Category: Case Studies

Know Your Customers

A leading citrus provider turned to Zinata for guidance on becoming more customer centric.


Situation

A company-wide initiative to internalize the Voice of the Customer (VOC) was identified as a vital step to becoming the top “partner of choice.” This was required to remain competitive and delight their customers and consumers every time.

Diagnosis

Very little information about the customer was shared outside of the Sales department. Information gathering was not formalized or consistent. Very few in the organization really understood what was important to the customer. The organization lacked a cross functional approach to communicating and meeting customer expectations. An improvement initiative was required to gain a clear understanding of the needs of the customer and how to incorporate their voice into every aspect of the company.

Implementation

Customer interviews were conducted gathering feedback on topics such a service, pricing, quality, communication, planning and account management. The customers were extremely candid and eager to provide their input. The collected information was collated and presented at a one-day executive workshop. Some of the feedback shared with the executive team was not a surprise, but many of the customer comments were not anticipated. It was the opportune time to implement an improvement plan to drive change.

The workshop process involved identifying value drivers that were important to the customer. Initiatives were brainstormed to leverage strengths, improve weaknesses and create new capabilities.

As a result the leadership was committed to transitioning the company from market focused to customer focused. To increase customer centricity across the organization, it was vital for all employees to understand and internalize the VOC.

Outcome

The “Path to the Customer” was a change in strategy requiring the company to define a rallying cry for the organization. A detailed journey map was required for identifying organizational redesign, communication plans, measurements and the culture changes required to be successful.

The internal communication, collaboration, and strategic planning required to undertake the improvement initiative strengthened the company’s ability to engage with their customers effectively to ensure that they are truly heard, and their needs consistently met.

From Chaos to Customer Focus

From Chaos to Customer Focus

A Brand Pharmaceutical company asked Zinata to help their operations become more flexible and responsive to change.


Situation

An entire product line with a large number of products was transferred to a manufacturing plant. The plant became overwhelmed with the increase in volume. A severe backorder crisis resulted and the plant lost control of the situation.

The plant was disconnected from the Sales groups. Market changes were not communicated in a timely manner. The company was struggling to respond to unexpected events. The lag time between the receipt of customer demand and the processing to supply orders received by the plants was causing an imbalance between demand and supply. Cycle times became longer. Results were poor customer service, excess inventory, high costs, and inefficient use of capacity.

The overall cycle time was almost a year. There are two things that contribute to very long supply chains and very long production cycles. One is the approach to sequencing of operations. The other is the handling of unexpected events. Throughout the supply chain, things go wrong or surprises occur that cause the chain to stop or require that the chain deviates from its planned course. Supply cycles become long if it takes long to solve those surprises.

Prescription

It was determined that the supply chain as a whole and the internal Plant operations in particular were not flexible and scalable enough to cope with drastic changes in demand and supply. Their entire value chain was fragmented with gaping lags between process steps. Their supply chain and operations management practices were primitive and robust systems were not utilized to manage the environment. Essentially, the entire operation needed to be transformed, starting with understanding the Voice of the Customer.

Implementation

A desired end state was defined where Sales and the plants work together to support market demand. Demand management was simplified, cycle times were compressed, visibility of information improved, exception management was introduced and processes were supported by social collaborative models.

Demand management processes were redefined such that the supply chain connected directly to the end customer eliminating purchase orders between Sales and the plants. Demand patterns were analyzed and corresponding supply flows were aligned to these patterns. Their systems (ERP and Planning) were restructured to support the new processes.

Through data analysis the right balance between make to stock and make to order products was defined. The manufacturing operation was restructured to operate in continuous flow, creating virtual value streams matching products of similar scale and demand patterns. Changeover times were minimized through proper sequencing. The planning of purchased materials was integrated into the overall planning of the supply chain.

Collaboration, using social media was introduced as a way of quickly responding to unexpected events. When someone encountered a surprise, they post it in social media. Shortly thereafter people from a community of competencies will see the issue and start reacting. No meeting is required. The dynamics of social media are such that those who need to be involved will be drawn to the issue and participate in the discussions. In NOW Mode, the right people gravitate to the problem quite rapidly and the problem gets resolved relatively quickly. The impact is greater when multiple organizations are involved.

Outcome

Service levels recovered to target levels in 6 months. Production cycle time was reduced by 70 percent. Social networking created a more cohesive and co-operative organization. Changes to demand and supply are now considered ‘normal’ and the organization is well equipped to work in the NOW Mode.

Learning to See

A large consumer products company needed to reduce inventory. A simple Zinata tool made inventory visible, and thus reducible.


Situation

A large consumer products company’s global inventories had remained relatively constant for a number of years. There were significantly different inventory levels by business and supply chain. Also, there was significant sku turnover as new skus came into the market and old skus were discontinued. But new skus enjoyed varying levels of success, which added non-performing inventory in all markets.

Efforts to reduce inventory were not sustained, as service levels led to “just in case” rather than “just in time” inventory decisions.

A new approach was needed.

Prescription

Knowing that systemic and sustained improvement had to start with a clear declaration by leadership, corporate and business unit goals were set and leaders assigned. Business silos destruction was accompanied by a search for the best tools and processes. One that emerged in this search was a graphical inventory analysis tool that had started in a regional business known to have the best inventory globally, as measured by overall day’s inventory. What made it so successful? It was simple. It made inventory visible. It could be understood from the board room to the shop floor. It was time to bring it to all businesses in all regions.

