Production Scheduling-The Most Important Task of the Day

June 13th 2018

by Michelle O’Connor, Moxie Consulting

The morning starts the same in many delis I visit. There is a clipboard or a whiteboard over in the corner of the department, and written upon it is THE LIST. The list is comprised of recipes that need to be completed that day. Every morning the staff gather around THE LIST and talk about what they did last night and what they are going to do this weekend, all while drinking their morning cup o joe and putting their initials by recipe’s that they will make that day. As the day unfolds, it’s hard to keep track of how many times the carrots go in and out of the walk in to be prepped by several different people; same with the onions and celery.

I notice that no one puts their initials next to the meatloaf, it seems to be some kind of a punishment task for the person that was late to work and there is nothing else to choose. I understand why, it’s a huge 90 lb. batch that needs thawing, veggie prep, an egg slop, breadcrumbs, forming the loaf and making the glaze. This could take most of the day to accomplish and steal your soul right along with it.

I also notice that the ones “in the know”, the ones that show up early every day to sign up for what they want on THE LIST, have their initials next to more items than everyone else, but in reality, the actual workload of these items is often minimal and it becomes clear that some staff are working without much sense of urgency but on paper getting much more done.

Some of the downfalls of a kitchen that schedules production like this are:

  1. Numerous repetitive tasks (carrots, celery being prepped many times throughout the day)
  2. Inefficiencies with pulling out product numerous times and pulling out machines numerous times
  3. Product inconsistencies occur with non-specialized staff
  4. Staff are making the decisions on how to spend labor dollars
  5. Unequal distribution of tasks
  6. Stations are undefined making training more difficult
  7. Tasks may be too big to accomplish easily
  8. Product is often out of stock and customers are disappointed

If any of these things are occurring in your kitchen, it may be time to make some changes.

Much of my experience in food service comes from the restaurant world. I learned that the Kitchen Brigade system is a tried and true system that works. Kitchen Brigade breaks tasks into very specific stations which allows staff to become specialized and reduces the amount of repetition throughout the day.

Some of the benefits to using the Kitchen Brigade model to structure your kitchen and plan production are:

  1. Task specific stations
    1. Prep, Soups/Sauces, Salad Production, Hot Bar Production, Packager, Salad Bar, Baker
    2. Specialized staff are able to do the same tasks over and over which gains efficiencies and consistencies
  2. Scheduling of production is placed into the hands of a person in charge.
  3. Training for stations becomes standardized.
  4. Gaining the ability to know when items will be ready ex: all prep is completed the night before for prepared salads to be done during the morning shift. This allows for items to be done before the lunch rush instead of waiting the entire shift to see what gets done.
  5. No task is too big as everything is broken down into its parts.
  6. People are doing the right thing in the right place at the right time with regards to the equipment around them and the constraints of the workspace taken into consideration.

Making this change requires some heavy lifting. In my experience, the best way to make a change to a different style of production scheduling is to sit down with your leadership team and do most of the heavy lifting before implementation. This helps gain buy-in from your leadership team and ensures that the change is well thought out prior to rolling it out to your kitchen crew.

First start by defining stations. Rename your stations based on the tasks they will be executing, determine which tasks the station will typically take on, create station descriptions, opening & closing duties, cleaning tasks, create any station specific logs, include any relevant equipment information like cleaning, safety & maintenance, and ensure any recipes that are needed by the station are readily available.

Next, create a trigger batch sheet which is your master production scheduling tool of every single batch item you make in the department. Change triggers and batch sizes often until you achieve the perfect numbers.

For stations that do the same thing every single day like Sandwich Prep and Salad Bar, create daily prep lists with build to or par amounts.

Create menus for hot bar and other consistently produced items like rotisserie chickens, and break them down into written prep and production lists to avoid making these lists over and over throughout the month.

Then pick a date in the near future and educate your staff as much as possible about the upcoming changes. Use your trigger batch sheet to create production lists that are ready and waiting for staff on the day of the change. Use the tools you have created to make the best choices of where and when items should be produced and by whom. When staff arrives to work, their list will be created for them leaving them to learn how to best execute their list efficiently.

In the days leading up to the change, you may want to ramp up production to ensure adequate quantities of food for sale as you slowly change your kitchen. It won’t be perfect, you and your leadership team will have made mistakes in guessing triggers and batches. There will be a 2-3 day transition period that will result in overages and shortages. You will be there watching and changing amounts and soon, your hard work will pay off and you will have a new way of scheduling production that will gain you many rewards.

Remember that the hard work and time it initially takes you to reorganize your kitchen stations and introduce a new way to schedule production can be quite daunting, but it will save countless hours in the future. It will create new opportunities to take on other programs and items that you may not currently be able to make time and space for today. This will grows sales and increases productivity. Work will be done more consistently and efficiently and there will be more time to plan for the next big thing you want to do.

Michelle O’Connor is the owner of Moxie Consulting LLC.  Moxie offers Strategic Consulting for the Natural and Organic Food Service Industry. She can be reached at michelle@moxie.consulting or 541-941-7978