had it, I would buy from the one with the lowest price. It was not until many years on the job that I took on a more holistic approach.

Now before you say, “what a hack!” Remember, that was a different era. At that point, we didn’t suffer from information overload. The computer, improvements in logistics, free trade, and world markets, along with pretty complicated regulations, certifications, and audit requirements changed all this. As all of you know better than I, there always seems to be more information, more products, more requirements, and less time.

And the old-fashioned buyer who only cared about paying the lowest price, would be lost in today’s increasingly complex world. Because the price you pay for an item is not the only cost. The time you need to learn about all the possible choices out there isn’t there, and the ever-increasing cost of everything else means that smart operators have to learn to partner with their suppliers to cut through the noise. They need to focus as many resources as they can on what they do best, which for a buyer should be effectively managing their inventory dollars. As we will see in the coming weeks, the faster the flow of raw materials to products sold, the greater the profit.

When I finally overcame my myopia syndrome, I realized that suppliers sold so much more than just individual items. To thrive, I needed to understand their whole package including the following: the sum total of all the items, all the categories, all the services and how they related to each other, and most importantly, their people.

I could no longer depend on chance to find out everything they had to offer, and somehow had to make the time to really study how they might help me and my company overall. This moment of clarity came about when I started to do competitive cuttings, comparing one product from one supplier with an equivalent product from another supplier, to know which would work best for me. Ironically, a larger business I was working with acquired another one of the suppliers I was using at that time.  They both carried the exact same product at the exact same price, but when we started to test the product, to our surprise, though they were the same: same label, same package…the product from the smaller supplier was of much better quality. How can that be?

When I looked into it further, the root cause was that the former management still ran the smaller company, and being a family business, they treated their people with respect, and their employees liked working there. At the larger company where people hated working, goods would stay on the dock and in the sun longer, no one watched the thermostat, items were stashed in the wrong places, not rotated properly, beat up and abused, just like the people who worked there.

I realized, to evaluate a supplier properly would require much more than just checking out the prices. I started looking into every aspect of the company, everything they sold, everything they provided, who owned them, what their minimum requirement was, the quality of goods when delivered, quality of service, frequency of delivery, how responsive they were, and how much they knew about their product so they could help me use it more effectively. Finally, I kept a keen eye out for a company interested in more than just trying to get me for a buck. They needed to be watching my back.

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Cheese Makers: Let’s Get Grilling!

Grilled Cheese from The Melt

Source: The Melt

In a May 2012 interview with CNBC, Sam Oches, the managing editor of QSR Magazine explained the success behind the popularity of comfort foods in the market, including the grilled cheese: “The reason that a lot of these items are taking hold is because of that comfort food factor.”  He continued, “Comfort food really resonates with people — eating something that is really cathartic, something that really resonates with the past is something that most people enjoy doing.”

The staple comfort food has recently been publicly pushed into new levels of experimentation, taste, and form. Small eateries, food trucks, and even chains like “The Melt” have extended the grilled cheese into the welcoming grasp of self-described “foodies,” or food aficionados. Creating grilled cheese sandwiches with artisan breads, fresh produce, and premium cheeses, these operations are searching out a successful hybrid of comfort and culinary zeal for a discerning palette.

For example, at “The Melt” locations, you can get a “Brie w/ Apple Butter on Country French” or a “Pepper Jack w/ Jalapeños on Sourdough.” At the “Grilled Cheese Nation” Food Truck that makes its way around Boston, you can order a “Brie Me Up” which contains sliced pears and melted brie on an “Organic Wheat Pain de Mie Bread.” At Bubba’s, a bar and grill in Traverse City, Michigan, you can bite into a “Grilled Cheese for Grown-Ups” sandwich with melted havarti, white cheddar, tomatoes, and avocado between two slices of wheat bread.

If, as the New York Times stated, the “Grilled cheese is the new black” for foodies, cheese makers may be interested in checking out this trend further in their respective parts of the country. Placing this staple comfort food into the realm of adult menu choices represents an interesting food trend for the dairy industry. Will the gourmet grilled cheese be a passing fad, or have we seen a permanent breakthrough in bridging dining-out adults and a standard taste of home? Only time will tell, but in the meantime the grills are going, and kids and adults alike are asking for “grilled cheese, please.”

Featured Column: Introducing Dan Strongin

For the next three months, “The Wide Line” blog will feature a series of columns authored by Dan Strongin, a well-known name in the food industry. Strongin began his career in the food industry on the front lines as a chef. For two decades he worked as a five-star chef, including seven years with the Ritz Carlton Corporation. His passion for food and excellence was then put to work as the corporate chef and director of delicatessen operations for Andronico’s Markets, San Francisco. From 1995 to 1996 he served as the president of the American Cheese Society. He then became a managing partner and owner of Edible Solutions, a consulting company, and currently is a columnist for the Cheese Reporter. As a mentor for companies through Deming Collaboration, Strongin focuses on working with companies on effective management, strategic planning and marketing, and production systems. We have no doubt that Strongin’s insights will be of special interest to a wide variety of NJ customers navigating the realities of the food industry and market today…

Having had the advantage, in my line of work, of visiting with and learning the intimate details of hundreds of businesses, many of them in food, and dairy, I’ve become pretty familiar with what one can expect to see when you visit a plant. You’ll see doors; protective clothing; machines; florescent lights; a bulletin board with OSHA and other “required” postings; mostly concrete floors with an epoxy coating; and a thick, heavy and colorful book that over time I began to recognize as the Nelson-Jameson catalog.

With a hectic schedule, I was always aware of its presence in many operations, but never quite got a chance to look into what it was all about. Even after discovering that one of my clients, with whom I have been working for the last 5 years in a very successful transformation, (mostly due to their hard work, dedication and integrity), was a supplier to Nelson-Jameson, I did not put the pieces together.

It all started to formalize a bit more on November 18 of 2010. An email from Jerry Lippert of Nelson-Jameson showed up in my inbox that day. In it he had the wisdom to give me a compliment, telling me that a couple of the things I had written in my monthly column in the Cheese Reporter got his attention. In them, I had explored issues in the supply chain: inventory, and the flow of money to profit for producers: issues that he felt are central to the Nelson-Jameson value proposition, (in plain English, what they provide for their customers).

I am not immune to flattery, so we began a correspondence. In the spring of 2011, as I was traveling to a client in western Wisconsin, I stopped by Nelson-Jameson headquarters. My home base is in Rio de Janeiro, though not home as much as I would like while I travel. For those of you that don’t know, the seasons are reversed in South America. When I left my home it was 108°F, when I arrived in the airport in Minneapolis it was -40°. Practically frozen, I made my way to the rental car, and drove the three hours to Marshfield where I was given the grand tour. I was given the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lippert, Mr. Nelson, and their vice president of sales, Murray Smith, among others. I was regaled with the history and philosophy of the company.

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