Month: September 2016

Wheel of Fortune

A large nutraceutical company needing to improve asset utilization asks Zinata to “connect the dots” between scheduling and production.


The client, a large nutraceutical company, was facing intense competitive cost pressures and relatively unproductive assets. Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) at a key packaging plant averaged less than 40%, far below world class standards. It was imperative to significantly increase OEE and line throughput, so they could satisfy all customer orders with fewer lines operating.


Zinata was engaged to improve OEE and packaging line throughput. Our analysis showed one of the highest OEE losses was time lost in product changeovers. Digging deeper we learned there were up to fourteen parameters (bottle diameter, bottle height, cap type, tablet type, allergen content, etc.) that could be affected by any given changeover. The degree of change required was not being adequately considered in the scheduling process – there was a disconnect. As a result, too many changes were required and most changes required more thorough cleaning and mechanical adjustments to more parameters than a more logical schedule would need. An improved scheduling methodology and process was needed.


Zinata’s solution called for “Product Wheel” scheduling as a way to “connect the dots” between scheduling and manufacturing. Product wheels are a very effective way to level production and match products to lines by product family groupings. The optimum frequency and campaign length for each product is developed, then sequenced to minimize the number of changes and then reduce the parameters which must adjusted on any changeover. A great example is sorting products by bottle sizes and allocating a narrow group of sizes to each line. This alone reduced bottle rail changes (the most time consuming change) by a whopping 62%. Other optimizations significantly reduced the number of those irritating runs of low demand products (while increasing the size of each such run). In the end, total changeovers dropped by over a third and those that remained were less complex and took less time.

For wheels to be successful they have to be used every day religiously to schedule. Zinata developed product wheel tools, excel based for familiarity and simplicity, to make use of the wheels in day to day scheduling simple and direct. Training and 1-1 support (scheduling together) was provided to embed the knowledge of wheels and tools and create the habit of their use – building client capability.

Cross functional team work was critical for success – so Zinata helped bridge the internal silos. The wheels were designed by planners, schedulers, mechanics, and supervisors, led by a Zinata Product Wheel expert. Along the way Zinata was able to highlight and help improve critical management parameters like run rates and characteristic relationships. Working with the schedulers, the Zinata team designed and evolved the product wheel tools using rapid development techniques. Most recently adding the ability to pull future orders from the ERP system and present them to the planner in a format aligned with the wheel design.


Product Wheels resulted in an OEE increase of 12 points, which delivered a 34% increase in throughput and resulted in the ability to meet demand using two fewer lines. The crew reduction labor savings is worth $1.5 million annually. The new approach gives the client a systems view of their product line-up rather that their traditional piecemeal, one-at-a-time view. This is leading to further operating improvements. The benefits extend throughout the product value chain. The standardized, repetitive wheel patterns enable them to predict future tablet, bottle type, and cap type needs on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis several months into the future. This makes for better supply chain planning and labor crew planning.

Take your vitamins

A leading vitamins and nutritional supplements company asks Zinata to put the “people and process” into their software technology process.


A market leader in nutritional supplements found itself with a complex web of systems, sites, and processes after a long period of growth through acquisition. Supply chains operated autonomously, order fill rates were unacceptable, and material shortages were common despite high inventories. Planning in the traditional sense was non-existent. The standard supply process was to resolve each issue through spreadsheets, e-mails and crisis calls one instance at a time. Something needed to be done to break the vicious cycle.

A new demand and planning software was in the works – but how to get from here to there without a serious crash and burn? There was already not enough hours in the day to run this chaotic business. While the organization was anxious for the new systems to roll out, carving out the time to learn, test, validate, migrate, and use this new system was barely a blip on the radar of those who needed it most.


When faced with a transition of this magnitude – simultaneously reengineering most aspects of the organization from a people, process, and systems perspective AND maintaining continuity of the day-to-day business – a clear plan of action had to be precisely planned and flawlessly executed. How do you eat an elephant? Take it one bite at a time. Build system and process capability and systematically grow human ability and habit to take advantage of it – at the proper pace. Too fast and people are overwhelmed, too slow and benefits are delayed.

Software was developed and integrated with existing systems. As the new software became operational, the developers taught people how to use the software (which buttons to push). Zinata led integrating the software and process into the business – addressing the why, when and where to push those buttons – in which system – at which time. Essentially, Zinata was asked to be the business integrator.


When Zinata engaged into this partnership, the team immediately integrated themselves into the business – working side by side with the supply chain teams to understand first-hand the processes in order to fully grasp the challenges. By integrating seamlessly, the on-site Zinata team established relationships, learned the lingo of the business and gained credibility by walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

A corporate S&OP process and new forecasting system came on-line and provided much needed future demand visibility. Zinata educated key leaders in supply chain concepts in a language familiar to them. An interim excel based tool was created integrating these forecasts with other disparate data needed to create production plans for manufacturing and packaging.

With an interim tool in place to keep the business running through transition, Zinata developed a “people” and “process” critical path schedule that matched up with the technology schedule. Zinata created a foundational learning series – providing best practice guidance on how to manage a supply chain using the new software, then extended to process training documents, enhanced user support, and the creation of a “triage” process for users to log software, process, and data defects. Lastly, Zinata developed a set of implementation metrics so everyone could follow progress and user maturity as they grew through the crawl, walk, and run phases.


Fill rates now regularly hit the 98% mark, inventories are based on need and material shortages are decreasing. The new planning software is up and running along with the new work processes that optimize its effectiveness. One-on-one knowledge transfer to key users has built permanent capability. The organization is stronger, more knowledgeable and more effective.

In sum, using this strategy, the implementation project was successful in large part because the consultant-client relationship was successful. The Zinata team was viewed not as an outside consultant but as an extension of the client team. As such, our recommendations and observations were viewed, not with the skepticism of another “theoretical” solution from a consultant that “won’t work here because…” but rather with the credibility afforded to a valued member of the team.