MLS Systems logo

Achieving DFARS/NIST Compliance

This CIFT success story was originally published by NIST.

Founded in Findlay, Ohio in 1979, MLS Systems is a manufacturer and systems integrator of custom designed and built equipment for medium to high volume production facilities. As a custom capital equipment supplier, the company provides single source responsibility for equipment ranging from small single station machines to multi-station production lines.

MLS Systems needed to expand their customer base to DOD suppliers to continue in the automotive arena. To accomplish this, MLS Systems needed an assessment and documentation steps necessary to implement NIST 800-171 in accordance with DFARS 252.204-7008. MLS Systems and CIFT, part of the Ohio MEP and the MEP National Network™, had an ongoing relationship, so MLS reached out to CIFT for assistance with this effort.

“The MEP program is a critical factor to the success of manufacturing in Ohio. The Northwest Ohio MEP has been very helpful to MLS, by working with us on a number of initiatives, including cyber security and lean manufacturing. It is a much needed resource that assists Northwest Ohio manufacturers with meeting the needs of our customers.” — Chad Bouillon, President

In executing this project, coordinated by CIFT Ohio MEP, MLS gained a significant advantage in its ability to prevent and react to internal and external security threats. The upgrading of essential outdated and unsupported equipment increased productivity and security when integrated with the various assets onsite. Any unnecessary holes and gaps within the physical network were eliminated to ensure the integrity and consistency of the network. The IT infrastructure was streamlined and simplified to create a more efficient data traffic flow, which helped to increase productivity throughout the facility.

Read more CIFT Success Stories. 

Leaf and Seed Cafe logo

Testing the Market Before Taking the Leap

value created

The Leaf and Seed Café, a made-from-scratch vegan meal service that focuses on creating vegan meals that are reminiscent of childhood favorites, first started out in 2017 with just the idea of providing vegan meals for special events.

In order to grow the business into their vision, The Leaf and Seed Café knew they needed additional resources. They identified a need for additional space, a general kitchen that held licenses to make meals and guidance on licenses to apply for through local health departments. The Leaf and Seed Café contacted CIFT to kick-start their business.

CIFT helped The Leaf and Seed Café begin their journey of providing locally sourced organic products by setting them up with resources from the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK). The NOCK enabled The Leaf and Seed Café to grow their business with different tools for success.

“CIFT enabled me to start my business without the investment of purchasing equipment. It allowed me to test the market before taking the leap.”

The NOCK and CIFT worked with The Leaf and Seed Café to get them all the licenses and credentials needed to establish their business. Resources were provided for insurance, containers and food safety. The NOCK also gave The Leaf and Seed Café access to an array of kitchen appliances like commercial convection ovens, grill tops and ample refrigerated and freezer storage, which saved The Leaf and Seed Café over $85,000 in unnecessary investments.

The Leaf and Seed Café has since then created two new jobs and retained over $3,000 in sales. The cost savings equaled over $24,000, while investments increased over $250,000.

Read more success stories.


Lean Benefit #3: Safety

In this lean blog series so far, we’ve identified and discussed two benefits of implementing lean into your manufacturing production: Eliminating waste and organization/cleanliness. It’s clear to see that safety would also be an added benefit to lean manufacturing. When you’ve eliminated waste, put everything in order and used correctly, it is easier to understand all the processes and thus be safer as a whole. 

The word Kaizen means “improvement”. Kaizen is a lean idea that focuses on continuous improvement and empowering employees to make and suggest changes, no matter how big or small. Implementing Kaizen mindsets and incentives in the workplace will lead to added safety measures for your business.

So how do you foster a Kaizen work environment?

Hold A Kaizen Event

Kaizen events can lead to some major improvements in a short amount of time. For these events, it is vital to have all the appropriate and necessary employees involved. You will get right down to the real problems that are causing inefficiencies in the company or a specific department. 

Choose A Problem and Solve with PDCA

When you have all the right people together, select the most obvious problem that the group is being faced with and commit to solving it using the “PDCA cycle”. PDCA stands for: 

  • Plan: Find the problem(s) and create a plan
  • Do: Implement and test solutions
  • Check: Analyze and reflect
  • Act: Implement best solution and standardize

When Act is completed, start the PDCA cycle over with a new problem. 

