Facing a tight  labor market

Coming from the power industry, Wells Enterprises’ new chief information officer, Ryan Schaap, brought lots of new ideas to the two plants of the ice cream capital of the world.

“We’re focusing on how to use our data better — using analytics to better sell our products,” he said. “In addition, we’re using real-time technology devices like tablets to help reconcile products in and out to assure the highest quality. Lastly, the other thing we’re focusing on is voice speech translation for inventory transactions. That way, when someone is in the freezer, they can use a headset for voice commands.”

He added that they’re also looking into fiber-optic cable security upgrades.

“Trends indicate that many software providers are moving to the cloud and tying systems together. We’re also working with the sales force to make sure they have what they need to do their jobs,” Schaap said.

Working with students

Wells Enterprises participates in a state program promoting and fostering internships in the STEM disciplines. It employed 30 interns in the summer of 2016, many of whom were in STEM disciplines. It offered and awarded four $2,500 college scholarships for summer 2016 students working at Wells Enterprises who demonstrated solid performance and perfect attendance. As a result, it received grant funds from the state.

Like many companies around the state in advanced manufacturing, Wells faces challenges in the tight labor market in its area, along with the tough competition for workers and talents.

“It can be difficult to attract talent to northwest Iowa, and it’s hard to retain talent when there are so many options for individuals looking for work,” said Lisa Newton, senior manager, talent acquisition. “We also regularly visit more than 20 high schools every spring to promote our careers in our operations and corporate areas, which are inclusive of STEM disciplines. It’s important to build a pipeline of talent, starting as young as the middle school level, to attract and retain the talent of tomorrow.”

With more than $13.3 billion worth of manufactured and value-added goods shipped out of the country, manufacturing accounts for 88 percent of Iowa’s total exports. Since 2001, Iowa manufacturing exports have grown by 179 percent — nearly 73 percent more that the nation as a whole.

Wells Enterprises partners with organizations such as Elevate Iowa to foster student interest. It participates in the state ACT conference and spoke on a panel to employers and educators regarding the need for future talent in the STEM disciplines in advanced manufacturing.

About Wells Blue Bunny

Founded in 1913, Wells Enterprises Inc. is the largest privately held, family-owned ice cream and frozen treat manufacturer in the United States. Wells employs about 2,500 people in Le Mars, and produces brands such as Blue Bunny, Bomb Pop, Weight Watchers, and private labels such as Fareway and Hy-Vee.

More than 400 Blue Bunny products can be found across the United States. Blue Bunny products can be found in grocery stores and supermarkets, restaurant and food service establishments (educational institutions, hospitals, etc.), convenience stores, vending outlets, and military commissaries. 

content from Business Record’s 2017 innovationIOWA magazine