Manufacturing Pet Food – More That Just for Pets

About the Episode

When you think about it, there are obvious parallels between making pet food and the production of any food products. Stuart Harness discusses how his military background applied to operations management in pet food manufacturing. He talks about the intricacies of operations, the challenges of owning the manufacturing process versus working with a co-manufacturer, the biggest threats to quality, the importance of collaboration, insights into leadership, and how this all applies to food manufacturing.

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“The most important lesson if you’re starting out in this business is to start with the standards high. It’s so much easier to start with high standards in efficiency and high quality and maintain it rather than try to fix it later. It’s tough, and it takes resources, but just know what those standards are and always strive to meet the highest possible standards.”

Stuart Harness

In this Episode

2:16 Why would Mars hire someone with no manufacturing background as an operations manager for one of their plants?
5:27 How much collaboration between operations and other teams is involved in manufacturing?
9:37 How much knowledge of actual manufacturing processes, in equipment and the intricacies of the process, is necessary to be able to improve the manufacturing process overall?
13:52 What are the major differences and challenges between operations at a larger, more established company like Mars in their pet food division versus The Honest Kitchen?
15:43 How difficult is it for a smaller company to make the transition to owning its own manufacturing process and making its own product?
19:25 How important is transparency in operations to a company like The Honest Kitchen?
21:01 What are some examples of operational practices that might not be sound?
25:35 What are some signs that there are bottlenecks or problems in the manufacturing process?
35:25 To what extent are supervisors involved in operational improvements applying the theory of constraints?
43:29 How is quality defined? How objective or subjective is it?
45:23 What’s the interplay between safety, quality, and throughput in operations?
47:38 Are quality standards a little looser for pet food than human food? Who governs pet food?
50:47 How does consumer behavior affect the manufacturing process in the pet food industry?
52:24 What is the quality paradigm?
56:21 How is the manufacturing of pet food going to change over the next decade or two?
59:21 What is some advice to entrepreneurs and business owners from a production or operational standpoint?

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Resources Mentioned

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Acronyms or Terms Used in This Episode

  • Throughput: the amount of a product or service that a company can produce and deliver to a client within a specified period of time
  • CCPs: critical control points

Meet Our Guest

Stuart Harness

Stuart Harness

Director of Manufacturing at The Honest Kitchen

Stuart Harness (Stu) retired after serving 20 years as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer, then earned an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School at Chapel Hill. Upon graduation, Stu was hired by Mars Petcare and started his manufacturing career as the Dry Petfood Operations Manager in Mattoon, IL. After two years in that role, he was promoted to Plant Manager and moved to San Bernardino, CA.

After two years at the Mars facility in San Bernardino, Stu was hired by The Honest Kitchen as the Manufacturing Director to salvage the construction and commissioning of their facility in Los Angeles tied to the launch of a new-to-market flagship dry dog food. This role encompassed the simultaneous completion of facility construction, equipment installation, product development, and start-up. Once the facility was up and running and the product was selling beyond expectations, Stu then led the team responsible for sourcing equipment to build a new factory for the same product. The team delivered the project on target, on time, and on budget, even while navigating through the pandemic.

Location Location: North Carolina

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