Oregon Freeze Dry LLC is the world’s largest custom processor of freeze-dried products. With a menu of more than 500 items, the Food Division at Oregon Freeze Dry has evolved into a distinctly segmented business. In addition to providing private-label manufacturing, the company features a full-line of ingredients used by some of America’s largest food companies. It is a major supplier of field rations to the U.S. military, and markets its own line of backpacking foods under the Mountain House® brand. The company has more than 20-million kg of drying capacity at its three facilities, representing about 70 percent of North America’s total freeze-drying capacity. “We freeze-dry products, anywhere from food products to pharmaceuticals,” said Tim Stutzman, Manufacturing Systems Analyst for Oregon Freeze Dry.
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Oregon Freeze Dry decided to implement the Synergy Statistical Process Control (SPC) software as a tool that would empower its operators to proactively manage the process. “We needed a tool for operators so that they would know whether or not they were in control. Prior to the Synergy SPC software, operators had no real-time way to tell whether or not their step in the process was in control,” said Stutzman.
Synergy software was selected to help meet management’s objectives. “Management wanted less rework, tighter controls, to run our machines at lower targets so we would be overpacking less product,” said Stutzman.
With Synergy’s capabilities, Oregon Freeze Dry can be more precise in the ranges that they allow the packages to be filled. “We run 5 packaging lines a day with products running in the thousands. If we can reduce our range by a gram, that saves us a ton of money. Without Synergy, we would not be able to set such tight tolerances,” said Stutzman.
“We run 5 packaging lines a day with products running in the thousands. If we can reduce our range by a gram, that saves us a ton of money. Without Synergy, we would not be able to set such tight tolerances. Entering the data into Synergy is much quicker than how we collected data in the past. We are saving about 13 man-hours a day that translates to $500 a day.”
— Tim Stutzman, Manufacturing Systems Analyst for Oregon Freeze Dry.
For the operators, using Synergy is very straight forward. “We found that Synergy was the easiest to convert and to train. The product has a lot of useful features, and it is simple to use. One click away and you have a run chart.”
In addition to saving Oregon Freeze Dry money, Synergy also saves them time. ”Entering the data into Synergy is much quicker than how we collected data in the past. We are saving about 10 man hours a day that translates to $500 a day,” said Stutzman. “With Synergy, the operators have the visibility to make decisions at their stage in the process. This allows the operators to be proactive versus reactive about issues.”
Oregon Freeze Dry also saves money through the decreased amount of rework. “The other way we are saving money is the fact that we have decreased considerably the amount of rework we are performing. Now we have the visibility to see when a process is trending towards going out of control. We can make adjustments so it doesn’t go out of control—saving us a tremendous amount of repackaging.” said Stutzman.
Stutzman commented that Synergy helps him by freeing up his time. “It saves me a lot of time. I find the files are easy to set up. I can setup a file in a couple of minutes. If there is something new the packaging engineer wants to do, I can set it up quickly. Synergy is an easy program to use. It is easy to train. I haven’t seen an operator yet that didn’t learn how to use it quickly. The program is efficient and runs smoothly; it is quick and fast, and easy to understand.”
Oregon Freeze Dry also uses Synergy to test out new products. “The packaging engineer really likes the charting features; the histograms, the standard deviation charts, the Cpks, etc. to make determinations about new products,” said Stutzman. “He uses Synergy to help him determine whether or not existing machines can make a new product. He will do a test run, enter the Statistical Process Control (SPC) data into Synergy, and then using the graphing capability in Synergy he will test whether or not the machine is capable or not.”