Employees take daily Gemba Walks around the TreeHouse facility and identify areas that need improvement.

Strength in accountability

Oftentimes, defining the best way to operate involves the “why” behind the process, such as with root cause analysis. 

“You can’t just tell someone, ‘You have to do better,’” Mr. Holland advised. “You have to give people something tangible and make it actionable.” 

Instead of talking to line workers about scrap target or overpack, put it in terms that resonate with them. For instance, if a carton of saltine crackers is being run at 16 oz, teach the operators that they don’t want the checkweigher to read higher than 16.48 oz.

“You can say, ‘Our overpack rate is 3%,’ but some people might not even know what overpack means,” he suggested. “You have to start by defining it and then be specific in the requirements and direction.” 

Through a structured method called TMOS — the TreeHouse Management Operating System — Mr. Holland has implemented continuous improvement tools such as Gemba Walks, which bring the best of people and operations together. Loosely translated, gemba is Japanese for “the real place,” or where the work actually happens. 

Rather than holding daily production meetings around a conference table, Mr. Holland mandates Gemba Walks, where management tours the plant floor section by section. Similar to creating a punch list, the team identifies areas that need attention or improvement, whether to the system or on a piece of equipment. Management is then held accountable for executing the solution.

“If you’re involved, your people will be involved,” Mr. Holland said. “If you sit in an office and you’re not involved, your people will think you don’t care. Our people know that if they tell us something, two weeks later we’ll be back by their station, and if we haven’t fixed it, they can hold us accountable for it.”

As TreeHouse moves toward 2020, Mr. Holland’s combination of continuous improvement and a people-first mentality sets the bar for operational excellence.

“Continuous improvement is a vital component of TreeHouse 2020, and the accomplishments achieved under Rich’s leadership have benefitted both our plant network and the customers who rely on TreeHouse as a supplier of choice,” said Shay Braun, chief supply chain officer, TreeHouse Foods.

For Mr. Holland, it all comes from within.

“I love the people I work with; I love the job I do; I love fixing things,” he said. “I’ve been fixing things since I was a boy. I love it, and I have a lot of great people to work with.”

Dave Van Laar, senior adviser to the president and c.e.o.: B&CMA transition and development for the A.B.A., put it best: “Passion drives performance, and Rich Holland proves that.”