Are You Listening to Voice of Agency?

Are You Listening to Voice of Agency?

Jerry Rosenthal started on his process improvement journey where he entered the world of medical device and worked with such companies like Cardinal Health. Jerry’s expertise is primarily in regulated environments such as food, beverage and pharmaceutical production and packaging. Jerry has been successful at taking principles and tools from manufacturing and applying them to a commercial business practice, and he does that at Rosenthal & Associates Consulting.  Jerry Rosenthal

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Note: This is a transcription of an interview. It has not gone through a professional editing process and may contain grammatical errors or incorrect formatting.

An excerpt from the interview: 

Joe: What are the major differences in applying Lean to the food industry as compared to general manufacturing or the service industry?

Jerry: I think from my perspective, the one thing that really jumps out to me are what those of us Lean practitioners call the Voices and certainly not the voices in my head, not my craziness but as you look within the business, there’s Voice of Customer, Voice of Business, Voice of Process, Voice of Employee, those are typically ones that I talk about in any manufacturing environment.

Let’s just touch on them briefly.

  1. Voice of Customer, you don’t go to some place, like McDonald’s if you want pizza. The customer says, “I want a burger. I want fries. I want a coke.” This is what the customer wants; this is what we produce.
  2. In line with Voice of Business, you have a map, the business produces what the customer wants.
  3. Voice of Process, certainly you have a business process, manufacturing, making cranberries, producing tomatoes, producing citrus, whatever that process is you have a defined process and if you have a process that takes X number of hours, X number of days, that’s what the process is and you can’t go beyond that process.
  4. Voice of the Employee, certainly you have a skill set within your employee body if you will and you can’t ask them to do things that are outside of where they’ve been trained or where their educational level is.  It’s ensuring; they process, and you have employees that certainly match, that their skill set is able to deliver working with their process. That’s typically what’s available within what I call general manufacturing.

What is different about regulated industries, be it food, pharmaceutical, even if you go to other areas, banking, insurance, you have what I call the Voice of the Agency. What is the agency? The agency is any regulatory body that imposes other restrictions or other guidelines on that business.  I’ll use a very general example. Voice of the Agency maybe something like the USDA or the FDA, typically in other areas if you sell a product in Europe, there’s other European health agencies that get involved. There’re others in Japan. There’re others in South America. Certainly, when you get involved with, industries like banking you have the FDIC, certainly you have the Federal Government, involved in what banks can and can’t do. You get these agencies that provide guidelines.

Within the fruit industry, the industry has setup guidelines on what you can print on your product as far as vitamin C content.  I know that there are many manufacturers out there that add certain products, ascorbic acid, for example, to boost vitamin C content of their products. But, certainly, what manufacturers print on the label is what, this contains 100% of your daily recommended dose of vitamin C. Vitamin C has a limited shelf life. You can’t put a product on the shelf and expect that on day 1 as well as 6 months later that it’s going to have the same vitamin C content. It deteriorates over time. Manufacturers might, when they originally manufacture it; they might boost that to 150%, 180% so that 6 months down the road you’re still above that 100% threshold. But, the point I’m trying to make is so you do have guidelines that say, “What, if you are going to print X on a package, you have to have truth in advertising, you have to have truth in labeling.

Another one is if you’re going to call something a juice; it really has to have a certain juice content, and it’s different for every product. There’s a difference between what’s a juice, what’s a juice drink, what’s a beverage. Certainly, you see on your packaging, if you get orange juice, it may be a hundred percent juice. If it’s a juice drink, perhaps like a lemonade drink or a lemonade flavored beverage, it may only have 2% or 5% real lemon juice in there. The agency that other body really regulates what you can and can’t do, that other typical manufacturers don’t have, and you really need to take that into consideration. Certainly, it’s a little bit of an added cost to meet those requirements, but  what, consumers want to pay for, they want to get what they’re paying for. You’ve got to have some of those regulatory issues in place.

Joe: When we look at, the Voice of Customer and the Voice of Process and as you mentioned I think the Voice of Agency is a brilliant statement. In Lean, we sort of categorize and figure out what’s important and what we need to address. With Voice of Agency can we do that or do we have to assume we are going to meet or do everything?

 Jerry: Joe, that’s a great question. There’re many people that think, “Oh, the government, the agency, the FDA, the USDA says I must do this. The agency, whatever body that might be doesn’t tell you how to do it. They just say, “You have to have a program in place” to ensure that the end consumer, the customer is going to have a pure unadulterated product. They don’t tell you how to do it. They say, “what, you will provide X level of purity and safety to the product.” It really is up to the company or an entity to put their own programs in place on how they’re going to meet the requirements. Even though the agency may say, “Yes, you will do this. You’ll ensure safety. You will ensure that if, provide a pasteurized product that it is shelf stable.” But, they don’t tell you how to do it. You have to prove out your own process. You can put your own process in place.

Every company has their own; SOPs or standing operating procedures or work instructions or job aids or guidelines and the government or the agency doesn’t tell you how to do it. They say what you should do, but they don’t tell you how to do it.  It’s within, an entity’s own control to look at, “Great, what are we going to do taking Lean into account?”  looking at different areas of ways, “How do we meet the requirement without being wasteful, looking at cost, looking at effort, looking at the different sources of waste and make sure we’ve got a good balance?”

If we want to be in this business space, we have to comply with the Voice of the Agency but we also have to be profitable, because if we’re not profitable, what’s the point of being in business? Again, this is a society, the capitalist program we live in. Businesses are just not in place because it’s fun. Certainly, they want to be compliant. They want to make a fantastic, high-quality product that consumers come back and buy more and more because it’s a good product. They don’t get sick. They can trust it. But, on the other side, the company certainly has to be profitable.

For more Conversation about the uses of Food Safety Data, join us at the

Lean: Using Food Safety Data to leverage Lean Practices