Seven Stages to Success

by Cheryl Bales, Brand Manager, Washington State Correctional Industries Food Group

The Washington State Department of Corrections, Correctional Industries (CI) Food Group has developed a seven stage process to successfully increase our food sales volume by millions of dollars over the past year.

This process contributes to our mission: to maintain and expand offender work training
programs which develop marketable job skills, instill and promote positive work ethics, and
reduce the tax burden of corrections. Most importantly, offenders learn valuable skills they
can use upon release from prison. In addition to soft skills, such as showing up to work and having positive interface with their co-workers, the CI Food Group provides food handler certificates and teaches HACCP processes, which are invaluable in the food processing industry.

CI produces numerous food products at our USDA compliant processing facilities in Airway Heights Corrections Center and Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell. These contemporary food processing facilities provide offenders with experience and training in industry-standard food processing techniques, quality control, product development, and sensory focus groups, all while learning nutritional requirements and software.

CI’s customer base encompasses Washington State Department of Corrections, senior services, county jails and schools in multiple states, along with a variety of other non-profit organizations and sovereign nations. Our Seven Stages to Success in product development take into consideration attributes from each customer base. We incorporate lean manufacturing standards and value stream toward an acceptable, palatable product for all.

Stage 1: Visualize or perceive a product that will be successful in one or many of our target markets. Identify the physical characteristics, marketing and branding opportunities, impacts on operations, sales potential and perform a competition comparison.

Stage 2: Formulate a bill of materials, research procurement of components (ingredients)
and review nutritional information. Identify a manufacturing facility, processes and assembly techniques. Determine the gross margin based on the sale of a finished product. If all factors pencil out to be viable, produce a small “bench” batch. Perform a sensory analysis for approval to move forward.

Stage 3: Fine tune any noted processes and move forward with a pre-production trial, which is a sizeable batch of 50+ cases. Review and validate the bill of materials, gross margin, nutritional information, processes, assembly techniques and market prospects for sales.

Stage 4: Perform a sensory analysis to compare stage 2 results to stage 3 results. Once approved, make any necessary changes to the label, bill of materials, processes, assembly techniques, and packaging if necessary. Target a date to begin a customer trial.


Burrito Line at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

Burrito Line at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

Stage 5: A customer is identified as a test market for product delivery and service. One of our Food Group team members is present at the customer’s facility to provide hands-on, immediate feedback. The results are documented and a summary is returned to the Food Group and scored. If this feedback results in approval, we proceed to Stage 6. Otherwise, we revisit Stage 2.

Stage 6: Customer trial is successful and product is approved for manufacturing to all markets.

Stage 7: A complete forecast is established for the product. The production and planning
department provides a target release date for the item to be added to the order guide.

Why did the CI Food Group develop the Seven Stages to Success? The process was developed as a team-based approach that focused on pre-defined strategies and targets in order to achieve established company goals. The fiscal benefits are significant, reducing costs for the Department of Corrections, helping non-profit organizations, contributing to offender restitution, and significantly reducing costs to taxpayers. Using this process, we have achieved greater success in manufacturing quality food products with added value for our non-commercial customer base, assisting them in stretching their budgets.

Nutritionally complete Frozen Burrito Meal

Nutritionally complete Frozen Burrito Meal