Why a Processor of the Year?

Are you finding ways to add value to your product? Have you wrung the inefficiencies out of your plants?

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

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There are plenty of accolades in the business world. From "best places to work" to the Malcolm Baldrige Awards to "America's most admired companies." Is there room for one more? Is it even necessary?

We think so. In announcing our first Processor of the Year in this issue, we hope there are lessons to be learned in the story of Tyson Foods Inc.

This really could be your story … one day. How many of you are small, family-run outfits? Doing a modern equivalent of driving truckloads of Arkansas chickens to sell in Chicago? Looking for that acquisition or some big break that will rocket you to the top?


Our Processor of the Year criteria
  • Sound financial performance (including expanding sales and profitability)

  • Innovative product development

  • Leading manufacturing technology

  • Managerial excellence

  • Commitment to quality

  • General industry leadership and service
We have companies large and small among the readers of Food Processing. While most realistically cannot aspire to be a $26 billion company, we hope there are lessons in the Tyson story that can take you to $26 million, if you're below that. Or maybe to the $1 billion club.

Are you working hard to become the very best in your niche, as Tyson did with chicken? Are you constantly finding ways to add value to your basic product? Have you wrung the inefficiencies out of your plants?

Your employees may not be as numerous or as disparate as Tyson's, but are you communicating the company vision to each and every one? (Tyson has a "company values" card printed in seven languages, including Bosnian and Somali.) Are you empowering them to "do whatever the customer wants and we'll figure it out later," as John Tyson puts it. Are you looking for emerging leaders at all levels and giving them the additional training and breaks they need to flower?

Those are the three approaches in our stories on Tyson. One looks at the overall company: its history, its management, its business mix, its financial success. The second looks at its product development process - how Tyson is moving chicken, beef and pork up the value chain - with focus on its soon-to-be-completed R&D home, the Discovery Center. Finally, we look at perhaps the cornerstone of its lofty position today: its manufacturing prowess.

The biggest North American food company (by our count) also is its biggest manufacturer. Tyson outsources very little. It effectively manages 147 processing plans and 114,000 employees. It adds value the old-fashioned way: by manufacturing those products better than anyone else can.

Despite its size and age, Tyson manages to remain a wonderful combination of aw-shucks Arkansan can-do attitude coupled with modern R&D, manufacturing and marketing tools under a benevolent yet demanding management. We hope it always does.

By the way, the selection process involved all the Food Processing editors, full-time and contributors, as well as our Editorial Advisory Board.

What will you do over the next few months to get nominated as our 2006 Processor of the Year?


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