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Family business grows up
Photos and Story by James Hill
by Chris MooreAt YoCream International, quality is a way of life. From the beginning, this Oregon-based company has built a reputation on the exceptional quality of its premium frozen yogurt. That tradition of excellence continues today through a successful partnership with Portland Community College’s Customized and Workplace Training Department.Started in 1977 as a family-owned chain of yogurt stands, YoCream successfully transitioned to a manufacturing operation in the early 1980s, supplying frozen yogurt to restaurants, supermarkets, military bases and other customers. In 1987, the company went public, and a few years later began expanding its co-packing and private label business. Today, YoCream is a leading provider of frozen yogurt, smoothies, ice cream and frozen custard to an established and expanding global marketplace.Streamlining for growthTo meet the demands of this rapid expansion, the company needed to streamline its work processes. In 2002, CEO John Hanna heard about workforce skill development grants available through the State of Oregon. Hanna approached PCC for assistance, and a few months later, the company received a $62,300 grant to fund the development of a Total Quality Management (TQM) program."YoCream had started as a small family business, and was really hitting the big time, with huge contracts from restaurant chains,"said Linda Blanchette, coordinator of business training and educational development in the college’s Customized and Workplace Training Department. "They wanted to be ready for even more growth."PCC worked with YoCream representatives to develop a plan for introducing TQM to the company’s 50 employees. YoCream’s newly hired cost accountant Carolyn Schoonover was a member of the planning team. "You can’t improve what you can’t measure, so I put performance measures in place,"she said. "From my previous experience with TQM, I knew that the best ideas for improvement usually come from the people who do the work. They know the most about how to make their operation more efficient."Tracking and trainingYoCream employees began tracking machine down time, precise weight of filled containers, efficiency of production lines and more. Managers posted results so everyone knew exactly how they were doing, and several areas saw marked improvement.At the same time, workers received three hours of training each week in the principles and practices of TQM. Instructors focused on the significant impacts that can result from small variations in accuracy."YoCream has been improving its processes ever since I joined the company,"says Chief Financial Officer Doug Caudell. "TQM fit right in with what had been happening here for a long time."Our goal was to continue that effort by identifying key processes and looking for ways to make them better. Everybody wants to know that what they’re doing makes a difference. By measuring performance, we can give people the recognition they deserve for a job well done."The TQM introduction ran from July 2002 through December 2003. Now that it has ended, YoCream managers plan to create an ongoing operations-quality management team with representatives from all areas, including production. Hanna said the partnership with PCC has made a real difference in the way the company does business. "In the past, we focused on getting the job done, whatever it took. Now we look for the best, most efficient way to do it, and take time for training if we need it."The folks from PCC did a great job of helping us with the grant, developing the program and delivering training to our employees. TQM has energized us all."