Doing more with less

Today, Moisson Montréal can provide 40% more food with 60% fewer volunteers.

The pandemic has had an enormous impact on businesses throughout the world. At Moisson Montréal, the 85 volunteers that the daily production model required were reduced to 33 to comply with physical distancing regulations. Despite this reduction in its workforce, Moisson Montréal managed to distribute 43% more food in December 2020 than in December 2019, or 460,000 kg of food  worth $2.7 million.

Improving the food repackaging process

“The team succeeded in this endeavour because we changed the organization of labour, established standards, and provided training directly on the food sorting lines,” explained André Bossé, director of operations. The challenge was even greater since Moisson Montréal has to prepare 20,000 Holiday Baskets at that time of the year, in addition to its regular operations.

The workstations on the conveyor line serve to sort dry foodstuffs and non-edible products that arrive in bulk in large bins or on pallets and reassemble them into smaller packages to reduce waste. Sorted categories include food products and beverages, baby products, personal hygiene products, animal products, medications and vitamins, etc.

Putting the Kata Lab to the test

“To improve productivity at the sorting lines we used an exercise from Toyota Kata called the Kata Lab, with consultants from Bell Nordic, a company that helps us, pro bono, to make organizational changes. Over a period of two days, we made continuous improvement after experimenting with an actual process at a workstation,” explained André Bossé.

Usually, to change a process, an industrial engineer would be asked to make observations and studies, and then propose solutions that are implemented without ever getting feedback from the employees involved or having them understand the work that needs to be done. During the Kata Lab, volunteers modified their practices in real time, implemented and tested them directly for a period of 45 minutes, which was preceded by a 15-minute Kata Coaching session, resulting in improvements every hour.

Producing 20,000 Holiday Baskets with 60% fewer volunteers

In October 2020, the operations team faced a new challenge: how do you deliver the same amount of Holiday Baskets as in 2019, but with half the number of volunteers? This challenge  became the subject of the Kata Lab.”Based on the total number of baskets to be delivered in 20 days, we determined how many baskets had to be made per day and at what rate, which made it possible to calculate how many workstations were needed and how people had to work to reach this goal,” said Jean-Marc Legentil, a consultant at Bell Nordic.

During the two days of the Kata Lab, volunteers and Bell Nordic consultants developed a new training manual that explains everyone’s tasks more succinctly and the rules to follow. The goal is to avoid errors and loss of time while working safely.

Slowing down to be more efficient

Volunteers at Moisson Montréal are highly motivated. When involved in team-building exercises, they sometimes come up with speed competitions and end up going a bit too fast. In the past, volunteers at the front of the line would put food on the conveyor belt as soon as they saw an empty space. As a result, the line became congested and the volunteers in the middle of the line did not have time to box the items. Eventually, several incomplete boxes would arrive at the end of the line requiring two volunteers to bring them back to the front. In addition, when rushed, volunteers would throw empty packaging on the ground along the conveyor and someone was constantly busy picking them up.

“Thanks to the Kata Lab, we have implemented a new decision rule: now, when there are four boxes on the line, you don’t add a fifth. The speed is constant and there are no more incomplete boxes arriving at the end of the line. We were therefore able to eliminate one of the two stations that fed the line at the start as well as the two people who were busy bringing the incomplete boxes back to the front of the line,” explained André Bossé.

Doing your part during the pandemic

The Kata Lab has optimized the food sorting process but, more importantly, it has reduced the risk of an outbreak because the 50 fewer daily volunteers amount to 1,000 fewer people passing through Moisson Montréal’s doors each month.

“For several years now, we have developed a very nimble management style enabling us to respond to unforeseen events, such as a pandemic or a sudden increase in the poverty level. Our internal culture of organizational change has just allowed us to make a major adjustment in our business model while increasing our efficiency and further reducing the risks of spreading the virus internally: our volunteer workforce has gone from 85 to 33 people per day,” said Richard D. Daneau, Moisson Montréal’s general manager.