Refrigerated Foods Company (NRFC), a division of Nabisco, had been a
maker of margarine, yogurt, and microwavable omelets until Nabisco
sold its brands. While it operated, NRFC's Quality Department
was responsible for vetting all requests for product and packaging
changes. Review and approval was needed by the managers of Purchasing,
Package Engineering, Marketing, and other groups. One
designated person, the Coordinator, administered the process of
review, approval, and publication of changes. With that current
person's departure from the company, a six-month backlog of change
requests built up.
I was hired to fix the problem and maintain the process.
- There was only
token adherence to the process because the process simply had
collapsed six months earlier.
- Any solution would
need to simultaneously address the six-month backlog even as new
requests came in. There could be no catch-up period.
- The Coordinator
role consisted mostly of editing MS Word documents and sending
email messages --- simple, but vital for tracking and implementing
changes across hundreds of product specification documents.
- The greatest
weakness in the process was that it had depended on one specific person.
My solution would
therefore need to address four areas:
I addressed all
four areas by creating Q-Track,
an MS Access/VBA application. Q-Track provided:
Database of all change
requests, their priority score, and status.
Automated email and
tracking for the process.
Automated reminders to
Automated edits and
edit-tracking in MS Word documents.
Generation of a weekly newsletter
to the community of interest.
Q-Track iteratively, with the major features, above, being implemented
over several weeks. It was critical to restoring the process and
building trust that I organize the entire backlog of requests and move
each forward to their next step quickly. On that priority I
built the foundations of Q-Track, building it out as time
Adherence to and
trust in the procedure was also promoted by a weekly newsletter I
generated with Q-Track. This newsletter
reported all proposed and approved changes. It was a weekly
reminder of management's expectations about the process and a
demonstration that the process was working.
As for transferability, the automated features reduced the
Coordinator's hours per week by 66% and eliminated the complexity of
the role. It could be quickly shifted to another employee, even
on a part-time basis.
The Q-Track application was so successful that it was soon adopted by
both the Planters/Lifesavers and Food Service divisions of Nabisco.