Bel Group is a world-leading French food manufacturer specializing in dairy products and healthy foods. Their portfolio includes well-known brands such as the Laughing Cow, Babybel, Boursin and many more, produced across 29 sites and distributed in over 120 countries.
In 2005, they established offices in Montreal to oversee Canadian operations. In 2018, they started a project to open a plant in Sorel, Quebec, to manufacture their Mini Babybel line of cheeses. A year and a half later, in December 2019, they did their first cheese trial, and in July 2020, commercial production began.
Serge Vallée, Industrial Performance Manager at Bel, described several challenges he and his team faced when opening the new facility:
Extracting internal equipment expertise
Importing and installing the new equipment
Lack of specialized workforce—needing to build factory knowledge and culture from scratch
Implement all processes and standards at once while meeting production targets
Right at the project kick-off, Poka was referred to the management team by one of their partner organizations in Quebec City.
[Our management team] decided that this software was well aligned with our goal to be a digital plant without paper. We want to use Poka to contribute to the vertical startup of the plant, optimize skill management and empower employees to learn. ”
He added that they saw tremendous potential in Poka to facilitate their training process, especially considering they had to onboard 170 employees in short order, to support a full production schedule. In addition, it would help enable collaboration between sites and ensure they had access to internal expertise from stakeholders around the globe.
Lastly, they wanted to support operational efficiency and facilitate identifying and escalating problems. Poka’s calls for help feature was exactly what they were looking for, making issues management much easier and quicker.
Ensuring proper rollout and adoption was key so that operators could benefit from the full power of the platform and hit the ground running once production began.
In March 2020, training on the platform began, and only two months later, Poka was ready to go. Bel set a target of 80% weekly employee engagement on the platform. Serge explained that for Poka to be beneficial for employees, the team must regularly access the available content.
In October 2021, Bel achieved their FSSC 22000 quality certification, which was needed in order for food products to be permitted for resale. “It was a big step for us. Poka was great to support this certification process,” Serge said. “Without digitalization, including work instructions, skills management, and document control, working with the auditors would have been much more complicated.”
Today, the average employee engagement rate on Poka is 83%, above and beyond their initial target. To encourage adoption, they ask employees to connect to the platform at least 10 times per month— and offer a monthly employee bonus to reinforce this behavior.
On average, staff make 123 calls for help per month, with 115 being closed, equaling a 94% close rate. The remainder are requests that aren’t closed simply because they are more significant tasks that span over a single month or are duplicates.
Lastly, the monthly work instruction view rate is 81%, and in more established teams with less turnover, this number shoots up to over 90%. This is mainly because experienced employees have integrated Poka into their normal flow of work and made it an integral part of their work.
To close things off, Serge shared a few lessons learned and advice for anyone who wants to use Poka at their facility:
Build solid and useful templates for work instruction and train content creators to ease the approval process;
After the first site is up and running, training can be internalized through a Poka champion for future sites that would adopt the solution;
Define when to use the different product features;
Skill follow-ups need to be done by trainers and supervisors—not just HR;
He also adds that a new plant would greatly benefit from Poka already being adopted at other facilities. This would help them avoid the significant task of creating everything from scratch. Documents such as checklists and work instructions could simply be transferred from one location to another.
The more plants that use Poka, the greater the system's power. Best practices and collaboration could be centralized through the platform to ensure the same standards are met worldwide.