Implementation

The Learning to See Inventory (LETSI) tool is a graphical display of available inventory by sku (or group of skus) by day, typically for a year. Overlaid on this display is safety inventory. LETSI was used by planners and inventory analysts to see where there was dead stock / non-performing inventory that had not been used. Planners then made safety and / or planning adjustments to reduce or eliminate this inventory without exposing the business to any service risk. In many instances, up to 10% of overall inventory was found to be dead stock. Interventions using LETSI resulted in virtually all dead stock being eliminated – and these reductions maintained over time. People were finally able to connect the dots between parameter settings, inventory levels and service.

LETSI’s ease-of-use enabled its rapid acceptance and application. While originally created in Excel and made available quarterly, with corporate support LETSI was integrated into SAP Business Warehouse data toolsets and given on-demand to planners and inventory analysts globally. LESTI capability is now embedded in the organization.

Outcome

Corporate finished goods inventories were reduced by 10% due to LETSI. Customer service levels either remained the same or improved – a win-win. Focus was then extended to raw and packing material inventories, with similar reductions in cost and no harm to service. LETSI’s simplicity and effectiveness saw its ready acceptance and use across all businesses and regions permanently. It has proven a perfect complement to value stream mapping and accelerates the finding and correcting of inventory root causes.

Wheel of Fortune

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

Situation

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.

Prescription

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.

Implementation

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.

Outcome

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.


Situation

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.

Prescription

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.

Implementation

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.

Outcome

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.

Holy Guacamole

A preeminent fruit producer asked Zinata to help guide it into a more fluid future. Here’s what happened.


Situation

The world’s leading producer, distributor and marketer of fresh Hass avocados needed help. It is a vertically integrated company whose focus is providing worldwide customers a year-round supply, global availability and various value-added services. Its troubles arose from rapid growth built on a homegrown information system that supported siloed functional operations. Zinata was asked to help re-map the business processes in order to help the company decide whether to drive future growth on the current information system or implement a new one.

Prescription

Zinata proposed a broader view of the project – knowing that the work must start with a clear corporate (and supporting functional) vision of the future. Workshops were conducted first with the executive leadership team, then with functional leadership teams, to identify and acknowledge gaps in the current state, and to harness their dissatisfaction to create a clear, compelling vision of the future state they wished to reach.

Implementation

Using standard Zinata processes and templates, the client was taught how to document their work processes at the functional level. By looking at each process through an input-process-output model, the team began to appreciate the connections between processes and functions. Zinata then brought multi-functional representatives together to draw the current and future states process maps. For the first time, people understood why their work was important to others and how their various parts in the process came together to complete the whole. This unleashed a powerful desire to solve all problems by working together using the best practice tools brought aboard by Zinata.

Outcome

The corporate strategy is now more clearly articulated and communicated to the broader organization. A path forward to a new ERP system is in place. It includes new people capabilities and business work processes. Mid-level managers are energized and empowered to drive change now and well into the future by working together multi-functionally.

“Zinata is extremely responsive. They’ve done a tremendous job so far and have given us the tools and the confidence that we can get this done. They’ve followed through on every commitment.”
Company CEO

Drug problems

A global pharma leader turns to Zinata to help it bridge silos and speed up new product development.


Situation

The client, a large pharmaceutical company was stymied by increasing complexity in their R&D pipeline and an inefficient, outdated approach to technology transfer and new product development & introduction (NPDI). Management realized that current manual processes and siloed organizational structure across new product development and manufacturing were incapable of delivering the required speed-to-market, supply agility and product intelligence. In response, they’d launched several costly initiatives, each targeting a segment of the overall problem. Over time, it became clear that the initiatives’ deliverables were fragmented, sub-optimal and that overall progress was falling behind schedule.

Prescription

Zinata was engaged to support the client’s initiatives and to deliver a seamless, integrated solution for NPDI from early-stage development through to product manufacturing. The client had identified key benefits upon which they desired the initiatives to deliver. They included improved product integrity and consistency; faster time-to-market; enhanced operational agility; improved product and process understanding; and improved analytics and visualization through digitization of key business processes and information. Understanding the overlapping initiative objectives and the underlying complexity of this bold transformation, Zinata and the client reframed the initiatives as a transformational program. We secured executive sponsorship to ensure cross-organizational alignment and to establish a single vision to enable the program’s successful deployment.

Implementation

Zinata’s proposed solution focused on two main components: Standardization and Enterprise Recipe Management (ERM). The established Zinata Standards Framework and accelerators were augmented to suit the client, so they could be readily adopted across its businesses. Interviews and workshops were held to improve clarity of, and to define, the interfaces between the initiatives and functions. It became clear that ERM would provide the common and consistent language and process to knit together the silos, processes and initiatives into a harmonized program. The initiatives were synchronized to minimize redundant efforts and to capitalize on the standards framework and recipe management capabilities.

Outcome

Since our deployment, the client has enjoyed much-strengthened collaboration between R&D and manufacturing through seamless information flows on the new product pipeline. Critical design decisions are now made with real-time input from key partners (R&D, manufacturing, quality, sourcing, etc.) in a collaborative spirit. The value of ERM and a standards framework to technology transfer has helped simplify the process while ensuring a high level of product quality. The client appreciates that adopting standards at the appropriate level and deploying ERM are supportive capabilities, even with their perspective that “all the products are different”. The team is now motivated and enthusiastic to progress all new products through this new, simplified process.