Improving labor productivity, food yield and logistics in airline catering


Senior executives at a large restaurant and catering operator invited Carpedia to conduct an analysis of its three largest airport flight kitchens in an effort to expedite the organization’s continuous improvement efforts.

The company operated flight kitchens in airports providing meal beverage and commissary services to most airlines arriving and departing in Canada. In an increasingly competitive airline industry, they were determined to reduce operating costs while providing a superior level of quality and service.

The business model was unique in that it ran just-in-time, with a requirement to be flexible in order to accommodate last minute changes to airline schedules and loads while still upholding high standards for service and quality.

With the above in mind Carpedia was brought in to reduce operating costs and to train internal managers to execute similar initiatives.


In the 3 locations improvements were made in a variety of functional areas. Some examples of the improvements include:

Food Production saw an average of 13% improvement in productivity

  • Set up time was significantly reduced by matching workloads to shifts and breaks.
  • The optimal use of solo stations and belt line assembly was determined to maximize uptime.
  • Multiple handling of products was reduced by introducing a decanting process.

Tray Assembly saw an average of 11% improvement

  • Several lines were reconfigured and combined by balancing positions.
  • Solo stations were reconfigured to feed product directly on the line minimizing downtime caused by replenishment.

Final Assembly saw an average of 4% improvement

  • A 5s methodology was deployed for available fridges, ensuring stocked supplies.
  • Manual ready-boards were introduced removing redundant positions.

Transportation saw an average of 8% improvement

  • A “taxi stand” approach was developed reducing time waiting for flights and allowing for flexibility to deal with weather and flight delays.
  • Crewing guidelines were modified to schedule teams or individuals according to aircraft requirements.
  • Shift start times were modified to minimize overtime and maximize coverage during peaks.
  • A task confirmation system was developed to monitor resource availability throughout the shift and provide early identification of potential service delays.

Commissary saw an average of 17% improvement

  • The domestic bar-building process was modified to focus on sub-assemblies instead of entire flights – reducing lost time, managing shortages, increasing capacity, and consolidating shifts (3 to 2).
  • A runner position was established to reduce equipment search time.
  • The area layout was modified to improve workflow.


“Over the year, Carpedia set up shop in our three largest airport locations. Throughout the engagement, our managers benefited from the one-on-one attention your consultants provided to help them measure and address the level of active management.”  – Senior Vice President

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