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Best Practices: Compass Blending Mixes A Winning Recipe for Supply Chain Management

By FloridaMakes Network posted 08-27-2020 00:00


Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Awards 2020 Finalist

Whether shopping for a spice mix in the grocery store, picking up a pound cake mix at a retail chain like World Market, or enjoying that margarita you had on a cruise ship, chances are you’ve encountered one of the many custom food blends created by Compass Blending in Polk County, Florida.

“Our products range from industrial blends that are used by food services to brands you’d be familiar with at the grocery store. That range even covers the smaller boutique products you’d find at your local farmer’s market,” says Compass Blending’s CEO Angie Ruff.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

Honey-Almond Pound Cake Mix

Compass Blending is a dry food manufacturer. Compass takes ingredients like sugar, flour, and salt, and creates shelf-stable products that are used throughout the food industry. Launching Compass in 2017, Ruff, who came to the table with 19 years of food manufacturing acumen under her belt, wanted to break out on her own and do “food manufacturing my way.” Her way has resulted in the founding of Compass –– one of the fastest-growing dry food manufacturers in the country--along with a multitude of sister companies that are affiliated with food blending. Servicing industrial food markets to the brands means being able to handle orders of all sizes and complexities.

“Our industrial blends could call for 100,000 pounds of product, while our smallest run starts at 500 pounds,” says Ruff, “So we’re used to fulfilling a range of orders.”

It’s not just the range, but also the complexity and uniqueness of product where Compass Blending is particularly adept. Food scientists on staff mix and test rounds and rounds of product until it meets the client’s specifications.

All Purpose Seasoning

“Often, we’re blending various ingredients that will be used in an industrial manner,” Ruff explains. “For example, we service a frozen food manufacturer in Jacksonville for which we create an ingredient that they will use in their frozen food process. We also create a pizza seasoning that a pizza chain uses in their stores. We support cookie chains and mix various cookie mixes they’ll make and utilize in their products. Then, on another day, we’re blending a margarita mix that the cruise industry will feature on their cruise ships. Our products are quite diverse and call for all sorts of varying ingredients.”

Happy Ending Rubs

Once the food is blended, Ruff also has a team that advises on design and packaging. Compass’ teams help clients navigate factors such as ensuring a product fits the shelf, how it’s packaged, aesthetics, and shipping costs.

Best Practices: Supply Chain Management

Managing a supply chain that includes an assortment of diverse ingredients is central to Compass Blending’s expertise. That is what grabbed the attention of the Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Awards Team, propelling Compass into a coveted finalist spot. This award recognizes high-performing Florida manufacturing companies and aims to disseminate best practices among these companies.

While excellent written plans and stat­­­­­­­­e-of-the-art software are part of the foundation of any sound supply management plan, understanding all the complications that affect suppliers are key.

“Unlike most organizations that focus specifically on the customer, Compass understands that the genesis of the success with customer begins with suppliers,” says Patti Gander, FloridaMakes’ business advisor, who consults with Compass Blending. “Compass approaches their relationships with suppliers as if they are partners from the outset, which allows them to stay ahead of potential market changes so adjustments can be made in a timely manner.“

Stacks of product in a warehouse.

This ability to “stay ahead of the curve” derives ultimately from the skill, focus and forecast planning of Ruff.

“Monthly, my team and I collect data and reports, especially crop data forecasting analysis, and deep dive into what we’re looking at across the country as well as globally,” says Ruff. “For example, last year there was a huge beet crop failure. That market change will result in pressure on other types of sugar. When we see these changes happening we immediately reach out to our client base to make sure we know their future sales projections and we can work together to secure the sugar they need at the best price possible moving forward. This coordination stems from our strong, long-term working relationships.”

Suppliers have indeed taken notice. “They see Compass as a partner and not just a purchase order,” adds Gander. “Suppliers would rather do business with a company like Compass over others because of the quality of the relationship.”

Also essential to the strength of Compass’ Supply Chain Management is a supplier verification process where suppliers are given protocols to follow that result in a grade. When there are fluctuations that arise during the verification, Ruff’s team engages the supplier to explore solutions.

Cardboard boxes stacked on top of each other on wooden palettes.

“We had one supplier challenged with the effects of cold weather on their production equipment which would affect the availability of an ingredient,” says Ruff. “We worked with them to secure additional production during favorable months and storage in a location that maintains the integrity of the ingredient.”

Problem solved. This is the nonstop “can do” energy that keeps Compass Blending not only ahead of trends and fluctuations in the market, but also a leader in the larger manufacturing community.

“When we learned we were nominated for the Sterling Award, we were excited and a little overwhelmed with what the evaluation process might require of our time and staff,” says Ruff, “It was an opportunity to exchange and listen to ideas, reflect, and ultimately celebrate who we are and what we do. We love being manufacturers and hope that maybe through our products, others will come to see how vital the manufacturing sector is to everyday life.”