Food For The Sole makes dehydrated meals. At the root, their philosophy is simple; make the best tasting and most healthy portable foods for people headed out on adventures. Each of their lightweight and nutritious meals is crafted with fresh ingredients, ensuring that the taste and experience are chef quality. Julie Mosier and her son, Henry, are partners in Food For The Sole. As avid hikers, Julie and Henry didn’t like the boring and repetitive tasting products on the shelf, so they made their own. They make it their mission to elevate the adventure meals market by making food that is different than what was on the market. All their products are healthy, dietary restriction friendly, and most importantly customers tell them they taste like something you’d eat in a restaurant. The Food For The Sole team sought OMEP’s support to take their business to the next level as a national brand.
Food For The Sole sought OMEP’s support when they were experiencing rapid growth. During the covid-19 pandemic, demand for outdoor products as well as food and beverage products skyrocketed. Food For The Sole was challenged to keep up with customer demand. At that time, operating out of a co-op kitchen, Food For The Sole was planning on moving to a new facility in the near future. Along with the rapid growth came many challenges including capacity constraints, productivity, equipment failures, supply chain and inventory management, and team leadership.
Focusing on Lean Enterprise as a business operating philosophy, OMEP worked with Food For The Sole on applying principles of Lean to address their capacity and productivity issues. Julie, Henry, and the Food For The Sole team embraced the process and the improvements stacked up quickly in production. The next major issue identified to work on was inventory management and order fulfillment. Their growth had made this process cumbersome and difficult to manage, creating shortages and too much time spent on the process. Food For The Sole knew changes were needed but didn’t know where to start.
OMEP observed the process and recommended a pull system based using a Kanban system. Food For The Sole was initially skeptical, but willing to try a new system and quickly realized the benefits. The new Kanban system also influenced warehouse set up. Prior to implementing the Kanban system, they were sectioning inventory off by distribution channel and would often end up with one channel out of inventory, and other channels with excess. Now, they have much more space and the inventory is more manageable. All inventory is available to fulfilling orders in all channels. The process is much easier and reliable.
Another major challenge faced by the team was keeping the dehydrators operational. Monitoring and Maintenance were ongoing issues, with inconsistent dehydrator performance, dehydrator batches often had problems creating wasted ingredients and labor. Because Food For The Sole’s product is all dehydrated food, consistent dehydration is critical. They had been experiencing dehydrators overheating at night, forcing them to throw away entire batches of product. Food For The Sole sought a way to easily monitor the dehydrators and make changes before losses occurred.
OMEP identified an Advanced Technology opportunity using Internet of Things. OMEP worked with Food For The Sole to setup real-time monitoring using Thermocouple Sensors in their dehydrators. The sensors send data through a wifi gateway to a cloud database once per minute. Visual dashboards and Event Triggers are set up to monitor dehydrator performance. Alarms trigger when temperatures are out of range, allowing leadership to solve the problem right away and save their product. Additionally, they are able to monitor remotely and provide instruction to others if they are not on site.
Beyond the cost savings of avoiding damaged products, the sensors provided Food For The Sole a team morale boost. The kitchen team put energy and love into creating food, and they no longer experience the pain of lost efforts due to dehydrator issues. Aside from the alarms, the sensors empower Food for the Sole with actionable data to continuously improve production.
Thanks to the new Kanban system, even during their peak season, the team was able to cut 10 hours a week of inventory management down to one. Working with the OMEP team provided $25,000 in cost savings. By increasing capacity and productivity, they were able to increase sales by $200,000 and retain existing sales. Finally, they retained all staff and added 3 new team members. Food For The Sole has begun the journey of implementing lean as a business operating philosophy throughout their operations, leadership practices, and strategy, with great success.
Our experience with OMEP has been exemplary. The counsel we've received has been invaluable...