Reducing Waste for Maximum Profits in the Food Manufacturing Industry with Strategic Lean Consulting

reducing waste in food manufacturin with lean consulting

A meat processing plant wanted to discover a way to maximize their profits. They had been processing mostly lunchmeats through their plant, but were continuously losing money. They needed to find a means to assess how it was happening, to “trim the fat.” They decided on a lean management plan which included visuals, labeling, and an entire auditing process. They used the 5S program to identify waste, and immediately began cutting back on unnecessary equipment.

After six months, the meat processing plant revisited their bottom line. They found that after employing a cycle of lean processes and programs, they had been able to eliminate a considerable amount of waste and add to their overall ROI.

In the processed meat industry, finding ways to eliminate waste is an essential key to increasing profit. Any food product that is processed requires a greater output of energy and a deeper line of auditing than other food products. A strategic lean consultant can help a firm identify their areas of loss and correct the issue at hand.  Here’s how an experienced lean consultant can help your business achieve its goals–with a specific focus on increasing profits by eliminating waste.

The 7 Wastes

To identify ways a meat processing plant can eliminate their waste, it is necessary to first understand exactly where the waste is generated. The largest amount of waste is what is known as “process waste.” Any activity conducted in a business is either value-added (VA) or non-value added (NVA). The VA activities are those which transform the product into exactly what your customer wants. The NVAs can slowly be eliminated through lean initiatives, because they don’t meaningfully add to the customer experience or the bottom line.

When a company is trimming the fat as a means of generating maximum profits, there are seven areas in which they can focus:

  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Movement
  • Waiting and/or delays
  • Overproduction
  • Overprocessing
  • Defects


The time and distance of travel should always be calculated prior to initiating transportation of the product. Every time product is transported, you run the risk of it being damaged. The longer–or more times–an item is shifted around, the more it loses its value. Transportation delays, even on processed products, can potentially lead to unhappy customers and products that go unsold due to expiration dates. A lean consultant can help design a process that helps meat producers get products from the plant to the customer as quickly as possible, with a high degree of visibility along the way.


The definition of NVA is producing product that is going to just sit around. The greater the inventory, the greater the waste. If a processed food product has not been sold, it is cash sitting on a shelf. As a result, many processers work with lean consultants to develop a system that’s modeled after supermarkets. Inventory or components aren’t ordered–and products aren’t made–until market demand confirms an existing need for them.


Any type of non-essential movement made on the plant floor is a waste. Time and energy operators expend searching for equipment or dragging it between sites is all fatty waste which can be cut from the daily processes. These issues can be eliminated by streamlining the workspace for each team at all steps in the manufacturing process.

Waiting and/or Delays

Anytime equipment or labor is not being used, it is in limbo–being wasted. Waiting and delays rack up quite a bit of waste in terms of time. Whenever a labor force is waiting, it means the product is sitting, rather than making money for the company. Through a lean perspective, it’s possible to maximize your utilization of both staff and production facilities to increase production and eliminate downtime.


One of the worst types of waste on the list, overproduction happens when there are inefficient processes in place. This can occur if a changeover is too slow, producing a wait time. Overproduction can also happen when a product is of poor quality, since supply chains often try to overcompensate for a failed product ratio. For meat processors and other food industry companies, overproduction leads to selling products at steep discounts or not selling at all. A lean approach can help precisely align both production and demand.


Specialized customer requests can often misalign the standard processing. For example, a processed meat factory may get a request for a white label luncheon meat that’s sliced thinner than the standard. Spending additional time with rework and inspection because of specific requests is a guaranteed means of causing waste. Completing work exceeding what was requested is also a form of over-processing that it’s critical to avoid. A lean approach can help companies develop streamlined processes for evaluating and managing special client requests to invest for results–while minimizing over-investing.


Plain and simple, scraps and defects cost money. When a processed meat product is defective, it needs to be disposed of. The food industry has no leniency for defective products, and this can result in a considerable loss of profit if a company is not careful.

A strategic lean consultant can help a meat processing plant determine the exact areas where they can cut the fat and improve processes. Lean management is about clearing the floor so productivity–and profit–can be elevated. Are you a food industry leader who is ready to take the next step in streamlining your business? Contact Incito Consulting today to learn how our consultants can help your food manufacturing company cut the waste from your processes.