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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

Clashes over management attitudes

When Mr. Ridge Parks, my General Manager, gave his farewell speech at his retirement party I will always remember one of the things he said; "it takes a certain kind of people to work in a dairy production plant". What he meant was the awkward hours people had to work in this business. The people who worked on the production lines had to be there in the very early hours or late in the afternoon. In this work there were no banking hours. For supervising personnel they could be called in any time of the day when they were needed. Not too many people would keep a job like that for a long time. Over the years I had many changes of help in the lab. People just didn't like to come in at the very early hours of the day. Whenever some of my lab help quit, I had to train the next person for so many weeks again. This was not an easy task.

Southland Corporation sent people from other production plants to work alongside with me in our quality control program. Our quality control program had become very favorable as an example for other Southland Corporation production plants. Over the years I had many college graduates working alongside of me in our quality control program. Some of them were very bright young men with the latest technique from their schools. I always enjoyed having those students around. Some of them later became my bosses. When they came out of college, all of them lacked practical experience and that's why they all came and worked alongside with me for a little while. Theoretically most of those students were very good and I was very aware of that. In my job this was one of the weak points I had, and I used a lot of those students to do the research work for me. There was a lot of detail work about the chemical information which I needed, and never had much time to do. Through those students I received a lot of information. Each student had to write a detailed report on a project he had done that day about our production procedure. Through those students I received a lot of information in my own personal file. What those students didn't know was that after they went home I took their detailed reports out of their files and photo-copied them for my own personal use. For me to stay ahead of the competitive atmosphere I had to use some of their latest knowledge. I always felt that people were very important in my life.

Over the years that I have worked in quality control I always noticed that supervising personnel who were responsible for production always overlooked the quality of the product. Most supervising production managers were all quantity minded. Somehow Southland Corporation created this problem with their bonus program, which was only for supervising personnel. How many more gallons of production per hour went through the plant meant how much more bonus money there was at the end of the month. So supervising personnel in charge of production would always try to take some shortcuts in production. It should never be expected from management to take shortcuts in production but it happened more than once. This was one of the reasons I spent many long hours at work as you couldn't depend on some people to get a quality product.

For example, one day after I had left the plant on my way home and they were still filling six gallon plastic bags of skim milk, I heard that the supervisor in charge ran out of skim milk and needed more to fill his order. He then told the man on the plastic bag filler to use 2% milk. He told the bag filler that the customers won't notice the difference. This had happened not once but several times before. The manager would totally ignore me like I'm not important. I told him he should visit the plant more often and become more interested in the people who worked for him. I told him those people in the production plant shouldn't be ignored as those were the ones who could make him successful in his business.

Mr. Parker apologized to me and said that it was not his intention to ignore us, and in the future he certainly would try to do better. After my visit in his office Mr. Parker and I became very good friends. Later when he left Embassy Dairy and was promoted by Southland Corporation as President of all the dairy plants and distribution centers in the U.S.A. and he had his own office in the Southland Corporation headquarters in Dallas, Texas, whenever he came to visit our production plant for business, before he would fly back to Texas again he would come into the lab and we'd talk for a little while. Somehow he had never forgotten that conversation we had that day in his office behind closed doors. My philosophy in life is: it doesn't matter if the person you meet is rich of poor, you can always learn something from each other.

CONTINUED: A Good Friend Dies
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

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