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.