As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many companies were forced to temporarily close. But given McCormick & Company’s critical role in providing key ingredients to the entire food industry, our factories around the world remained open to keep essential food supply operations running. And in the Stefanowo Factory in Poland, a team of women worked tirelessly to ensure that no shift was left uncovered, so that McCormick products like Kamis (Poland’s leading brand of spices, mustard, ketchup, marinades, and vinegar) would be available on shelves and in stores.
In the first few weeks of the pandemic, many employees took time off to tend to their health or to be with their families. As a result, the Stefanowo Factory needed extra hands. So, 21 brave women stepped up and volunteered to work in new positions with bigger responsibilities to keep up with the high demand for products as consumers began cooking more at home.
These women were previously working one of two roles, either as packers at the end of the production line, packing sachets in cartons or putting finished boxes on pallets; or as level one (entry-level) operators, running the printers or automatic cartoners. The absent employees happened to be in advanced operators roles (levels two and three), which required more specialized knowledge and training.
“The pandemic helped them to believe in their power and skills,” Production Manager Agnieszka Majek-Ogniewska says. “This was a chance to test themselves, believe in their abilities, and prove that if they open a new door, there will be a huge chance for new opportunities on the threshold.”
The Stefanowo women were working new lines and operating some of the fastest machines. Agnieszka says that normally, it would take an operator six to eight months to master the role. These 21 women were producing 70 percent of plan after only three weeks of learning their new roles (on a good week, the plant expects to produce 80 to 90 percent of plan).
The faster production lines are usually run by six operators, but the team shifted to only two operators during the pandemic. And the two advanced operators were very supportive and helpful in training the women who stepped up and volunteered to take on new roles. After five weeks, the factory’s KPIs were “in the green,” Agnieszka says. And with McCormick’s “Taste You Trust” principle in mind, all production was completed with a relentless focus on quality and safety.
“For some, a pandemic is the most difficult life experience,” Agnieszka continued. “But for our people at the factory, it is a time that showed the strength of teams, mutual support, learning, and shared knowledge. These modest ladies, usually quiet and shy, in a difficult moment for the factory turned out to be our heroes.”
A special thanks to the following women for standing together and showing courage during these difficult times:
Karina Wlodarczyk, Irena Bolek, Marta Brodzik, Justyna Zych, Anna Gątarek, Elżbieta Kalicińska, Renata Katus, Renata Trojanowska, Jola Kołacz, Katarzyna Lis, Beata Książek, Renata Kacprzak, Agnieszka Stachowiak, Aldona Wisiorowska, Barbara Pasek, Renata Smyrda, Anna Wójcik, Justyna Wójtowicz, Magda Gaczyńska, Alicja Kaim, Małgorzata Brzezińska, Barbara Witkowska