Taking stock: reimagining the production line

Thursday, 09 June, 2022

Taking stock: reimagining the production line

Sam Schachna, CEO of Roma Foods, shares lessons learned and how he’s rethinking the world of work with SafetyCulture. Here’s a look back — and a lens on what’s next.

COVID has sparked a renaissance in the local food manufacturing sector, and companies like my own are fortunate to be riding this wave. Operating for nearly seven decades and exporting to over 70 countries worldwide, Roma Foods is an Australian, family-owned manufacturer on a mission to create great food for healthier living. Despite the upheaval caused by COVID-19, the pandemic has in fact accelerated opportunities for Australian food manufacturers. As consumers increasingly demand locally made, allergen-friendly and plant-based foods, we’ve had to take our operations to another level.

The future is very bright for local companies — especially if you are able to double down with the right tech, teams and operational approach.

Reshaping the manufacturing industry post-pandemic

The Australian food manufacturing sector was well prepared leading into the pandemic due to the Good Manufacturing Practices that are embedded within the industry. Nevertheless, COVID has highlighted several priorities and accelerated several trends in the food manufacturing sector. Something that insulated Roma Foods against major COVID disruption was our existing focus on local, robust supply chains. The industry will face continued supply chain disruption from both COVID and global influences. It is therefore critical to purchase locally wherever possible and build strong relationships to enhance the overall resilience of the sector.

Roma Foods is proud of its strong relationships with local suppliers based on years of collaboration. As an industry, we need to invest in the depth and capability of local supply chains — from farm to plate — to ensure that we are always in a position to provide food security to all in our community.

Investing in smart operations

In a similar vein, there is a need to invest in local capability and infrastructure to improve efficiency and innovation. It is not an even playing field for local manufacturers, as Australia does not have the scale or local market size to compare to global multinationals. To thrive in the local industry, it is critical to compete where local is a competitive advantage and to invest in skills and infrastructure to improve efficiency and innovation.

With ever-changing government regulations and market dynamics, COVID led to us adopting a new mindset of ‘measured urgency’, proving that we can do better, more quickly and effectively. To achieve this, Roma defined a new business strategy to meet the needs of the ever-growing health shopper, launching over 40 new products into the health and mainstream aisles and adopting new technology improvements such as digitising workflows to empower our journey of growth and innovation while ensuring we prioritise safe people, safe product and safe data. We’ve invested in tech solutions like iAuditor by SafetyCulture that can help staff perform checks, report issues and collect on-the-ground data in minutes. It hasn’t just unlocked the ability for us to achieve the step-change growth that we’re driving for, but has also allowed us to do it in a manner that is safe, agile and ambitious, always looking for avenues for growth.

Always have one eye on growth

Being alive to opportunity and taking calculated risks is key to survival. This is especially so in a time where there is so much uncertainty. Through COVID we scaled up to respond to increased demand in the short term and kept one eye on growth, launching new brands into new markets. Our community relies on us and it’s something we take very seriously.

A key tenet of an expansion mindset is investing in human and capital infrastructure. Our vision is to have a Roma Foods product in every family’s pantry. By investing in our people, brands and capability, we are getting closer to achieving our vision every day.

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