Reward Improvement

Make continual improvement rewarding to those who show they are committed to the philosophy. Reward one person or department a month, quarter, or whatever frequency you’d like, who makes the greatest improvement to the company. This will entice employees to participate and show that their actions and commitment don’t go unnoticed and are appreciated. 

Coach Growth Mindsets

A growth mindset means you want to evolve and improve your character by continually pushing yourself to learn new skills. People with growth mindsets are more likely to foster a Kaizen work environment. Providing a professional development course on growth mindsets will more quickly develop your employees into the Kaizen culture. 

The CIFT manufacturing team is dedicated to the continuous improvement of all our partners. We offer a no strings attached complimentary lean assessment of your production. 

Supply chain

Staying Competitive Through Product Development

What is Product Development?

Many companies may treat product development as if it is similar to manufacturing, however the two are profoundly different. Product development is the whole process of bringing a new product to market whereas manufacturing is solely the production aspect. Product development is not only essential for business success, but also contributes directly to a company’s growth. The product development process for most food businesses consist of five basic stages: Idea Generation, Screening, Concept Development, Product Development and Commercialization.

Why is Product Development Important?

In order to stay competitive and satisfy consumer needs, companies need to be innovative and part of innovation is product development. If you’re part of a larger corporation, you might have your own team of development specialists that includes food scientists, food engineers and marketing experts. Even with a specialized team, development is not a quick initiative. The average time spent on developing new food products is about two years and failure rate can be as high as 90%.

Current US Food Trends

Many food scientists are increasingly faced with developing products that are influenced by claims such as, “Clean Label”, “Natural”, “Organic”, “Sourced Domestically” and “Containing No Trans Fat”. This effort is largely based on the consumer, who is becoming more educated about what food products they consume or purchase.

In 2020, there have been a few trends within the food industry that are gaining momentum and have captured the eye of the retail consumer, for example:

  • Plant Based Meat Alternatives (ie. Beyond Meat, Impossible Burger, etc)
  • Functional Foods (ie. Probiotics Added, Calcium Fortified, etc)
  • Global Flavor Profiles (ie. West African, Middle Eastern and South Indian)

CIFT’s Product Development History and Offering

For over 25 years, CIFT has been involved in product development and helping a variety of food manufactures on projects related to Formulation Development, Concept Development, Ingredient Sourcing, Sensory Analysis to Production Trial Runs. Led by Dr. Shari Plimpton. Our clients range in size from million dollars to over a billion dollars in annual sales.

Satisfied Customers

Many of the clients CIFT works with have products found in retail and/or food service regionally, nationally and international. CIFT’s product development experience includes Fermented Dairy Products, Meats, Entrees, Frozen Foods, Canned Vegetables Sauces, Snacks and Confectionery Products.

One of the many product development success stories includes CIFT working with Meijer. Meijer is a pioneer in the combined grocery and department store industry. Today, they have more than 200 locations located throughout the Midwest. CIFT’s expertise helped deliver a substantial economic impact by resulting in savings of more than $12,000, five new jobs and increased/retained sales of more than $3.8 million. Read the entire success story, “Launching New Products in Just Nine Months”.

No matter if you are a meat processor, canned vegetable producer, beverage or snack manufacturer…CIFT has the experience to get you to the next level.

Additional Expertise — Supply Chain Optimization

Development is just one of CIFT’s expertise. With Covid-19 yielding a major impact on many food manufacturers’ supply chain needs, we also offer a free Supply Chain Assessment. This free assessment is available for food manufacturers faced with challenges ranging from long lead times to seeking alternate ingredients, packaging and/or chemical suppliers.

CIFT can provide technical assistance for any of your development needs, large or small. To schedule a complimentary consultation, please fill out our contact us form and our experts will be able to assist you. When you are ready, we are ready!

manufacturing in ohio

Manufacturing Month – Celebrating Manufacturing in Ohio

Manufacturing Month has “formally” ended, but the conclusion of the month does not mean the fun ends! Ohio is a historically Midwestern, manufacturing state producing $122.2 billion worth of goods, ranking it third in the nation after California and Texas! The future of economic development and growth for the State is built around attracting and retaining companies (employers!) who will make and build amazing things.

