Smart Manufacturing in COVID-19: Fireside Chat with Flagstone Foods and Magna International

COVID-19 has left manufacturers with major bottlenecks in operations due to disruptions in supply chains, changes in demand, and reduced workforce. Additionally, safety protocols and guidelines to implement social distancing measures in facilities are another layer of complexity when it comes to meeting production deadlines. 

In our most recent Shoplogix “Ask the Experts” fireside chat on ‘Manufacturers’ Response to COVID-19’,  smart factory expert Nick Marchioli had the opportunity to speak with leading manufacturers and Shoplogix customers, Scott Jackson, VP of Operations at Flagstone Foods and Darren Charbonneau, Director of Lean Manufacturing and Operational Improvement at Magna International. 

Exclusive insights were shared on how manufacturers have adapted to these disruptions and the significant role technology plays in mitigating current and post-pandemic production risks.

Watch the full on-demand conversation

Here are some of the highlights of the conversation. 

Nick Marchioli:

Please give us an overview of the operational challenges currently facing your manufacturing operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott Jackson

The response level for us has been one. We took some pretty quick action and put things in place such as fit for work testing for all of our employees and people coming into the building. We now take temperature tests and ask employees a series of four questions that each employee has to respond to determine if they have not been exposed to the virus.

In addition to that, we’ve put barriers and social distancing markers on the floor similar to 5S, marking off the area to make sure people stay safe and stay the proper distance from each other.  

Nick Marchioli: 

How has the increase in demand in the food business impacted operations from an efficiency point of view? With all the extra steps you’re taking to ensure safety, is it impacting your ability to produce at the same level and speed? 

Scott Jackson:

It’s not as much as impacting our ability to produce and put products out the door, but the demand that we are seeing from the retail community and food production. 

We’ve got key grocers, key retailers that are placing well above their traditional volume at this point in time that it’s interesting. We spiked about a week and a half two weeks ago. We’ve seen some leveling off of that and now we’re actually hearing from some of those retailers that they will be reducing their forward forecast. 

I think we’re starting to see some of the backlash of that. If you like the slinky effect. We got pulled ahead very quickly and a lot of extra volume. And now the slinky is starting to contract and contract very quickly relative to consumers who have filled their pantry and demand is starting to fall off a little bit with people going back to normal buying trends and buying tendencies. 


Nick Marchioli:

Did you have to also add extra shifts to accommodate the rush in F&B demand at the start?

Scott Jackson:

Where we can we did, unfortunately, it’s not easy just to ramp up and put employees on lines when you’re trying to run sophisticated packaging equipment. So where we could, we did that but at the same point, it was really just a matter of starting to trim down and take a look at the most efficient skews.

You take a customer, and then maybe 10 or 15 items we run for them and then work with that customer to say we can give you more by avoiding changeovers that allow us to produce as much as we can without taking unnecessary downtime due to changeovers. 


Nick Marchioli:

Darren, how have you been able to deal with supply chain changes? Are your suppliers ready and waiting to supply you when things restart?


Darren Charbonneau:

Before mid-march our demand increased and then it came to a rough stop. We have to get into a situation now, where we turn the engine off and try to slowly turn it back on in accordance with the demand that we’re seeing. It’s much lower than normal. So all of our divisions and our groups at Magna are in constant daily contact with the supply base to make sure they have days on hand of the raw material, the days on hand to the finished good levels that can support us for our startup and make sure more importantly that they’re complying with all the COVID actions.

Nick Marchioli:

All this work around testing and restructuring facilities, how do you feel technology is going to play a role in offsetting the cost incurred with COVID and getting back to normal?

Darren Charbonneau

Magna in general embraces technology everywhere. To ensure we have a good continuous improvement process, technology is key and utmost on a daily basis. We need to get to a point where the problems are very visible. In most industries, the problems are hidden and you need technology to get to the root cause very quickly. 

Shoplogix exposed issues on a whole new level we weren’t addressing and we see this happening with COVID. 

Nick Marchioli:

To what extent do you feel the investment in technology plays in enabling manufacturers with operational continuity during the crisis, and post-pandemic? 

Darren Charbonneau

Before all this came about Magna as a whole and subgroups and divisions individually were going on the path of smart factory.

Industry 4.0. It’s a buzzword, but it’s just really a way of trying to get to the root cause sooner and trying to get more people actively engaged and involved in problem-solving faster through technology. Technology will be a big-ticket for us to go forward, but I really don’t believe we’re going to have a new normal.

Looking at the industry trends and marketplace, we’re all going to be under scrutiny and cost-cutting measures and to operate as efficiently as we can to make sure we’re maintaining shareholders and our biggest shareholders are employees and all of our customers.

It was a big issue before trying to implement a lot of these new technologies. It’s going to be twice as important in the future I believe because there’s going to be that much more pressure. 

Click here to watch the full conversation.

About the speakers:

Nick Marchioli
VP of Global Sales

Nick is a true veteran in the manufacturing world with over 20 years of experience empowering businesses through innovative software solutions and helping organizations refine their SMART goals. With hundreds of plant implementations in sectors like Automotive, Food, and Beverage, Industrial Packaging, CPG, and Steel Services, he has the right expertise to help you take your business to the next level. Connect with Nick on LinkedIn!

Scott Jackson
Senior Vice President of Operations
Flagstone Foods, LLC

With over 32 years of management experience encompassing operations and distribution in the consumer products industry, Scott is responsible for the strategic vision and leadership of Environmental Health & Safety, Quality Assurance, Manufacturing, Asset Reliability and Engineering Capex for all production facilities within Flagstone Foods. Scott’s prior experience includes roles of increasing responsibilities in processing and packaging management, operations analysis, supply chain, and operations management. Underneath Scott’s professional accomplishments, his true passion is to help others reach their goals and stretch their capabilities.

Darren Charbonneau
Director of Lean Manufacturing and Operational Improvement Magna International – Mechatronics America’s

With 22 years of operations experience spanning multiple roles at Magna International, Darren has led Magna division plants, productions, launches, and QC specifications. He is currently championing lean strategies and operational improvements across Magna’s Mechatronics group responsible for the OEE, kaizen culture, and continuous improvement across the division. Darren’s passion for tech to drive CI has made him an early adopter of smart factory technology where he was first to implement the Shoplogix smart factory platform at Magna 6 years ago.

About Shoplogix IIoT Smart Factory Software

Shoplogix is re-defining the manufacturing industry by making the Smart Factory platform the cornerstone of digital production performance transformation. With plug and play implementation that captures machine data instantly, Shoplogix offers remote access to real-time operation data for advanced monitoring. By empowering manufacturers to visualize, integrate, and act on production performance, Shoplogix helps to adapt to changing demand, uncover hidden shop floor potential, and drive rapid time to value.

Take the next steps to safeguard your operations. Contact us to discuss manufacturing capabilities, capacity management, employee engagement, operational excellence, remote production monitoring, and more.

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