Country Malt was named business of the year in January 2016 by the North Country Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Rob Fountain, Plattsburgh Press Republican
Country Malt Relies on Lean
Lean training jump starts success.
Country Malt started as a backyard family business in 1995 to make it easier for home brewers to find the malts and other ingredients they need. Bryan Bechard, president of Country Malt Group, wanted to start his own business. His brother, a home brewer, had the idea, but already had a job and a family to support, so Bryan and their recently-retired father, Claude, took it on together.
They quickly decided to target commercial craft brewers rather than home brewers and the business took off. Over time, the Bechards developed their business model, and grew with the craft brewing industry. In 2007, North Country Malt Supply was sold to United Malt Holdings, a U.S. company. Two years later it was sold to the GrainCorp of Australia. Today, Country Malt is the largest supplier to craft breweries in North America. Employing 40 people in its 135,000-square-foot warehouse on Beeman Way in Champlain, Country Malt was recognized as the “Business of the Year” in 2015 by the North Country Chamber of Commerce.
As Country Malt grew, the systems and workflow that had developed organically began to get cumbersome. Whenever a new product or line was added, it was put into the workflow wherever it fit. The staff and company always had a customer-centric approach, so they always found a way to make it work. When a new site manager, Chris Trombley, came on board with decades of experience in maintenance and engineering, he saw that there was a lot of opportunity. A systematic approach to safety and operations was necessary to improve efficiency, space utilization, and workforce productivity.
Country Malt engaged CITEC Business Solutions to do Lean Foundations training for their staff that covered value stream mapping, workplace organization, production flow, changeover and more. They also dedicated time for a purchasing specialist and a warehouse manager to pursue Lean White Belt training to strengthen the continuous improvement practices in the company.
The results were compelling. Lean training allowed for massive growth within the same physical footprint. These same principles also guide layout and staff at additional Country Malt facilities. "CITEC provided an essential and critical service to help our sustainability and growth," says Trombley. "We are extremely happy with the level of service, professionalism and expertise they provide and are actively looking to work with them more."
Country Malt’s lean culture works to engage and empower a diverse staff to challenge each other with respect. They create leaders and team members who are willing to learn from each other. This results in lower staff turnover while producing higher productivity and fewer delivery errors, which in turn means more happy customers. Country Malt has engaged CITEC to increase their bench strength with more lean white belts through 2018.
The explosive growth of this company is due to many factors including enterprising management and a positive sector outlook; the straightforward, disciplined approach that their company’s continuous improvement practices provide allows that growth to continue, and provides a framework for the future.
$820,000 investment in new products and processes
$500,000 investment in equipment
$1,025,000 investment in information systems
$350,000 investment in workforce
$450,000 additional investments across the business
Increased job: 15
Contact Steve Lockwood for more information