Ohio is one of the nation’s leading sources for primary and fabricated metal products, plastic, rubber and non-metallic mineral products, electrical equipment and appliances, and motor vehicles and associated parts, trailers, bodies and accessories. What can’t Ohioans produce?

Ohio made 4.8 percent of the total US’s manufacturing output in 2018. Because manufacturing represents nearly one-fifth of the Buckeye state’s GDP – contributing more than $112 billion a year, more than any other sector.

Northwest Ohio has been working to develop and manage their workforce through initiatives in automation, LEAN education, training and future workforce initiatives. Having served the food, agriculture and industrial manufacturing and processing industries for over 25 years, CIFT recognized the need for a strong focus on the future careers in industry and working with the tools and technology to help develop prospective and future workforce.

While we are celebrating all that manufacturing brings to Ohio and Northwest Ohio, specifically in October for Manufacturing Month, the opportunities to bring manufacturing alive anytime are still available. There are several websites educators, parents and those interested can pull from – the audience really being students and teachers in 6-12th grade to connect them to careers in manufacturing:

How important is manufacturing in Ohio?

COVID-19 proved to all of us the importance of our manufacturing capabilities. It is a great honor and challenge inspiring the next generation of the workforce to gain the skills and knowledge to work in manufacturing. If you are a school district looking for a food or general manufacturing perspective for your career tech advisory council, we would love to assist. If you are a manufacturer looking to implement LEAN or automation initiatives to improve workflow and careers for your operation and staff, we look forward to assisting there as well.


Why GFSI Certification or Other 3rd Party Audits?

Smaller food businesses often have challenges obtaining prime shelf space in the retail market. Just think how many options there are in the grocery store you visit most frequently. As a smaller business with a great product, how can you get on the shelf by other competing products?

It’s not as simple as convincing the buyer of how great your product is. That’s only a small stepping stone to potentially get conversations going. Once a buyer is interested, they are going to provide you with a long list of requirements that your company will need to meet prior to further consideration. 

At the top of that list will be food safety requirements and usually GFSI certification will be listed. After all, retail stores have to ensure the products they’re selling are safe for their customers. In reality, the likelihood of retailers investing time and resources in pulling recalled products off their shelves is minimal (which, in return, you as the business owner will most likely be responsible for covering those costs).

According to over 150,000 GFSI-recognized program certificates have been issued in 162 countries and GFSI requirements are increasingly being required as a prerequisite to doing business with other manufactures or retail stores.

But how does one become GFSI compliant?

  1. Select a Program
    1. Decide which GFSI recognized certification program best meets your product needs. Is it SQF, BRCGS, FSSC 22000, Primus GFS or another approved program? Your future clients may also drive which program you choose. Then obtain a copy of your selected program’s standards.
  2. Conduct a Gap Assessment
    1. Review your food safety programs and those required by the standard. Identify all gaps that need to be filled.
  3.  Prepare for Audit
    1. Review all current programs and build and implement missing programs identified in gap assessment to meet the standard. Utilize outside resources where needed.
  4. Select a Certification Body for Audit
    1. Identify a certification body that is certified to audit against your selected program. Contact them to discuss and begin the certification process. 
  5.  Maintain Audit Certification
    1. Ensure programs are maintained and improved upon yearly to meet the requirements. Conduct recertification audit before expiration of certificate.

Obtaining certification can be a lengthy process depending on how many gaps were identified in your initial gap assessment. It takes the entire management team to be onboard to make the process successful, but with successful completion of the certification process, it can open the door to many possibilities.  

CIFT offers a complimentary GFSI assessment with no strings attached.


3 Stages of Automation Integration

Integrating an automation solution without much background knowledge can be intimidating. CIFT is an expert at facilitating integration, and this guide will walk you through the steps of our automation integration process. 

Stage 1: Complimentary CIFT Assessment

If you’re unsure about what automation solutions offer the most value to your business, CIFT provides a free assessment of your entire operations to analyze all possible solutions and calculator ROI estimates. This assessment would result in a report that provides key information for strategic decisions. This CIFT report will also contain recommendations on what solutions offer the most value and how CIFT can facilitate integration.

