Statistics for Food Scientists: Making Sense of the Numbers
“Maria accepted the job offer, and she will be joining your team in two weeks!” Joan had spent 7 months on a quest to find a food scientist, and this short voicemail from Human Resources put an end to his efforts. He was so excited that he stepped out of his office to share the great news with Steve, a senior food scientist, working for him. Steve had also enjoyed meeting Maria and shared Joan’s high opinion of her from the recent university job fair.
Maria, a recent graduate holding a Master’s degree in food science, is a bright, young professional who is not only excited, she has already posted the good news on Facebook and Twitter and has texted all of her friends about her decision to join the Ultimate BBQ company. “Help is on the way,” said Joan, jokingly, to Steve. “Maria has accepted, and her strong critical thinking and analytical skills will help us improve the quality of our BBQ sauce.” Steve: “BBQ!” BBQ sauce has been one of the company’s core products, and it has been around for over 100 years. Sadly, in the most recent years, it has lost market share due to product quality degradation, a trend that the company hopes to reverse quickly to maintain a market leading position. “Will Maria be equipped for such a big first project?” Joan: “I agree with you Steve, and that is why I would like to ask you to be Maria’s manager. Help her understand the complex process of making BBQ sauce, the similarities between our pilot plant and plant production, and introduce her to the rest of the team. As you know ‘it takes a village’ to make good BBQ.” “There have been a lot of recent complaints indicating that our BBQ sauce is not thick enough. Our consumers care deeply about our product. They have given us a second chance through the gift of feedback, and now we owe it to them. Steve, I cannot think of a better person than you not only to pass on a lot of BBQ sauce institutional knowledge to Maria, but also to help her to focus on the areas that need the most attention. You have worked closely with James in Marketing Research to understand the specifics of the consumers’ feedback from the BBQ users’ focus group sessions.” Steve: “I would love to help Maria. Since this will be a highly analytical project, I’ll introduce her to Chad in Analytical Sciences, Louise in Quality, and the other subject matter experts that she will need to work closely with. I’ll also organize a visit to both of our BBQ plants after she is situated in the Research and Development center.”
In the spirit of good planning and to better prepare for a successful relationship with her, Steve decides to venture into the virtual space for traces of Maria. He revisits her LinkedIn profile and learns from it that Maria relishes challenges, never gives up, and most of all she enjoys working on teams. She seems to have some data analysis skills that Steve hopes he can learn from. At the same time, her profile suggests that she is interested in learning more about process capability analysis, which has been an area of focus for Steve in recent years. As Steve prepares to weave in the relationship between product concepts and analytical approaches, he realizes that he will need the help of others to enable Maria to see deeply into what is best for BBQ sauce.
Steve wants to help Maria try new approaches and statistical practices. Only after she sees some successes will she add them into her repertoire of statistical tools. These will enable her to develop critical practices to shape thought processes and transform the way scientists approach everyday quality and product development challenges. These practices will be relevant to many challenges that food scientists face, and Steve wants Maria to have a successful start into her corporate career. Now, onto Day 1.
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