WENATCHEE, Wash. – Innovation and stewardship are two of Stemilt’s values and were recently demonstrated during the company’s first Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) project taken on by Stemilt’s Quincy, WA EFI leadership team. Stemilt achieved EFI certification at Quincy in September and is now applying the problem-solving process, which is a key component of the EFI program, to continuously improve operations and fulfill the company’s mission to cultivate people and delight consumers. West Mathison, president of Stemilt, is thrilled with the team’s initiative to tackle challenges in order to improve their day-to-day procedures.
Earlier this year, the Quincy team received an anonymous suggestion in its EFI suggestion box to expand the availability of water throughout the orchard. Not long ago, team members could bring their own water into orchards, but updated food safety guidance required personal water containers to remain outside of the orchard.
“The EFI program includes a robust problem-solving process which the Quincy team eagerly deployed around improving the process of getting water jugs closer to the areas our team members were working,” said Mathison. “It took great teamwork to design the system, develop a process for maintaining it, and then implement it.”
After the EFI leadership team implements a solution, they must evaluate it by conversing with employees to learn how it functions as well as ensure all points of view were heard.
“This process is very thorough and takes a group of creative, innovative individuals and helps them become one collaborative group to identify the best solution,” explains Mathison “The water jug project took in total, about two months starting with identifying the problem, to where they are now, which is moving through the evaluation process. The team researched what was needed and how more jugs could be purchased, stored, filled, cleaned and distributed. This is collaboration at work rather than on individual guessing at what is needed to address an issue.”
Within that timeframe, the Quincy leadership team went through a series of concepts and designs before landing on their final design. The Quincy team doubled the amount of water jugs placed strategically around orchard blocks. With the water jug design completed, the team also finalized a stand design and is currently installing those throughout the orchard.
“After implementing this process, the team has created more confidence among employees. The crew members now know they will have easy access to water which results in more efficiencies in the field,” explains Mathison. “And the EFI leadership team has gained confidence in their teamwork, response to concerns and problem-solving skills. This only makes our journey to growing and sharing our World Famous fruit with consumers that much more achievable.”
The team is currently reviewing the latest suggestions and will decide on their next project in the coming weeks.
“We are extremely proud of our team who dove into this EFI process headfirst,” explains Mathison. “Not only will the team continue to work together to make improvements throughout their operations, but they’re striving to exceed current standards and set new ones so we can continue to cultivate and delight.”
Stemilt is a family-owned grower, packer, and shipper of tree fruit. Owned and operated by the Mathison family, Stemilt’s mission is to cultivate people and delight consumers with its World Famous Fruits. Stemilt is a leader in sweet cherries and organic tree fruits, and a key supplier of apples and pears. The company stewards an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible business through its Responsible Choice® program, which has been in place since 1989. For more information about Stemilt, visit www.stemilt.com.