Stage 2: Sourcing an Integrator 

CIFT has a wealth of experience working with a variety of integrators, both in terms of area of expertise and geographic location. Through our partnership with Rockwell Automation, we also have access to their large network of preferred integrators. 

Upon review of the assessment report, CIFT can be contracted to procure quotes from multiple integrators, go over those quotes with you and help you determine which integrator would be the best fit. Once an integrator quote is selected, CIFT will provide a new proposal that includes the integrator quote as well as any relevant funding we have available.

Stage 3: Completing the Work

CIFT will work with the integrator to schedule regular update meetings, help you approve design drawings, schedule onsite work to minimize downtime and coordinate test runs. CIFT staff will be right by your side throughout the project to ensure open communication and acceptable deliverables. 

Leveraging CIFT’s automation expertise allows for a smoother, less stressful integration process. To schedule a complimentary assessment, please fill out our contact us form and our experts will be able to assist you. 

Once automation is integrated, preventative maintenance is crucial. Stay tuned for our next automation blog that will talk all about preventative maintenance. 

Miss our previous automation blog? Read Automation: Is It Worth It for Small to Midsize Food Manufacturers?

5S of lean

Lean Benefit #2: Organization/Cleanliness

Lean manufacturing is getting your production to run as efficiently and effectively as possible. In order to do so, it is vital that all materials and employees have a place that is clean and organized. This is where the next lean terminology and methodology comes into play: The Five S’s (5S) of Lean .The 5S philosophy believes that when a workplace is clean, organized and safe, waste will be reduced and productivity will be optimized. 

The Five S’s of Lean

Naturally, The Five S’s all start with the letter “S” and they all derive from Japanese terminology. The Five S’s may seem straightforward and simple, but when implemented correctly they deliver massive value. 


When you begin the 5S of lean process the first step is sorting and organizing to determine what is actually needed vs what is not. Many times what you find in this process is not what you expected. This can apply to any materials or instructions that your organization is currently using. 

Set In Order

Set in order, also known as orderliness, means that everything has a place. This means optimizing part and tool use and when they should be stored after use. When everything has an order, parts and tools can be identified more quickly for the next use. 


Shine, aka cleanliness, involves the enhancing  of cleaning equipment and  materials. This value of a more sanitary work area cannot be overvalued. Employee productivity and morale are directly impacted by identifying areas for improvement in this area. 

Standardize and Sustain

These last two parts of the 5S of lean process are standardize and sustain. We group them together because they both represent the continuing actions and the culture change and mentality needed to implement and benefit fully from the 5S process. Building the “5S way of life” takes time and effort but can truly build a more productive and innovative environment for your company. 

Getting this five-step process implemented correctly is a challenge worth taking for any company who wants to grow and increase output while actually decreasing costs. Our team at CIFT has the resources and expertise to apply lean manufacturing to your production, big or small. Read more about our continuous improvement services here.

This article is a part of our ongoing series to help manufacturers in Northwest Ohio grow and innovate. Did you miss Lean Benefit #1? Read the article here. 

Continue reading our last blog of the series – Lean Benefit #3: Safety


Lean Benefit #1: Eliminating Wastes

The heart of lean is eliminating wastes in all aspects of manufacturing. In lean, waste is defined as anything that does not add value to your customers. When you dig into what waste actually is, you’ll find a common term used is the Seven Deadly Wastes.

Seven Deadly Wastes

The Seven Deadly Wastes are areas of your manufacturing process that can be explored to find opportunities for improvement. These seven areas may be costing your company unnecessary fees and might be worth looking into.

Overproduction means you are making something before it is actually needed. This can lead to some serious problems with inventory and issues with knowing your true supply and demand needs. Manufacturing overproduction typically happens when a ‘push production system’ is implemented rather than a ‘Just In Time’ philosophy. If you’re overproducing, you’re losing money in the end.

