Fleischmann’s Yeast – Rising to the Challenge

When one thinks of Memphis, Tennessee, situated on the banks of the Mississippi River, one’s mind quickly zeros in on the famous Barbeque and Blues of Beale Street, the King of Rock ’n’ Roll Elvis Presley or his well know mansion: Graceland.

But if you are part of the AB Mauri Company your thoughts of Memphis turn to the Fleischmann’s Yeast plant that is making company history by setting manufacturing and leadership excellence standards for the world to see. 

AB Mauri is part of Associated British Foods, an international company producing bakery ingredients in 28 countries around the globe. Fleischmann’s Yeast, a division of AB Mauri, has a history in North America that spans over 100 years. Fleischmann’s Yeast has four North American manufacturing facilities supplying bakeries and restaurants with yeast and bakery ingredients across this Continent.

These facilities are located in Memphis, TN, Montreal Canada, Greenville, Texas, and Calgary, Alberta.


At the Memphis site, June 30 marked the one year anniversary of introducing Mission-Directed Work Teams (MDW) in Memphis that they call “Mission Focused Teams.” Since the programs introduction, life has changed significantly for the 53 dedicated employees there, as they established Mini-Businesses in Fermentation, Packaging, Distribution followed recently by the Maintenance, Laboratory and Administration areas. What distinguishes the Memphis Team is the nearly $1 million dollars in annualized savings that they have secured in just this first year of the program!

Imagine, a plant of 53 people realizing nearly a million dollars in savings and the creation of a workplace where people look forward to coming to work! Quite an accomplishment in these challenging times!


Critical to the success at Memphis and cascading Mission Focused Teams across the other North American AB Mauri manufacturing plants is Robert Hall, Vice President of Manufacturing. Robert introduced the company to MDW and is the driving force in launching all four plants during this first year. According to Robert “Developing a Performance Culture within an organization is the key to sustainable long term success. Having come from an organization, three years ago, that implemented a continuous improvement culture across 40 manufacturing sites, I knew what this type of culture looked like and the results that could be achieved. Fleischmann’s had dedicated, hard working employees at all levels, however, the managers were too entrenched in the details of daily production and directing the work force on what was required throughout the day. The managers were not being Leaders. Discussions on Tactics and Strategy for driving performance were limited due to their time constraints. MDW provided the tools necessary to allow the work force to become more engaged in the daily performance and decision process.

The visual approach of MDW provided the catalyst for employees to understand that the actions they take, all day long, really matter to the performance of the overall team and site. They had always wanted to be more engaged and MDW allowed this to occur. In turn, this lead to the managers having more time to actually Lead the teams as they then had increased time to develop tactics and strategies to drive improvement.”


Plant Manager Chris Syrigos quickly adopted the MDW process with open arms and joins in Level 1 and Level 2 meetings each day. Chris virtually manages his plant from the “WAR ROOM” where all teams meet daily. (see photo). Chris also has located his Level 3 charts, business plan and renovation projects in the same room as the Level 1 and Level 2 teams. Here, all employees can see and track the plants struggles, progress and successes. Chris had this to say about his management style and what he believes underlies his plant’s achievements “Managers must believe that people are the most valuable asset to any business or organization. Mission focus work teams provides the methods to support that belief by allowing 100% of the employees to deal directly with all of the losses empowering them to eliminate and innovate their work to achieve great results.”


Meeting daily in one room for all the teams was the “innovation” of Operations Manager and Mission Focused Teams point person, Jeff Watson. Jeff oversaw the construction of this “War Room” and embraced the ideas of the team members in its design, layout and construction. Here, each team tracks performance goals for: Safety, Quality, Speed, Cost and People. Daily, team members offer suggestions called “innovations” for improvements in their areas. Problems are identified and solutions sought. Jeff had this to say “The process has brought everyone on board. People see that they have an impact, that they are valued and we are all on this journey together. This has made all the difference.”


The workforce at Memphis is similar to worksites across the globe; an industrial mosaic of young and old, men and women, different nationalities, backgrounds and education. What makes this Memphis Team special is their commitment to each other. It is a a small 55 employee plant with a family type atmosphere. According to Darry Douglas, who has worked at Memphis for 19 years, “We are working more on the same level to get the product out. We are serving each other and we understand each department has an important role to make a good product”


So now you know the quality ingredients that are leading this Fleischmann’s Yeast plant in Memphis, Tennessee to becoming a world class manufacturing site. True to their corporate logo and the products they produce, this plant is truly “Rising to the Challenge.”