Monthly Archives: November 2012

Better, Faster, Stronger

Search engines are one of the most important parts of any website for users. Making the search better and giving users more control to find what they are looking for faster makes our website easier to use.

This month, after much programming, testing, and feedback, we integrated a new search engine into the Nelson-Jameson website. This new search can help find what you are looking for better than ever. To give you some idea, our website is now using the same engine that powers the search on these sites (among many others): White House, Netflix, eHarmony, Ticketmaster, GameSpot, Zappos, digg, NASA Planetary Data System (PDS), and Instagram.

In addition to this powerful search engine, we’ve added two features so far (more coming) that will help you narrow down searches and really get to the products you are looking for.

The first feature is the “Results by Category” control. When you perform a search on our site, on the results page in the right-hand column you will see a list of subcategories with a number behind each name. If you click one of these subcategories, the search results will change to show you only those products from your results that are in that subcategory of our site. You can then choose to “Show All Results” to go back to all of your results, click another subcategory, or start a new search, etc.

The second feature is the “Search Within Results” search box. This field appears right above your search results and lets you narrow the list of products by searching within those results. So for instance, if you first search for “gaskets”, about 530 products will be in the results. Then, if you type “o-ring” into the Search Within Results search box, your results will be narrowed to 30. You can then scroll through the products, sort them, or put more words into the Search Within Results search box to narrow your results even further.

These two control features on top of an enterprise-class search engine adds value to our website. Try it out yourself and see the speed, control, and ease of this new search engine that will help you find products better and faster.

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Allergen Recalls in the Forefront

Do you know that for the fourth quarter of 2011 allergens exceeded microbiological causes for recalls?  If you Google “FDA Allergen Recalls” you might be amazed at all the recalls by the FDA just within the last few months. They ranged from undeclared milk and soy in jams and jellies to sea salt that possibly contained milk residue – the list goes on and on. It is important for food plants to ensure that each and every time they go from one production run to another that the food contact surfaces are allergen-free.

Food production facilities must ensure that their ingredient suppliers are also declaring specific allergens in their products and testing for them.  Certificates of analysis for each lot must identify any allergens and provide results which are within acceptable ranges. Testing should also be done by the buyer to verify that ingredients meet specifications for allergens. When using ingredients with allergens the processor must also verify that cross-contamination is not occurring when manufacturing allergen-free products.

Nelson-Jameson offers test kits for major allergens that permit these verification measures.  They provide assurance that finished product does not contain those allergens when not stated on labels. Click here for more information on our allergen test kits. 

We are nearing the end of 2012 and it is each food company’s responsibility to ensure that what happened at the end of 2011 (recalls were up 50 percent last quarter of 2011 compared to the previous quarter) never occurs again!

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Featured Column: Family, Community, and the Luxury of Long-Term Thinking

From August through November, “The Wide Line” blog will feature a series of columns authored by Dan Strongin, a well-known name in the food industry. 

John Nelson

John Nelson, CEO

Jerry Lippert

Jerry Lippert, President

The conversation with John and Jerry then turned to the topic of the personal side of their business and the advantages of working in a family-owned operation.

Jerry: Let’s discuss the idea of a family business.

John: …and the direction that we can go and other businesses can’t, because we are family owned; simply put, we have the luxury of a long-term perspective.

Jerry: You know I came from a large corporation before joining Nelson-Jameson. At the large corporation we had the initiative of the month instead of long-term thinking. You could not do long-term things. The direction of the organization was constantly changing. At Nelson-Jameson, with a long-term strategy, it is so much better, and so much more fun to operate in our environment.

John: An example I could give is our branching strategy. We never ever really tried to rush; we let it develop as it seemed to make sense. We first propounded the idea sometime in the late 80s, and now in 2012 we have all the locations we planned way back then. It’s a long term thing.

Dan: What exactly do you mean by a “branching strategy?”

John: That refers to the establishment of branches, or other locations around the country. A major part of our role is having inventory close to the customer.

What makes sense for us is to be within a day’s delivery by some parcel service, and have it in inventory. Why is this good business? When a customer calls and finds that we have it, and the three other things they may need, before long, they get the habit of calling us first.

Dan:  In your branching strategy do you bring everything into a central warehouse or is each satellite warehouse independent?

John: It’s actually mixed bag. It evolved over time. One thing you have to understand about our evolving position in the marketplace is that our target market is all food processors; every one of our locations is unique and their needs are related to what foods are being produced there.

I believe in what I call distributive distribution, where the decision-making is fairly close to the customer. I can see a time when Nelson-Jameson will have branches that pretty much express the local environment in the food industry, and are really quite different. They will be carrying different products, but are linked together by a computer system with a certain logic that allows us to take advantage of the resources of other branches, so we can get product to people in emergencies, and find other economical ways to deliver on our promises.

We are still incredibly dairy-oriented. As time goes on we are superimposing little teams which organize themselves in such a way as to concentrate on other food industries. I always think in terms of product and product lines, so we are looking closely at each in terms of what products they use: what’s up and coming, in order to position ourselves a little ahead of the curve, so we can find leading-edge products or lines, and get accepted in the industry. You introduce yourself by these specially lines. And frankly I think food safety and laboratory products are still the best bet across the entire food industry. We have a lot of fertile ground to plow in just moving into the overall food industry for our future.

Dan: Besides long term thinking, in terms of a family business, what are the advantages for people of buying from you as opposed to buying from a big corporation?

John: We love our employees and they know that they are loved; when they are loved they don’t have to worry about things other than doing a great job for the customer.

