Quality Policy & Customer Satisfaction: Odour Control

Customer feedback leads to innovation and change

At Saskatchewan Minerals, we know our customers are just as invested in the quality of our product as we are. What happens in Chaplin, before the product is shipped, is only part of the picture. It is our customers’ feedback, and their satisfaction with our product, that lets us know how we are truly doing.

“As part of our Quality Policy, we are always interested in continuous improvement, and the best way is to listen to the feedback we receive from our customers,” says Anita Stettner, regional accounts and logistics manager at Saskatchewan Minerals.

For example, a few years ago, a customer let Saskatchewan Minerals know that its shipments had an unusually heavy odour. The company saw this feedback as an opportunity to make a change and innovate and improve its internal process.

“We understand that feedback is necessary to improve, and we don’t look negatively on any suggestion,” says Saskatchewan MInerals General Manager Brent Avery. “We try to view every suggestion as an opportunity to learn, to grow and to be a better supplier.”

As a major supplier of sodium sulphate, Saskatchewan Minerals knows odour comes with the territory. “Our raw material is a natural resource, so it will naturally have a smell that relates back to the origin of where the raw material comes from, which is our water system and lakes that feed our process,” says Anita.

“It’s not always the same smell or strength,” adds Glenn Jackle, senior quality and process engineer, “but the common words we hear to describe the natural smell are fishy, lakey or swampy.”

Controlling the odour

Although the smell is a natural occurrence of the brining process, there are ways to reduce the lingering scent on the final product.

Efforts to control product odour first started in the mid-1980s, when production of detergent-grade product was initiated. Saskatchewan Minerals started adding hydrogen peroxide a decade later. The peroxide helps oxidize the organic material in the salt and cut down on the bad smell.

“The addition of hydrogen peroxide not only improves odour control, it also reduces treatment costs, corrosion and makes for an improved work environment,” says Glenn. “We’re always evaluating our odour-control options and looking for ways to improve raw salt quality; part of that is being open to feedback from customers.”

Customer feedback let Saskatchewan Minerals know that its existing odour control methods did not consistently provide product that met its customers’ needs.

Evaluating customer needs

It was time to get creative and find a better way to monitor odour control. One change that Saskatchewan Minerals did was to form an odour evaluation team that could monitor odour in shipping and production samples more closely. The results from these samples are used to verify if the peroxide dosage is getting the job done and a second change was to more closely monitor residual peroxide levels at different points in the production process.

“Our employees have always looked forward to improving and satisfying our customer needs,” says Brent. “We don’t look at quality as a cost, but instead, as part of our responsibility to our customers.”

Saskatchewan Minerals is always challenging itself to improve its product quality and service delivery to its customers, says Anita. “We’ve found that the best way to identify areas of improvement is to listen to our customers,” she says.

For Brent, “What helps us continue to improve is our strong commitment to quality and improving just a little bit each day.”