Shafer Helms

Major: Culinary Food Science
Minor/option/emphasis: -- Select a Minor --
Company/Organization: Iowa State University Creamery
Company/Organization website:
Destination: Ames, Iowa
Timeframe: Summer 2022
Advisor/Coordinator Email: ebierman


My primary responsibilities this summer were working in production and working on documentation. Production involved one day of pasteurizing and two days of freezing. The first day was pasteurizing, where the team and I would gather, measure, combine, and blend milk, heavy cream, eggs, and various powders, depending on the mix we were making. We would pasteurize 400 pounds per batch, and we typically did two batches every Tuesday (or whatever day one was that week, but it was typically Tuesday). That is a total of 800 pounds of Ice cream per week. The next two days were for freezing all of that mix. We would gather, measure, and add flavors and coloring to the mix cans of the day and start freezing as soon as possible at the end of day two of freezing (or day three of the week). That is what a typical week of production was for me this summer. In addition to production, I was tasked with writing and developing standard operating procedures (SOPs). By the end of my time, I had written the freezer SOP and the sanitation SOP from scratch and updated the outdated SOPs for the pasteurizer and legal for trade scale.


My greatest accomplishment was improving the ease and efficiency of production. I suggested a way to improve our freezing technique: going from two different flavors being packed at a time to freezing one flavor and packing it as a team. This new process solved problems we didn't even know we had, from decreased risk of allergen cross-contamination to improved packing speed to more accurate and precise troubleshooting when problems occur. This new system is clean, intuitive, efficient, and frankly pretty obvious better after having been doing it for a few weeks.

Learning experience

The greatest lesson I learned this summer was to effectively solve huge problems and make major improvements to the company as a team. Making micro improvements is very important, but the experience of completely shifting how something operates should not be scoffed at.

What advice would you give?

Find the environment where you thrive. That environment should support your good ideas, develop and brainstorm bad ideas, and teach you when your idea is unreasonable given the context. No situation is too small not to try to make it better in any way. Share all of your ideas because the chance that one of them is groundbreaking is not zero, and it would be a shame not to make your impact.

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