Chilean food giant invests in operational excellence to go further 

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Operational Excellence

Betting on the excellence of its local operations in Chile, Agrosuper S.A. has grown from a chicken coop to the largest food products conglomerate, present today in more than 64 countries around the globe. 

Gonzalo Vial, the youngest of 10 siblings, entered the Catholic University to study agronomy, but dropped out in his first year. It wasn‘t his thing. He set up a chicken coop on the family farm and started selling fresh eggs. He took care of the production himself and delivered in the back of his car to his customers in the O‘Higgins Region, in Chile. His four children were not even born yet. That is how the business began to grow. 

Five years later, the business expanded into the raising of live chickens and in 1974 expanded into the processing and marketing of chicken meat, with the firm conviction of making chicken an accessible protein for people. 

In 1983, the pork business began; years later, the production of salmon in the south of Chile and, in 1996, the commercialization of turkey products. ”I started the egg production business with two employees in 1955. I acted on my intuition. I had no money, but I dared to start. However, boldness alone was not enough, it required a lot of effort, many hours of work and, most importantly, doing it with pleasure,” recalls Gonzalo Vial (87 years old) the founder, president, and controller of Agrosuper, about the beginning of what is today an agri-food empire, the largest group in Chile. 

Today, almost 70 years later, Agrosuper is present in more than 64 countries, with a portfolio of over 1900 products delivered to almost 60,000 distributors on 5 continents. And, valuing its roots, the company is proud and defines itself this way: “We are a local business with global presence.” The numbers prove the greatness of the Chilean company. With almost 14,000 employees, Agrosuper sold more than US$ 2.6 billion in 2022, 60 % of which was for export. 

The company summarizes the secret of its success this way: strengthening the distribution network and brand potential by marketing products in all markets, ensuring the highest standards of animal welfare, increasing visibility, building long-term relationships with stakeholders, and adapting to the operations of the future. 

Alvaro Ortiz portrait

Álvaro Ortiz

Gerente Industrial

Agrosuper S.A.

“There are more than 13,000 people at Agrosuper, and particularly in the industrial area, we have more than 7,000 employees. Therefore, it´s not feasible to think of continuous improvement without a model that is constantly engaged in promoting adaptive challenges."

Operational excellence and Lean Management to go further 

How to get there? Agrosuper invests in the excellence of its vertically integrated production processes, which start with the manufacture of feed for its animals, continue through the breeding farms, processing plants, distribution centers, and end at sales offices and dealers all over the world. 

According to Alvaro Ortiz, industrial manager of Agrosuper, being vertically integrated gives Agrosuper several competitive advantages, such as ensuring the traceability and quality of their products. So that everything works smoothly, Agrosuper has Staufen‘s support in the implementation of its management model based on Shop Floor Management concepts and for the improvement of its industrial processes in five plants located in Chile. 

“There are more than 13,000 people at Agrosuper, and particularly in the industrial area, we have more than 7,000 employees. Therefore, it´s not feasible to think of continuous improvement without a model that is constantly engaged in promoting adaptive challenges. OPI (Optimization of Industrial Processes) has been built and strengthened over time with the best methodologies that we have found and that have allowed a constant adaptation, from the cultural to the methodological, allowing us to face the challenge of aiming at improvement,” says Ortiz. 

Doing things better 

Also, according to Ortiz, Agrosuper has defined as a fundamental pillar of its purpose to live day by day under the premise of always doing things better. “Besides inspiring us, this must be translated into tangible actions for the organization,” says Alvaro. As part of this challenge, Agrosuper is constantly looking for the best practices in the world related to its industry, such as technological and process improvements in different areas, from production, environmental, energy efficiency, quality, digitalization, to our people and team management processes. “When implementing a continuous improvement model, the first thing to do is to discard the idea that this process is a ‘project.’ Instead, it’s a way of doing things. So, while there may be a start date, there will never be an end date. This undoubtedly helps to keep the attitude and motivation of the teams high, as it is not a task to be performed by just a few, but rather by the entire organization,” he concludes. 

According to the Deputy Manager for Operational Excellence, Isaac Villablanca, Operational Excellence is one of the fundamental pillars of Agrosuper‘s strategy, from which arise several initiatives within the Integrated Excellence System – which we call OPI internally. “This model is based mainly on Lean, TPM, and Six Sigma methodologies to leverage the continuous improvement of our processes, strengthen leadership, and enhance the company culture. It is the role of the Operational Excellence area to ensure adherence to the OPI model with the structure of each Agrosuper industrial plant, through monitoring routines focused on productivity, efficiency, sustainability, and standardization, using various tools that ensure the progress of the master plans defined in the annual planning.

“In addition, we have quarterly performance results audits and monthly advice from Staufen, progress presentations to the OPI Executive Committee in which the results are reviewed, and new definitions are made based on them,” he explains. Villablanca also explains that Agrosuper’s strategy is directly connected through the OPI model to different drivers such as Kaizen projects, Operational Excellence Waves, A3, OKR, and GDA (Agrosuper Shop Floor Management), which help them leverage the company‘s strategic indicators. “The main challenge is to ensure adherence to the standard of more than 7,000 people working in such diverse industrial processes and with products from different origins – such as chicken, turkey, pork, and processed products – in all Agrosuper plants,” concludes the Deputy Manager for Operational Excellence. 

Interview partners

Gonzalo Vial

Founder and President

Agrosuper S.A

Alvaro Ortiz portrait

Álvaro Ortiz

Gerente Industrial

Agrosuper S.A.

Isaac Villablanca

Deputy Manager for Operational Excellence

Agrosuper S.A.

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