Maury Miller will be the first to point out the 11 superior audits Minot Milling has received in his time there are a testament to the hard work and dedication of every person at the plant.
Miller, the compliance manager of Minot Milling, wears many different hats throughout a typical workday. He currently also does the transportation manager's job after that post was left vacant on short notice.
He has been with the company since it first opened its doors back in 1998, and was in fact one of the first employees hired. The milling plant itself wasn't even built when Miller started. He said there was only a shell of a building and they used a trailer on the property as their office.
Maury Miller, compliance manager at Minot Milling, stands next to the certificates for each of the milling plant’s 11 superior audits May 23. Miller has worked for the company since it opened its doors 14 years ago.
"I was hired to start bringing other employees on. I was the first employee besides the original plant manager, so I was hired to start setting up programs, working with corporate to set up all the HR (human resources) programs, and then begin setting up all the quality programs," Miller said. "So I guess you could kind of consider the position a programs manager position."
His job at first also involved running the sanitation department, working with the quality lab in the quality department and just generally getting all the different programs at Minot Milling up and running. Miller said it entailed a lot of research into different regulations and what the regulatory agencies expect of them.
"And then working with customers, because they expect a lot, too," Miller said.
Once all those different programs got going, Miller had to constantly verify and validate them, making sure they were running as they should. A lot of training and auditing is also part of the job. Miller said he has to constantly evaluate what he's doing to make sure it's working and that he's living up to his customers' expectations.
Miller, whose surname more than hints at his preferred profession, had plenty of experience in the milling and baking industry before Minot Milling. He worked at Sweetheart Bakery for 11 years before moving to Carrington to work for Dakota Growers Pasta for about six months.
"Then I knew this was coming online so I got in contact with the plant manager who hired me on to start kicking off the programs," Miller said.
Although his earlier jobs entailed more direct, hands-on supervisory work, Miller said his experience at an intense, four-month baking school operated by the American Institute of Baking did much to prepare him for a new role at Minot Milling.
"It's a baking school focusing on plant management. So you go through production, management, and then you go through all the sciences behind the cereal sciences. It's actually a baking school geared toward management," Miller said. "So you are exposed to all the quality, training, and the sanitation training - that's all part of the whole package while you're there."
Graduates from the school become certified baking technologists. AIB compares the training at its baking school to a two-year technical college condensed into four months.
That intense training helped Miller prepare for a major audit Minot Milling goes through annually, which also happens to be done by the American Institute of Baking. Along with a baking school, the worldwide organization offers many other services, including audits, food safety education, and research and technical services.
"They come in on an annual basis and do what we call a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) inspection," Miller said. "We're regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so we follow their GMPs, which are basically laws that the FDA puts out there that food plants have to follow."
Minot Milling has received 11 consecutive superior audits from AIB, with Miller noting that due to scheduling conflicts, they haven't been able to receive an audit exactly once per year. Superior is the top rating for AIB's audit.
The audits cover just about every aspect of the plant from top to bottom, including all the food safety programs, and takes two days to complete. Each area of the plant is inspected point by point to ensure it meets the expectations of the AIB auditor.
"So what he does, he comes in and we kick it off with basically an opening meeting and then get down to the actual physical plant audit where he goes out, looks at every floor, every area of the plant, takes his notes," Miller said. "Then we come back and we go through the documentation that we do. Their focus is on the appearance of the plant and the findings out there. That's what a GMP audit is."
Miller is proud that every audit Minot Milling has undergone has resulted in a superior rating. He said all 33 employees are responsible for ensuring Minot Milling adheres to the highest standards possible.
"It's teamwork, it takes a very dedicated group of employees to pull this off," Miller said. "They all have to buy into the programs that you set up, have a good understanding of why we try and achieve that."
Needless to say, Miller and everyone at the plant are proud of this streak. While he doesn't have anything else to compare it to, he did say he's heard of smaller streaks in the past.
"I think it's quite an accomplishment," Miller said.
"I've seen other plants get written up and (get) a lot of hoorahs for three in a row," he added with a laugh.
Miller said a lot of supervisors help him keep the plant running smoothly, including lead sanitation Darrell Michels, quality assurance manager Cindy Bruns-Olson, maintenance manager Jason Smette, head miller Paul Petersen, and plant manager Kevin Schulz, who has overall oversight.
"I just don't want it focusing on me. It's the whole plant, because every employee has their responsibility," Miller said. "I guess I'm just kind of the captain of the ship, steering it. Just steering the programs."
(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to email@example.com.)