On Friday, engineering students from the University of St. Thomas presented their senior projects that were developed with industry and nonprofits to engineer special prototype solutions to real-world problems. This year, five students worked with PFS volunteer Jesse Theis, who works for Bühler, PFS partner TechnoServe with support from USAID, and the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to address a challenge that local miller Sozi Integrity faced.
Sozi Integrity is a milling company located in Tanzania. They mill maize into flour, and also sun dry and sell the separated bran to animal feeds processors. During the rainy season –September to May - the environment is not conducive to sun drying, and therefore Sozi loses about $833 worth of maize bran daily. The team worked on designing a scalable dryer that would ensure the dried bran revenue stream year-round, and reduce the food waste. The result of this project will be a dryer design and we’ve recently completed the first test run of a continuous rotary dryer which has been designed and developed over the last 8 months.
One of the biggest takeaways for the students was the chance to actually construct their design. Jesse Theis says he enjoyed watching them problem solve and learn. “Working directly with the students at St. Thomas was wonderful. They’re intelligent, resourceful and effective young entrepreneurs,” he said.
Now that the PFS and St. Thomas team are done with their part, the design and testing data will be passed on to the student engineering team at the University of Dar es Salaam for continued work. It will then be fabricated there and replicated for many companies like Sozi across Tanzania. Preliminary results of the design are showing that companies could recoup the cost of the new dryer in just two months, which would represent a significant savings for them over the life of the machine.
Eighteen executives from 15 food processors gathered with Partners in Food Solutions on March 29th to discuss data-driven decision-making. Topics included discussion of four analytic dashboards developed in conjunction with Open Capital Advisors over the last several months. The dashboards covered common performance indicators in the areas of marketing, finance, operations and social impact. Open Capital worked with each business to identify their top analytical need and presented each client with an analysis based on their data. Some surprising discoveries were made. For example, many clients realized they weren’t fully allocating costs across some product lines, distorting profitability. FairRate Millers discovered that although their 2kg bags moved more rapidly off the shelves, their larger profit margin was with the 1 kg packaging. When asked if this exercise was helpful, Ken Nyaga CEO of FairRate Millers exclaimed, “The answer is not only yes; it’s yes! Yes! Yes!”
The AINFP program has piloted a mentorship program between TechnoServe staff (including their Deputy and Chief of Party) and standout PFS volunteers who are later in their careers. Twelve TechnoServe staff were matched and introduced. Their mentorship will run for one year, and the focus is on professional development for both parties. Peter Erickson, PFS board chair, is serving as a mentor for Nirav Patel, owner of Simply Foods, a PFS client company in Kenya.
We're also trying out another new idea with our long-time client COMACO in Zambia. John Mendesh and myself have spearheaded a “sister plant” relationship between COMACO’s largest plant in Chipata and General Mills’s largest plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Four high-level managers at both plants have been paired according to their technical areas of expertise in mentoring relationship to focus on areas of continuous improvement for COMACO as the company implements its first strategic eight-quarter plan.
The General Mills Foundation is proud to announce a Global Volunteer Award has been given to a unique volunteer team that supported a Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) project to help Golden Bees Ltd. in Uganda.
Golden Bees provides a wide range of beekeeping products and services, such as packaging and honey processing (sourced from over 2,000 local beekeepers), tinctures, beeswax, bee equipment, beekeeping feasibility studies, and beekeeping training and consultancies.
“When PFS came to General Mills with a project to help their client, Golden Bees, improve their inventory management system, develop a quality management system and a mini lab, and improve their use of a computerized accounting system, our volunteers across the globe were quick to raise their hands and form a new way of teaming up for a volunteer project,” says Minn Wang, senior program manager at the General Mills Foundation.
What resulted was the pilot of a volunteer team made up entirely of General Mills Europe employees.
“Our aim with this effort was to build up a workplace culture of volunteerism and teamwork at General Mills in Europe, and to offer our PFS client a project team that had the potential to work together seamlessly, avoiding the challenges of time zone differences and in some cases, working together on project work from the same location,” said Frederic Olivier, a manufacturing and engineering director for General Mills, Europe and Australia (EUAU), based in Nyon, Switzerland.
The six-month project included the following General Mills volunteers:
Project Manager: Frederic Olivier (Nyon, Switzerland)
Supply Chain/Inventory Project: Michele Canepa (UK), Jonathan Barnett (UK)
Finance/Computerized Accounting System: Raffaele Virgilio (Nyon, Switzerland), Francois Rouet (Yoplait Plant in La Mans, France)
Quality/Quality Management System and Build-Up of Mini Lab: Carlota Gonzalo (San Adrian Plant in Spain)
“Each of these volunteers made themselves available to their project clients via WhatsApp for informal discussions and check-ins between their scheduled bi-weekly project calls, which helped to expedite project work and resulted in a satisfying experience for everyone involved,” says Frederic.
The Result: Today, Golden Bees has started to manage basic accountability with a new local software program. They have upgraded their quality lab and empowered the quality team with many of our team’s recommendations. And Golden Bees is operating by using an Excel inventory management tool built by General Mills.
In an email to Frederick, Brian Mugisha, general manager of Golden Bees Ltd. said, “We are grateful for the General Mills PFS team’s immense contribution to Golden Bees. There is no way we can pay you back, other than working towards improving Golden Bees to one day be a ‘General Mills of Uganda.’ Fredrick, thank you for captaining us through these six months. We really appreciate the entire team’s world class business acumen.”
As a result of earning a Global Volunteer Award, members of this General Mills volunteer team will each receive a certificate of merit, a magnetic medal, and they will collectively choose a qualifying nonprofit of their choice to make a $500 foundation grant to.
Simon Hailu, food processing specialist for the PFS Alliance Program in Ethiopia, says now that he's been to Switzerland, he finally knows how it feels to be the milk processed by his dairy clients in Ethiopia!
It's because he's never been quite that cold! At the end of 2018, PFS staff joined field staff from Ethiopia, Zambia, and Malawi on a visit to PFS corporate partners in Switzerland and the Netherlands. The team toured processing facilities at Bühler, DSM, Cargill and also General Mills joint venture Cereal Partners Worldwide. They had the opportunity to meet with current and prospective volunteers, and to share about their work supporting food processors in home countries. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to bring the field experience to life at our European partners, connect with our amazing volunteers, and help our field staff understand the capabilities of our partners and volunteers.
As a bonus, we got to enjoy the holiday season in Europe and our field staff had the chance to take a day trip to the Alps and see snow for the first time! The members of the team summed the trip up nicely - it was a chilly but enlightening experience!