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OM in the News: Heinz Goes on a Diet

February 14, 2014
Heinz's Pocatello factory scheduled for closure

Heinz’s Pocatello factory scheduled for closure

For years, H.J. Heinz Co. managers considered their frozen-food plant in Pocatello, Idaho, the heart of potato country, a model factory, ranking it the best in the U.S. in 2009 and 2011 for safety, cleanliness and efficiency. But in November, 2013, Heinz said it would close the Idaho plant this year. It may have been a model factory, writes The Wall Street Journal (Feb.11, 2014), but it also was an example of the kind of dubious logistics that were costing Heinz money. Frozen enchiladas, for instance, were trucked nearly 1,000 miles from a factory in San Diego, packaged with rice and sauce by workers in Pocatello then shipped across the country to distribution centers on the East Coast.

The market for packaged frozen foods had been hit hard by a broad consumer shift to fresher foods. And Heinz had too much production capacity in that sector. It had built a new frozen-food factory in South Carolina in 2009. Moreover, Pocatello was situated far from Heinz’s other factories and from its main markets. Roughly 70% of all ingredients used in the factory are shipped in from east of the Mississippi, well over 1,000 miles away. Others came from Denver, nearly 600 miles to the south.

A similar announcement at another plant last November proved tumultuous. Managers at a century-old Heinz ketchup factory in Leamington, Ontario, told several hundred employees that their plant also was to be closed. Some started cursing, crying and knocking over chairs, and others stormed out. The company will consolidate its frozen-meal operations at its factory in Ohio, which, according to its spokesperson, is “the most central location to customers, distributors and the supplies we need.” He added that the decision to close the Idaho plant “is based primarily on factory location in relation to our customer/consumer base and the need to improve transportation efficiencies and the fact we have we have excess frozen manufacturing capacity.”

Classroom discussion questions:

1. Why is Heinz closing the two factories?

2. Which of the factors that affect location decisions (see Chapter 8) influenced Heinz?

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