Blog Post - Nov 9, 2021
Growing the Dairyland Family through our Supply Chain
“I want to be part of this. I want to be part of this family.” Those were the words of a supply partner after visiting Dairyland’s manufacturing facility. Dairyland’s Supply Chain Manager, Mitchell Christensen, recalls that conversation as if it occurred yesterday. He responded, “You are. You’re a partner and supplier to us and so you are a part of this family.” Maybe more than any other story or description, this exchange captures the expression of Live Engaged through Mitchell’s work and the difference it makes in Dairyland’s supply chain activities for all involved.
Values-Aligned Supply Chain
Mitchell describes his approach to supply chain as “multi-faceted,” requiring continual evaluation of risk while actively strengthening relationships with partners. If you shadowed him for a day, you would quickly learn just how many details he assesses to keep Dairyland’s supply chain strong. Managing it requires an understanding not only of the details related to our components and their procurement, but the practices of Dairyland’s partners, global political climates, weather patterns, precious metal indexes, and more. Doing so—and with excellence—ultimately means that we can offer exceptional service to our customers, providing them with a smooth, on-time, and high-quality experience.
Important above all else are the relationships formed. “I’ve met amazing folks over the years who I have come to know professionally and even personally.” One of Dairyland’s five core values is that People Have Inherent Value, and that makes a difference in how we do business. “Everyone has value; it’s that plain and simple. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO or the dock worker…everyone has equal value and gets treated the same. I try to enter into every conversation with that as the driving force.”
Ethical + Just
Holding that value extends deeply into ethical sourcing, moral business practices, and inviting partners into Dairyland’s Live Engaged network. “We partner with suppliers who are ethical, who treat their employees and the environment properly,” says Mitchell. And he will go to great lengths to ensure what is said on paper matches the real-life practices.
One example of Mitchell’s determination in this area is through the partner site visits he conducts. Acting as part anthropologist, Mitchell looks for clues about the overall wellbeing of partner companies – especially how they treat their employees. He speaks with frontline employees, observes what is or is not communicated, what populates message boards and scoreboards, the implementation of safety measures and ease of use, programs that exist to support employee wellbeing and engagement, the company’s own constraints, and more. “You cannot allow the cost of doing business to include failure to your employees’ wellbeing.” That’s just the right thing to do and what we look for.
Mitchell also looks closely at sourcing as it relates to conflict countries or areas—places with known human rights and ethical work practice violations, such as slave labor, smuggling, illegal extraction of raw materials, and more. If our partners were engaging in these relationships, “that would be a deal breaker for us.” We will not save money and allow such practices—“it’s a hard line in the sand and we’ll quickly move on from that partnership.” Though already a deeply held conviction, the importance of this stance is regularly reinforced through Dairyland’s justice partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM). One of the ways we support IJM is through investment in their work to end exploitative labor which largely targets the poor and vulnerable.
Mitchell shares this with his supply partners, inviting them into the bigger story of impact.
Just as there is a chain of supply, so is there a chain of positive impact. Because of Dairyland’s partnership with IJM, that component manufactured through a supply partner becomes a mechanism that helps liberate people from bonded labor, whether in Indian brick kilns, illegal Thai fishing boats, or elsewhere.
Linking the Pieces
That resonated for the partner quoted above when he saw it for himself. “He met our team, saw his product, watched our production team put our product in his and send it out the door. We had lunch together—the whole manufacturing facility—and he was just part of the family [making this possible].”
Wherever you are, and in whatever work you do, you have an opportunity to Live Engaged. If you are a partner to Dairyland in some capacity—whether buying our products, supplying parts, improving our systems, etc.—you, too, are making global impact possible. You are helping us make a safer world through application of our solutions, and partnership with great organizations like IJM. Thank you!