Getting 100% of our committed product to market: How we did it

Blog

For the 25+ years that I’ve been managing manufacturing plants and facilities, I’ve overhauled processes and procedures, led the charge on continuous improvement and oversaw the planning and construction of a huge-scale manufacturing facility.

But gearing up for – and launching – a new industry is an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime…and it’s not something you want to bungle.

Since legalization of adult-use cannabis, we’ve heard a lot via the media about the lack of supply for both patients and non-medical consumers. I’ve been asked by friends and family if this is an issue we faced at Emblem and I’m proud to say with absolute certainty “No.” Emblem delivered on 100% of provincial commitments of Symbl, our adult-use product, while allocating a healthy inventory of supply for patients, our number one priority.

For all of our planning and allocation, we have received incredibly positive feedback from patient communities, partners, regulators and retailers.

But this didn’t come easy.

While we had several years under our belt delivering medical cannabis to patients, scaling up for the adult-use market meant more product, logistics, employees, training and processes. So, how did we pull it off? Planning, preparation and coordination.

Below I’ve shared the strategies we employed – and continue to use – to successfully deliver on all of Emblem’s product commitments.

 

Start early

In the spring, we didn’t know exactly when the adult-use market would go live. So, we got to work and planned out every single step of our process well in advance of launch to pressure test our process. Worst case scenario would have been learning that a critical piece of our process didn’t work and having to react on the fly. We needed to build in time to work out the kinks.

 

Blow up the process… then put it back together

We employed Six Sigma tools to examine and evaluate each detail of our process in minute detail. We took a full week of exhaustive planning to brainstorm every possible thing that could go wrong or interfere with our end goal: delivering high quality product to patients or consumers.

This exercise helped us identify areas where we needed to tighten our process – for example, allocating additional resources, working out kinks with suppliers and on and on. For every step of the process, we developed an action plan and a back-up plan. And, we had a back-up plan for our back-up plan if it went off the rails. 

By isolating every step of the process, we had the comfort of knowing the details inside and out – and could adjust as needed.

 

Build quality IN – don’t inspect it out

Finding out at final inspection that your product is flawed requires an incredible amount of investigative work to determine the cause.

While final inspection of our product remains a crucial step, it’s only one step of many. To stay nimble and keep product moving in advance of launch (time was always of the essence!), we needed to identify potential issues in real time as they happened. That meant designing quality checks in to each process so that when it came to final inspection, product wasn’t given a pass or fail. Our 85 checks along the way ensured that by the time product was shipped, it already met every one of our high-quality standards.

 

Learn and evolve

Above all, use every issue as an opportunity to learn and improve. Working closely with our employees to identify new opportunities for improvement, what started with 40 process-controlled quality checks soon evolved to 85.

Reflecting on this momentous launch, we were able to refine our processes and learn a great deal about the importance of planning and preparedness. I’ve included a few other key learnings below:

  • There were some processes we didn’t fully grasp specific to our supply chain. To give this area more focus, we brought on a new manager to organize our incoming materials and ensure we are proactive in planning.
  • Some of our jobs can be quite repetitive and we need our teams to stay engaged and efficient. To prevent boredom, we cross-trained employees so that they could work across our cultivation facility. Those repetitive tasks are now done in two-hour blocks.
  • Given the number of quality checks, we have dedicated employees monitoring critical steps of the process in real-time. This way we can course correct immediately.
  • To provide employees with a work-life balance, we engaged the team to determine the hours and shifts that worked best for them. Their work still gets done and it’s a win-win for everybody.

I’m incredibly proud of how our team performed and am pleased to see the positive responses from patients, consumers, and our partners. While we celebrate our accomplishments from the past few months, there is more hard work to come. We’re Emblem, and this is just the beginning.

 

Jeff Keyes

General Manager, Emblem