The Nichiro Foods factory visited, in Utsunomiya which is the capital and largest city of Tochigi Prefecture in the northern Kantō region of Japan, is one of several factories of Nichiro in Japan, all implementing 20 Keys for a long period of time. The factory produces fish sausages and frozen food (tuna for use in sushi). The factory started with 20 Keys in 2007 and, like the other Nichiro Foods factories, all 20 Keys are implemented, all at organisational functions. It has 20% of the market share in Japan for the products it produces.
Implementation of the 20 Keys supported their accreditation with the ISO 9001 Quality Management System, which was obtained in 2011. Other accreditations are:
- ISO14001: Environment Management System (June 2006)
- ISO22000: Food Safety Management System (March 2010)
- HACCP (March 2010)
- OHASA18001: Occupational Health & Safety Management System (November 2011)
- Certification for Japanese seafood exported to US (September 2012)
- FSSC 2200 (September 2012)
They actually implement 21 Keys, with the 21st one being Safety, which they added, focusing on workplace safety, ergonomics and food safety. The factory is aiming to soon achieve the 20 Keys International Bronze Award.
Things that stood out:
- As with other visits during the tour it was again observed how much emphasis they place on branding of their products and marketing the health benefits associated with it; is excellent for brain functioning, reducing body fat, etc.
- They pride themselves on being highly flexible with production and can “within hours act on changing customer demands”
- Focus on food safety with metal detection and X Ray inspection of raw materials and product
- Good visual performance management for shop floor and other teams; action plans are displayed in corridors and there are boards with information inside the plant, in the various departments. The boards are removed when regular washing of the workplaces (equipment, floors, walls and ceilings) are done
- A Health and Safety committee meeting is held every month, during which they also walk the floor and immediately address or improve any issues observed
- Extensive use is made of Poke Yoke (mistake proofing) systems and devices with many sensors regulating and checking equipment
- As expected from a food factory the dress code is a very clean and food secure one. No pockets are allowed for people working inside the factory. Interesting (and also observe at other companies) is that everyone, from the General Manager to cleaner wear the same clothing
- A good idea to support food safety was observed – when a wash room is visited you can only exit once you put both hands inside a sanitizer (see photo) for a time period, after a beep the exit door is opened. Needless to say that some tour members had to be rescued from the wash room as they didn’t listen to instructions and the door couldn’t be opened without following the hand sanitizing procedure! Also saw good gloves for protecting operators’ hands when cutting fish products, finger cut incidents are always a risk in such, and other, food processing factories
- They make use of many contractor workers who are all fully involved with the 20 Keys implementation. Four of them are actually Key Leaders
- Nichiro has maintained a suggestion system since the start of 20 Keys, with contractors also participating. Impact of suggestions are measured. The importance of quick feedback on suggestions provided was emphasised
- Training and coaching is done on the job