Flexible Hours Work at a Land O’Lakes Plant

March 6, 2024
A Wall Street Journal story tells how the dairy co-op is overcoming worker shortages in one of its cheese plants.

The Wall Street Journal today has a fascinating story today partially headlined “Flexible Hours Come to the Factory.” The second half of the title hits home: “A Look Inside Land O’Lakes’ Plant.”

“Until last April, there had really been just two ways to make 329,000 pounds of cheese a day at the Land O’Lakes plant [in Melrose, Minn.]: Start at 5 in the morning and work till 5 at night, or the other way around,” the article says. But the efficiency and predictability of that schedule no longer works in the face of the current shortage of food factory workers.

“At Land O’Lakes, those days are over,” it continues. “They ended last year, when the member-owned cooperative began hiring for a handful of roles in its Melrose plant, along with a few of its animal-feed factories, that let employees choose their own start times and shift lengths.

“Those positions proved easier to fill than full-time openings and had the knock-on benefit of boosting retention. Looking to duplicate those successes, the company has rolled out what it calls its ‘flex work’ program at 60 of its 140 sites, and plans to expand it to all of its factories in coming years.”

Particularly interesting is the story of Raven Nelson, wife of a full-time Land O’Lakes employee (who works unpredictable 12-hour shifts, sometimes at night) and mother of three children under 6. When the Melrose plant advertised its first flex roles—for barrel-handling operators—in early April of last year, Raven Nelson applied and now she’s sealing – on her own schedule -- barrels of cheese.

It's an enlightening story, with lessons on how flexible workers are better (in many ways) than no workers; but it’s accessible to WSJ subscribers only. If you are one, or have your credit card handy, click here.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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