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British Columbia food and beverage processors learn to lean

April 25, 2019 – Victoria, British Columbia – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Two British Columbia (B.C.) processing companies providing unique beverage products are among 14 companies that have participated in the B.C. Lean for Food Processors Program, which helps businesses improve production capacity, labour productivity and operating margins. 

The B.C. Lean for Food Processors Program is being delivered to small, medium and large processing companies throughout B.C. The cost-shared program includes three days of formal training for managers and key production staff that focuses on applying lean tools and approaches. This is followed up with two days of on-site training and coaching. 

A wide range of B.C. processing businesses have participated in the B.C. Lean for Food Processors Program, including dairy, pet food, health foods, meal kits and beverages. The companies have ranged in size from three to five employees, to more than 100, and are looking for ways to improve efficiencies in their production processes.

Squamish Water Kefir, brewed by self-described nutrition nerds Sabrina and Kristin, has provided a tasty, fermented drink to its customers since 2015. The primary objective of its lean project was to reduce the bottling time to meet demand. Its improvements included: 

  • reduced bottling time, increased throughput and improved productivity of the process; 
  • eliminating the motion involved in handling the bottles by streamlining of the production process; and
  • establishing clear business goals and increased staff engagement by including them in the problem-solving process.

In Surrey, Route 18 Real Food produces and sells a line of drinking vinegar concentrates from unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Its objective was to scale up production and deal with production waste. Its success included:

  • improved food safety, record keeping and recall programs; and
  • optimized commissary and bottling processes by standardizing their workflow and training staff to improve consistency.

B.C.’s food and beverage processors produce approximately $9 billion worth of food per year, representing 70% of total agrifood revenues. Over 30,000 British Columbians are employed in the food and beverage processing industries.

Funding for the B.C. Lean for Food Processors Program is provided through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial investment that includes $2 billion in cost-shared strategic initiatives delivered by the provinces and territories, and $1 billion for federal programs and services through March 2023.

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