Case study

October 2012

Who: ABC Dairy Products
Where: Outer metropolitan Melbourne
What: Manufacturer of a range of fresh cheese and yoghurt products

ABC Dairy Products is a small, innovative manufacturer of a range of fresh cheese and yoghurt products located in outer metropolitan Melbourne. It has grown from a modest family-run business to become a medium sized player in the market.

The last five years have been focused on building new product ranges to stay ahead of the market. The results are better than expected, reflected in growing market share and similar growth in workforce. The workforce has doubled each year for the past two years and currently stands at around 80 people with further expansion planned. Similar expansion has occurred in putting in new lines and equipment to cope with the increased volume and range.

The business is under increasing pressure to attract and keep people. It routinely uses labour hire firms for operator level roles and usually starts people off as casuals. This gives flexibility to respond to market fluctuations but brings its own challenges in terms of maintaining consistent, quality outcomes.

Business success has brought its own share of challenges. The business has continued to invest as it has expanded but bringing new equipment on line has been a trying process and taken much longer
than expected to get decent yields. The plant seems to run smoothly until the techs walk out the door.

While the broad goals of business expansion and improved productivity are trending in the right direction, Rob the production manager is noticing some worrying signs:

  • Customer complaints have started to rise.
  • The DFSV product test results show that quality consistency is slipping.
  • Rob is frequently hearing supervisors complaining ‘people just don’t care’. 
  • In spite of the business success, Rob senses that some of the passion has gone. A lot of the time people just seem to be worn out.

These are familiar challenges to many managers. The Ideas Bank reports how managers on the frontline have found ways to deal with these challenges.