Countermeasures for Overproduction:
‘Takt Time’ — Paces production so the rate of manufacturing matches the rate of customer demand
‘Kanban’ — Pull system to control how much product is manufactured
Reduce setup times which will allow for small batches to be produced

Waiting refers to how much time is being held up getting to the next step in production. When your production has a high wait time, value is lost and business is not running as efficiently as possible. Waiting can be anything from waiting for materials to arrive to having equipment with insufficient capacity.

Countermeasures for Waiting:
Continuous Flow — Design process that has minimal buffers or downtime between production steps
Standardized Operating Procedures — Set of instructions for processes which ensures consistent work and consistent time

Waste in transport, or transportation, is when there is excessive movement of materials or people, this can include the movement of tools, equipment, etc. When this type of waste occurs, the likelihood of product damage increases. When this happens with employees, their time is not being used to its full potential.

Countermeasures for Transport:
Value Stream Mapping — Design a production line that allows flow between processes

Waste in motion includes unnecessary or repetitive movement in people, equipment or machinery. This includes walking, lifting, reaching, ect. Lean suggests that these tasks should be redesigned to enhance work and increase health and safety of employees. When a repetitive movement happens, no value is being added.

Countermeasures for Motion:
Create an environment that is organized and as efficient as possible for employees

When there is more work or effort being done than needed for processing, overprocessing is happening. Overprocessing can come in many forms. It can be having too high of technology for machines, running too many tests, having more functionalities than needed…just to name a few.

Countermeasures for Overprocessing:
Kaizen — Always have the customer in mind and compare their needs to the manufacturing process, while looking for ways to simplify

Inventory is usually looked at as a positive, but having more inventory than what is needed to sustain a steady workflow can be detrimental. When there is too much inventory, product defects can occur, money allocation gets uneven, and hidden problems can arise which will ultimately slow down production.

Countermeasures for Inventory:
‘Just In Time’ — Purchasing raw materials only when needed
Continuous Flow — Decrease buffers between production steps

When a product is not up to standards, it is considered a defect and needs additional attention to be reworked or needs scrapped completely. Both the rework and scrapping are wastes. Rework requires additional resources from both equipment and employees. Scrapping the product as a whole is a waste in product and time.

Countermeasures for Defects:
‘Poka-Yoke’ — Error proofing the design process which decreases the likelihood of defects
‘Jidoka’ — Design equipment to detect defects and stop production
Go back and look at defects and get to the root cause, then implement changes accordingly

There are many resources when it comes to eliminating wastes, which can become overwhelming on where to start. Our team can be your starting point to get you off in the right direction. Read more about our continuous improvement services here.

Read our next blog of the lean series – Lean Benefit #2: Organization/Cleanliness

Did you miss our last lean blog overview? Read the 3 Benefits of Implementing Lean into Your Manufacturing Production: A Blog Series.

Automation: Is It Worth It for Small to Midsize Food Manufacturers?

Automated manufacturing processes have led to incredible increases in throughput and efficiency for manufacturers in all industries. However, automation adoption has been low in food manufacturing due to a variety of factors, including product fragility, product complexity, and food safety concerns. However, modern automation solutions provide significant guaranteed value while risk to product quality and safety is negligible.

This post will cover the primary ways automation solutions provide value for food processors, as well as further addressing some potential concerns. This post will be the first in a series that will allow food manufacturers new to automation to learn more about the technology and how the solution integration process works.

Reducing manual interaction in the production process.

Automating unit operations will obviously reduce the number of people required for line operation. This, in return, allows for more efficient allocation of your current workforce, so your employees are in the right spot at the right time. Minimizing the amount of people necessary to operate the process can also allow for additional production shifts without increasing your current workforce.

Reducing manual interaction also creates faster production throughput. While this isn’t guaranteed, generally automated production processes mitigate or remove manual bottlenecks. These eliminated bottlenecks will cause better productivity per hour of line time.

Gathering data on your products and processes.

Modern automated process equipment will generally come equipped with the necessary sensor systems that allow for real-time gathering of important process metrics, which can be used to make better-informed decisions on process parameters.

Automated process equipment can also help you stay on top of maintenance requirements. Advanced equipment can self-monitor and warn operations about necessary preventive maintenance before there’s an issue. This keeps your production healthy and organized by being able to schedule repair downtimes in advance.

