Aspiring to new heights

Just a few months after first shipping saleable products, the Twin Falls facility is still in its ramp-up stage — steadily adding new bar varieties to what will eventually involve dozens of s.k.u.s (stock-keeping units). The plant’s continuous improvement group works side-by-side on the floor along with all supervisors and managers, including Mr. Ducommun. The group focuses on lean manufacturing practices and Clif Bar’s version of Six Sigma with five Black and Green Belts certified to keep the bakery operating at a high level.

 “Senior leadership felt that it was important to have that group available right from the start, and it was really helpful for us,” Mr. Ducommun said. “Everyone gets overwhelmed with the number of opportunities for improvement with a new facility. You have to prioritize and pick them off one by one to keep your focus going.”

In addition to making sure new hires have the right “ingredients” — behaviors that fuel Clif Bar’s unique culture — all new employees are cross-trained on multiple pieces of equipment and various parts of the process. That provides not only flexibility to the operation but also skills for advancement, especially when the plant begins production on the third line early next year. “We have a full bakery team now,” Mr. Sloan said.

Overall, the plant was built with expansion in mind and could one day reach 550,000 or even 600,000 square feet in size, according to Mr. Berger.

It’s often said that every new bakery starts with a blank piece of paper. Creating a masterpiece goes beyond drawing and planning. In many ways, Mr. Sloan observed, the investment in people and process never ends.

“We’re setting this up for long-term success,” he said. “We are building a bakery and a team.”

That’s how it’s done. Bar none.