Quality Management Let Bama Start Turnaround

By Fears, Ronda | THE JOURNAL RECORD, September 29, 1993 | Go to article overview

Quality Management Let Bama Start Turnaround


Fears, Ronda, THE JOURNAL RECORD


By Ronda Fears

Journal Record Staff Reporter

Crisis is one of the best motivators to action. Hence, business management is often reactive.

In 1986, Bama Pie Ltd. of Tulsa was struck with a crisis that threatened 95 percent of its business. Out of the struggle to solve the problem, a shift toward quality management has turned operations around and launched the company into world markets.

"Sometimes it takes a good crisis to get your attention," said Paula Marshall Chapman, Bama Pie chief executive officer.

She spoke at the Sixth Annual Oklahomans for Quality Conference at the Oklahoma State University Oklahoma City campus, 900 N. Portland Ave. The seminar ends today.

Chapman took the helm of Bama Pie in 1986, following her father's retirement. Her grandmother founded the business in 1927. Today, the company has about 425 employees and just built a factory in Beijing, China, to supply new customers; it has customers in Canada, Mexico and Russia, too.

Bama Pie's most noted product is miniature pecan pies. But for the past 25 years, it has been the sole supplier of pies to McDonald's in flavors of apple, cherry and also supplies McDonald's with ready-to-bake biscuit dough. The company also provides dough for Pizza Hut and makes graham crusts for Nabisco.

A series of new product fiascos at McDonald's brought about Bama Pie's crisis in 1986. It began with a pumpkin turnover, 15 million of which had to be recalled and pulled from the racks in McDonald's restaurants nationwide, Chapman said. Then there were cherry turnovers, blueberry turnovers and pineapple turnovers that had to be recalled, she added.

"Literally, every other month we had a recovery at McDonald's," she said. "It's very expensive, costly and embarrassing."

At that time, McDonald's was 95 percent of Bama Pie's business, she noted. Today, it is about 75 percent, due to product expansion.

So, when McDonald's came to Bama Pie and said the end of the relationship might be near if quality wasn't addressed, it got Chapman's attention. McDonald's demanded a better quality control system _ more inspections, more sampling before shipping _ for Bama Pie products, she said.

"Obviously, I was going to do it," Chapman said.

"I was in no position to argue with McDonald's."

A quality manager was put in place, who instantly clashed with the operations manager, she said. There was a lot of arguing over turf. It came down to a daily meeting in Chapman's office and almost everything was on hold, she said. On the production line in the plant, employees were confused.

"The cost of this stuff was just mounting and mounting and mounting," Chapman said. …

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