Automated production processes can also be integrated directly into an ERP or similar program, unlocking the full potential of that software to provide important analytics and business connectivity.

Addressing concerns: Food safety

Food safety is any manufacturer’s number one priority and automation shouldn’t compromise that. Modern robotics solutions can be fabricated to fit any food safety program, including full wash-down capabilities and food-safe contact surfaces for end-of-arm tooling.

CIFT can provide guidance on how an automation solution can best fit your needs. To schedule a complimentary assessment, please fill out our contact us form and our experts will be able to assist you.

Interested in learning more about automation? Read our next automation blog on the solution integration process.

3 Benefits of Implementing Lean into Your Manufacturing Production: A Blog Series

When you look up the definition of lean manufacturing, you’ll get a lot of results, but in summary the focus is on minimizing waste in order to maximize productivity. Now, more than ever, companies are in dire need to get the most bang out of their buck and run as efficiently as possible. With COVID-19, many companies are unfortunately struggling with employee shortages and are searching for a better way to run their production with fewer employees. By implementing a lean production, areas of waste can be diminished, allowing for better quality of work to get done, even while the worker shortage is upon us all.

Here’s an introduction of the three reasons why you should consider taking a deeper dive into the possibility of going lean.

Eliminate Waste

What is waste? Identifying it correctly is the key to eliminating it effectively. Waste is anything that does not add value to your customers. Our team will look for what we call the seven deadly types of waste: Overproduction, waiting, transport, motion, overprocessing, inventory and defects. By looking in the correct places we can highlight opportunities that can deliver bottom line impact. This includes optimizing your employee output by utilizing them in the most beneficial positions.


In order to run as efficiently and effectively as possible with the employees you have, everything needs to have a place that is clean and ready. This is where 5S comes into play with lean manufacturing. 5S stands for: Sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. When you begin the 5S process, you first sort, or organize, and determine between what is actually needed and what is not. Set in order, or orderliness, means everything has a place and should be put away directly after use. Next, shine, or cleanliness, is keeping up with cleaning your equipment or materials. Finally, the last two, standardize and sustain, are the ongoing actions and mentality to continue doing the process and stick to the rules. When this five-step process is implemented correctly, it can improve the overall business by organizing, cleaning, developing and sustaining a productive work environment.


It’s clear to see that safety would also be an added benefit to lean manufacturing. When you’ve eliminated waste, put everything in order and used correctly, it is easier to understand all the processes and be safer as a whole. Kaizen is a lean idea that focuses on continuous improvement and empowering employees to make and suggest changes. Implementing kaizen mindsets and incentives in the workplace will lead to added safety measures for your business.

Lean can deliver these outcomes and many more when implemented with the correct procedures. Ohio MEP can provide the lean training to these concepts, delivering for you across all levels of your business. Read how CIFT helped Verhoff Machine and Welding get lean.

Read more on Lean Benefit #1: Eliminating Wastes.

Interested in learning more about our manufacturing services? Visit our website or contact us for more information.

Cyber Security Compliance Saves Big

RTSS value created

Robotic Technical Support Services (RTSS) helps companies stay competitive by providing engineering, installing, servicing and upgrading of robotic and automated systems. They also provide supplemental contract services to companies in need of additional engineering or service technicians. To keep up with the ever-changing cyber security compliance requirements, RTSS needed an assessment of their current cyber security, along with implementation and documentation of any necessary changes. RTSS contacted CIFT for help.

CIFT first conducted an assessment that mapped out all national cyber security requirements. Then RTSS’s cyber security was analyzed to uncover how their system matched up to the national requirements. The assessment served as a focal point for all proof documentation, compensating controls, explanations of how applicable each requirement is to RTSS and informed recommendations for cyber security compliance planning. A gap analysis was also included in the assessment which allows RTSS to understand how compliant they are to the standard. Proper documentation and descriptions of the covered contractor information system operating environments were completed in order to meet NIST 800-171 and DFARS requirements.

This assessment and implementation saved RTSS over $9,500 in costs. They also saved over $10,000 on investment while increasing their investment over $22,000.