CECIL BUFFINGTON: THE GOLDKIST YEARS
The Gold Kist Years with Cecil Buffington
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I have not been a part of a poultry processing heirachy since around 2010. I really don't know what goes on in their day-to-day workday. I do know much about the happenings inside a poultry plant from about 1970 until well past the year 2000. It may very well be that the plants of today are vastly superior to the plants of the last quarter of the 19th century in profitability performance, associate welfare, safety performance and social structure. Somehow, in my mind, I kind of doubt this being true.
The most accomplished period of time in poultry processing history was that period between 1970 and 2000. Automation came into prevalence with amazing machines in the front of the plant and tremendous advances in automation in the back of the plant, further processing area.
It was also during this period that associate welfare and morale became pivotal in assuring a plant (company's ) success. Virtually every job in the first processing area of the plant was automated to some extent by 1980. By the mid-90's the further processing end of the plant had some type of automation for every conceivable task. When I went to Gold Kist Athens in 1977, it was a high cost, low volume, generic sales unit that had very little automation and even fewer plans for climbing out of the middle of the pack in the 12 Gold Kist poultry divisions. My competitiveness and enthusiasm for strong performance soon jumped to the front in revamping this low expectation thought process.
If ever any processing plant had a family atmosphere with activities that featured working hard and playing hard, it was Gold Kist Athens. Performance goals became a way of life for all management, but also motivational activities and fun events while working projects became essential components to continued and assured success. Virtually every program installed in Athens was designed to improve performance and efficiency on the job and quality of life away from the job. Family activities were abound with something always going on that involved the entire personal family and the Gold Kist family. Gold Kist management became a family unit unto itself. When looking upon the hourly workforce that made the plant so great, it was almost as if they were looked upon as children receiving support and directions from a parent.
While I have never made a list of the activities and programs that we worked into the Gold Kist Athens operation, it would probably list well into the hundreds. Everyone was provided with the tools to be successful. Everyone was an integral part of the team. We respected each other and tried to make every day a better day for everyone that worked in the Athens plant.
Now that old plant is closed. A chapter in history is no longer with us.
I can only wonder how many billions of dollars were made in that plant since the Terry family opened it in 1954. Also, how many families were positively impacted by employment at the early Colonial Poultry and later Gold Kist Poultry plant in Athens.
I'm not sure how much of esprit de corps is left in today's plant environment, but I hope it hasn't all completely gone away. I hope there is still some feeling of family in both the management team and all task performing associates .
For all of us that spent a good many years in that Gold Kist Athens plant, we will forever relish and cherish those memories as some of the best days of our life. This tribute in pictures is a thank you to all the wonderful people I was fortunate to work with in Gold Kist Athens.
I have two 40 pound poultry boxes full of pictures from my Gold Kist years. Maybe I will add a few along as we move along through the years.
My pledge, through my cecilbuffington.com web-site, is to always keep the memories alive.
Click on photos to enlarge