In her role as a senior quality assurance officer with DSM, Joell Springer spends the majority of her time performing audits. “I am responsible for auditing suppliers of our raw materials, packaging, lab testing services and more. During a normal year, I am traveling every week and conducting upwards of 60 audits a year,” she said. Since COVID-19 started, Joell’s day-to-day has had to change drastically. “Now I am conducting virtual audits about once a month. When Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) approached me with an opportunity to help Juaben Oil Mills improve their quality management system, I thought it would be a great way for me to spend my extra time and help others while doing what I love.”
Juaben Oil Mills, a palm oil producer in the Ashanti region of Ghana, decided to work toward a food safety certification under the United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s Global Quality and Standards program. “It’s very important to us to have an improved quality management system (QMS) as it helps us coordinate our operations to better satisfy our customers and meet all our regulatory requirements,” said Kwame Adomako, sustainability officer at Juaben Oil Mills. “As part of the palm oil supply chain, we would like to see an improvement in our operations. By partnering with PFS we have access to a great deal of resources and expertise to help us tackle the pressing issues as a growing company in the palm oil industry,” he continued.
To date, Joell and the volunteer team have reviewed Juaben Oil Mill’s existing documentation relating to its quality system. After realizing the documents were not up to standard, the project team helped the client develop a new documentation control and management plan. Based on the plan, over 200 policies and forms have been created and reviewed, and the client keeps developing new procedures for their business. “To us, volunteers from PFS are like staff we never hired, but they contribute just as much to our operations in a very special way,” Kwame said. “Thanks to this partnership, we are on our way to being a significant player in the edible oil processing industry.”
PFS: Please share more about yourself.
AH: I studied food engineering and have worked in sales for various food ingredients throughout my career. I enjoy working in multicultural teams and have spent the past several years volunteering with PFS as a Client Lead for a couple of different clients.
PFS: Why did you get involved with PFS?
AH: I joined PFS because I wanted to help and give back a little of what I receive every day.
PFS: How does volunteering with PFS help DSM employees live out their purpose?
AH: I believe volunteering with PFS is a good way for DSM employees to ‘Do Something Meaningful.’ Volunteering is about a one hour a week commitment and you get to use your skills and knowledge to help better the lives of others.
PFS: What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned while volunteering with PFS?
AH: You can have a great impact and help others with little time investment.
PFS: If someone is interested in volunteering but may be hesitant to start, what would you say to them?
AH: Just try it! Once you try it for yourself you will see how great the opportunity truly is.
The national dish of Nigeria, Jollof Rice, is a spicy staple food served around the country and gets its signature bright red color from tomatoes. The country is now the second largest producer of fresh tomatoes in Africa. Yet despite that, it is also one of the world’s largest importers of tomato paste. In an effort to strengthen domestic markets for tomato growers, Tomato Jos, a tomato farm based in northern Nigeria, wanted to expand their operations and start making their own tomato paste. Given that this was uncharted territory for the company and their team, they looked to Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) for support in the areas of warehouse space design, staffing, process optimization, and packaging design.
DSM’s Florian Jardin took on the project manager “Client Lead” role for all of these projects with Tomato Jos. “I was drawn to helping them because of the social impact I could directly have,” said Florian. “I want to use my strengths to support start-ups with a great purpose and PFS let me do that with Tomato Jos this past year.” Florian, a global category manager at DSM, used his skills and expertise to not only make sure projects moved along in a timely manner, he also shared business and distribution strategy recommendations with the client CEO. “Initially I was a bit afraid to fail and let the client down, but after the first call I had a great feeling because I knew the volunteer team and I could bring real value to the client and help them reach their goals.”
Within weeks the volunteer project team was able to develop an efficient warehouse design plan that addressed gaps in Tomato Jos’ storage systems, which could now lead to significant cost savings. Volunteers were also able to recreate packaging design files that suited the client’s needs.
“Our experience working with PFS has been very positive,” said Francis Bulus, processing project manager for Tomato Jos. “Considering the fact that our core business objectives for the year revolve around setting up the factory and running it efficiently, the ongoing support from the PFS team, which has helped push a lot of that forward, has been invaluable. It’s to the point that it’s had a ripple effect on the company as a whole because a lot of the decisions constructed by the support from the team translated into smart business decisions across other business units.”
For the past year, DSM Senior Quality Manager Joan Ji has been helping Taste Cocoa Ghana, a cocoa processor, improve their food safety by helping them prepare for the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification. She says, “An international certification like GFSI is key for Taste Cocoa Ghana and will allow them to expand into international markets and compete with other industry players.” Joan has worked at DSM for over 17 years and has deep experience in improving quality assurance systems and establishing company culture focused on quality. “I find it meaningful to share my professional knowledge and skills to educate/train others in food safety and quality,” said Joan. “More importantly, this project will leave a lasting impact beyond Taste Cocoa Ghana. Its employees, their families and community will all benefit from an increased local professional capacity. In addition, consumers will have an a new source of safe, high quality ingredients.”
Because of Joan’s support, Taste Cocoa Ghana is closer to achieving their goal of a GFSI certification. As of December 2020, the project is about 85% complete. She has helped review the client’s HACCP manual, prerequisite programs, training offerings, process controls and validation steps. “Having Joan to learn from is a major advantage,” said Rose Mante, quality assurance manager at Taste Cocoa Ghana. “She helps coach us through our challenges and we get to pick her brain on important issues. We’re able to save considerable time and resources by cutting out all the guesswork.”
Taste Cocoa Ghana hopes to have their GFSI certification soon and will continue to establish an effective and practical quality management system.
Equatorial Nuts is a nut and fortified blended flour company based in Murang’a, Kenya. To meet strict fortification standards, staff were hand measuring the precise amount of vitamins and minerals, and adding it to their products for each batch. Although a permitted method of fortification, adding nutrients by hand is extremely time consuming and more prone to errors. Looking to improve their system and automate this flour fortification process, Equatorial Nuts reached out to TechnoServe, USAID and Partners in Food Solutions for guidance.
Carolina Mertzger, a process engineer in the Industrialized Milling Solutions Unit at Bühler, joined the project team to help Equatorial Nuts explore their automated fortification options. “Africa is advancing at a fast-pace, but they’re still behind in some ways. I joined this project because I wanted to share my knowledge in nutrition and fortification and give back to a continent that I am truly inspired by,” said Carolina. “I am originally from Venezuela and Partners in Food Solutions allows me to continue to develop intercultural relationships and connect with people from all over the world.”
Carolina, along with two other PFS volunteers, spent several months learning about Equatorial Nuts’ process, how it was being used, what physical space was available at their facility, and what they were looking to achieve capacity wise with an automated system. Once the team had an understanding of the client’s needs, they started to research options. “The other volunteers and I consulted with our colleagues at our respective companies and we also researched what other US companies were doing and the equipment they were sourcing. One of our biggest challenges was finding a micro dosing system that would fit in the existing system and space available at the client’s facility. After several more months of research and discussions with the project team, we came up with several recommendations that we shared with the client.”
Based on volunteer recommendations, Equatorial Nuts is currently exploring local partners to source the appropriate technology. Once the new, automatic process is in place, Equatorial Nuts plans to increase production and improve the overall quality of their fortified products.