OSI Industries continues to mitigate labor shortages

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Outside of OSI Industries building in Aurora, Illinois.

Audrey Richardson

The outside of the OSI Group office in Aurora, Illinois on March 12, 2022.

Recent turnaround

President at OSI Group, a global supplier of food products to the world’s leading foodservice brands, David McDonald said that in the last six months, “food service has largely come back.”

OSI Industries, one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S., provides food services worldwide to Chipotle, Starbucks, McDonald’s as well as many other well-known brands. To ensure that customers around the globe are satisfied with their eating experiences, OSI has over 20,000 employees, who design manufacturing and supply chain solutions for big-name food brands.

With the numbers of people eating out increasing again, OSI has had to continuously adjust.  Worker shortages have impacted all sectors of the company’s responsibilities. McDonald said it “has been difficult to keep up with demand.”

McDonald said that worker shortages have created a lot more uncertainty in day-to-day operations. 

“Many times I’m spending time firefighting as opposed to really some longer term strategic things.”

OSI implications

Pat Peterson, OSI Industries Senior Vice President of Finances in North America, describes the issue with hiring new people with less experience as tedious.

“In some cases we have to slow our lines down, and once we do that we can’t get as much production out,” she said. “Once we can’t get enough production out that means the cost of every unit goes up.” 

“If we can’t run our lines, we can’t make product and we can’t sell it,” Peterson said. 

The term Great Resignation describes the vast masses of Americans that have decided to quit their jobs in 2021. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded that the number reached more than 51 million last year. Some reasons for the trend include early retirement, more families becoming single-income households and general livelihood reprioritization.  

To combat 

Within OSI there have been many strategies put in place to mitigate the impacts of worker shortages. 

Senior Director of Human Relations in North America Brenda Michalek said some of these strategies include raising hourly wages, creating bonus incentives, increasing scheduling flexibility, automating as much as possible and even lessening restrictions on marijuana testing at their processing facilities. 

Peterson said “to attract new employees we’ve had to get creative.” 

These methods include job fairs with food and giveaways, more advertising, arranging buses for transportation, and giving gas money. 

All of these solutions are in line with one of the company’s core values, “to explore innovative solutions.”

Peterson’s personal role at OSI has changed because of worker shortages. She now “provides additional metrics and reports to plants to help them understand where they need to focus.” These reports help the company gain a better understanding of how to manage the manufacturing plants. 

When trying to find new employees, Michalek said she has embraced a new role of helping leaders be more inclusive. She said that she encourages leaders to “treat people with more respect and adjust styles on how you lead people.” 

McDonald said “we refer to the supply chain issues as a bit of a whack-a-mole game.” As issues arise, leaders at OSI have to be readily available to help. 

McDonald said throughout the pandemic, he tries “to be more accessible.” Instead of putting the phone away at dinner or on vacation, he said he now leaves it on in case an important call comes in. He understands that these supply chain issues are timely. 

“Many of these issues have to be addressed right now,” McDonald said.  

For the future

McDonald said these problems were caused by COVID-19, but he is unsure of whether the worker shortage trend will continue in future years. 

“Right now it still feels like we’re in that uncertain time,” McDonald said. 

Peterson said that COVID-19 “was the impotence” for the worker shortage, and that these trends will be “something that we will be dealing with for many years.”

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