Jerry: I think what John said is the answer! Another thing that I want to mention though is the Nelson’s involvement in the community and the industry. The Center for Dairy Research is looking to rebuild Babcock Hall in Madison and they just came to us asking for a significant donation, and the Nelsons again are going to be very proactive in supporting that, as they do all the industries they serve.

Note: In our final installment, we will look at the inherent danger in letting accountants have too much influence over your business decisions, pulling all the various strings from previous posts together.

To Stuff or Not to Stuff It…

This week Thanksgiving will grace us with its presence. We all know that the day can demand a lot of preparation. From sharpening your knives to building up strength in your gravy-ladling hand, there are many things to consider. In terms of food safety, this is true as well. Foodborne illness is not the first gift you want to give this holiday season.

Due to its starring role on many American tables this Thanksgiving, successful turkey preparation and cooking techniques are topics that garner a good deal of attention this time of year. For instance, you can check out the USDA’s helpful page of safe thawing.

A topic that comes up in the USDA’s “Let’s Talk Turkey-A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey,” might come as a bit of a surprise to some: stuffing preparation. The USDA has several key recommendations. To begin, if you are planning on buying a fresh turkey this year, the USDA recommends that you do not buy pre-stuffed fresh turkeys, as any mishandling might allow the turkey to infuse the stuffing with bacteria, and “any harmful bacteria that may be in the stuffing can multiply very quickly.” If you are going to buy a frozen pre-stuffed turkey, be sure that you look for the “USDA or State mark of inspection” to ensure that the turkey has been “processed under controlled conditions.”

Overall, the USDA actually does not recommend stuffing a turkey. The safest way to enjoy stuffing this holiday season, is accomplished by cooking the stuffing as a separate dish, apart from the turkey. If you do decide to stuff your turkey, they recommend keeping “wet and dry ingredients separate” until you are ready to stuff the bird, and once the stuffing is in the bird, it should be cooked immediately.

Taking a few minutes to check out these resources might assist in giving your family and friends a gift on everyone’s list: good health. Happy Thanksgiving!

Featured Column: Real Life Lessons with Real Life Consequences – Part 3

Part three & conclusion of a conversation with John Nelson, CEO and Jerry Lippert, President of Nelson-Jameson, Inc.

John Nelson

John Nelson, CEO

Jerry Lippert
Jerry Lippert, President

In the last post we caught a glimpse of how Nelson-Jameson’s product offerings evolved over time. This time, it veers into a discussion of how they listen, observe, and anticipate customer needs. 

Solutions for Our Customers

John: One of the biggest costs is product trapped in the supply chain itself. It is not really inventory at all; it is essentially just stuff that is on trucks and ships, doing nothing. Any disruption is of course, very expensive. We take that weight off of our customers’ shoulders even though they may not notice.

We refer to another problem that we solve as “lumpy loads.” We deliver everything from a tiny, little lightweight platinum device that is part of a pH meter, to things that are 500 pounds, and even some 240 gallon totes. The supply pipeline is different for each of them. Any or all may have to be delivered at the same time. Our challenge is  to make transporting them fairly seamless.

We may not be able to carry some things on the same truck, like hazardous goods with food grade ingredients. The point I’m trying to make here is that there is no silver bullet, no easy solution. It is a challenge for us, but it is also, in some sense, our salvation. It is out of the reach of even our biggest customer to do this, and certainly for our smallest. These are among the services we proudly provide that the people who buy from us may not even be aware of.

Ensuring the Different Categories Function Together 

Jerry: As I said previously, this is been an evolutionary thing. We think that our business model applies across the entire food processing industry. We have had to do some changing and adding in order to genuinely fulfill that idea. Most operations divide purchases into direct and indirect. For example, milk is a direct purchase, whereas  most of what we provide would be called indirect purchases. The people who buy from us can have trouble managing their indirect purchase inventory, and that costs money.

The first area from our catalog is packaging supplies, ingredients, and chemicals. This area kind of relates to direct purchases, whereas the other areas are more related to indirect, though, there is no hard and fast rule.

The people who buy from us manage these different subsets of direct and indirect purchases differently. And it keeps changing. Forty years ago, most food plants, for instance, didn’t even have laboratories. Only when safety and testing became critical did they develop their labs. So we developed a grouping around the laboratory to assist them.

The second category, MRO, a catchall for maintenance, repair, and operating supplies, is entirely made up of indirect purchases. These are items like gloves and hairnets and all of those incidentals our customers have to have, and that they often have trouble managing. This is also where some companies used to have fiefdoms: a bunch of guys buying stuff, making all kinds of PO’s, with everyone thinking they were saving the company money when, in fact, they were costing the company a fortune in freight and money tied up in inventory. Today, our customers rely on our delivery system for these items. It serves a great function! They have come to depend on that truck arriving that Tuesday morning or whenever scheduled.

There is Always an Exception

Jerry: However, we found out that in our third area, process systems, buyers do not see our trucks as a value proposition. Our customers’ people in process systems are responsible for making sure that the lines keep functioning. They need to be sure the pumps and valves are there when they are needed! Frankly, they could care less about our truck being on time as scheduled dependably: they want that pump or valve when something goes wrong, and not a minute later!

Throughout the plant, they might have three of these valves locked up in lockers or in various corners, but invariably, when a valve breaks, they cannot find them! They want us to get a replacement part to them yesterday. Well, we cannot do it as quickly as yesterday, but we are quicker than just about anyone else, because we took the time to study and understand our customer’s point of view.

So the key is a customer focus. Having the categories work together is a critical part of this equation, and part of how we do that, by the way, is by having each of the areas understand their unique value proposition, and then we bring it together as an organization, hopefully, in how we market it to our customers.

Read Part 2

Read Part 1