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concept of HMM was introduced, engaging people from marketing, to research and development, through to those on the shop floor, in identifying business costs that were not adding value for the customer. " Our parent company helped us with the essential tools and processes and has also sent staff over from the United States to assist us with implementing HMM. They have been tremendously supportive," Leathwhite acknowledges. He describes the South African facility as " clean and clinical, with lots of stainless steel". Aside from the raw material warehouse, there is a pre- mix area and processing line, further mixers, ovens and freezers. Distribution, like the warehousing, is outsourced. One of the key elements in successful operations and implementation of HMM at General Mills South Africa is its people. There are at present around 50 full- time employees, who are coming to terms with the need for staggered shifts. " We have had to change people's hours but they are now seeing why this is necessary in order to meet our customers' needs," explains Leathwhite. " We are very much into training our workforce and feel that it will be beneficial if our people can multi- task. First and foremost, we have a lot of intelligent workers lacking basic English and mathematics, so we provide adult education to help them better understand what is expected of them but also what systems we operate in the factory. This builds flexibility into our facility." The company is receiving encouraging feedback from staff who now better understand the needs of the business. " Ultimately, with HMM, it is vital for our shop floor workers, who have first- hand experience, to give us feedback on how we can improve efficiency further," states Leathwhite. But General Mills' South African site extends its social responsibility way beyond just teaching its workers. For the past 10 years it has supported the Pillsbury day care centre, which forms part of the Alexandra Disability Movement. The centre provides a place of safety and educational support for 70 disabled children from the Alexandra township, north east of Johannesburg. It has gone from strength to strength and plans are afoot to convert the day care centre into a fully- fledged boarding facility by early 2010. The niche products of General Mills South Africa now cater for up to six million customers, who have acquired the company's taste for quality. Leathwhite says that the next stage is to look at opportunities created by the 2010 FIFA World Cup; then, the sub- Sahara region beckons. " We already export to neighbouring countries like Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. We see South Africa as the springboard to the sub- Sahara region," he concludes. - Editorial research by Don Campbell have made the operational environment very similar." As tastes vary greatly from country to country, General Mills in South Africa operates its own innovation and technology department, which looks at developing products locally but also adapting products from around the world with local ingredients, to suit the local palate. With so many products manufactured on site, one of the biggest challenges for the company is managing the supply chain effectively. " It is difficult to get the right balance for our inventory. Raw materials are definitely our biggest cost," admits Leathwhite. " It really depends on each ingredient. For example, we use lots of liquid egg and receive deliveries almost daily; however, we would have an entirely different relationship with Orley Foods, for something like chocolate." In some instances, the company buys a year's supply of raw materials up front and stockpiles them in its warehouse. " We certainly form long- term relationships with our suppliers and this is critical, as quality is always our key ingredient," Leathwhite continues. " We operate to the highest quality standards, running stringent in- house quality systems, and we are currently working towards ISO accreditation for May 2010. Customers including McDonald's and Pick n Pay regularly audit us, as does the American Institute of Bakers. In addition, we have already attained halal certification." All of the company's supplies are based on manual forecasting. " We are always looking at ways to improve this system," says Leathwhite. " We need to make sure that when a customer orders a product they can get it when they want, at a decent price." But forecasting is just one area that the company is looking to improve upon, having started to look at lean manufacturing over the past year. " My philosophy is that our customers should not pay for inefficiencies, so we have a big drive on lean at the moment. This ties in nicely with the General Mills ' holistic margin management' ( HMM) approach." HMM came into being several years ago after the US business had seen the effects of rising commodity and energy costs. Driven by the need to generate higher levels of productivity and cost savings to protect margins, the September / October 09 www. bus- ex. com 65 General Mills South Africa SDB operations are anchored on partnerships, ensuring complete understanding of clients' needs and the development of fully customised solutions. We refuse to be constrained by traditional methodologies and conventions. Instead, we thrive on thinking outside the box, applying the intellectual capital within our business to design and implement the best solution for every application, resulting in an effective business solution for our customers. Savino Del Bene

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