Zinata News

Balanced Operations

Leveraging Hidden Capacity to Meet Service Levels

Enabling Decisions That Impact The Business

        The content on this site reflects the results of multiple projects in the Food and Beverage industry covering several different processes. The details outline the use Zinata’s standard best practices in a high volume processed food plant, focused on process analysis for improving production sequencing, minimizing changeovers and  establishing proper inventory levels in support of high levels of customer service. Included are descriptions of how to sustain benefits through establishing ownership and incorporating systemic processes.

        Zinata works in collaboration with our clients, specific to their environment, supporting the people closest to the operation, from the plant floor to corporate business management, ensuring we preserve current effective capabilities, with coaching and guidance. As a team we prioritize focused localized efforts, with an end to end perspective, which in turn generates a self-sufficient, performance oriented, organization.


Company leaders of a food products manufacturer, in planning for the company’s future, realized that not all of their practices were sustainable with anticipated growth and began to look for a solution. They found Zinata’s Product Wheels, along with Phenix Scheduler, which allowed them to simplify and orient their processes, freeing time, and money, and by enhancing what they had been doing all along.


        The company had good practices implemented but were wrestling with aligning their processes to be as efficient and effective as possible. They needed to improve efficiencies in anticipation of future growth. The team wanted to ensure they maintained their standard of a high level of customer service when that time came.

        The operating practices were producing a high-quality product and they were meeting production demands but they were wrestling with aligning demand to be executed as efficient and effective as possible. They realized that their condition was not sustainable, and started to look for a more practical, less labor intensive, and better documented scheduling process that would effectively deal with the constant changes.

        They had the right team for what they wanted to accomplish, but the ever-evolving game plan was demanding that the team learn new approaches.

     One major issue complicating the situation was that their scheduler was reacting to persistent unexpected, costly schedule changes. With the scheduling processes dependent upon the skill set of one person it proved difficult to transfer sufficient knowledge to other team members to address the workload.

​        They were also facing a “Tribal Knowledge” issue in addition to a capacity optimization problem. Operating characteristics of the facilities resided only in this one person. Should the scheduler decide to leave for any reason they would be missing a critical skill to support their operation.

        It was essential to find a way to transfer that knowledge where it could be leveraged by the team.

“Everything regarding scheduling used to be in my head…” – Plant Scheduling Director.


        Zinata’s standard best practices approach starts with an analysis to reveal potential for production sequencing and scheduling processes to be improved, organized, and easily taught.

        This is done through collaboration with our client, preserving current effective capabilities, while supporting the people closest to the operation with coaching and guidance to prioritize focused localized efforts – delivering a self-sufficient, effective and efficient organization.

The analysis process focuses on:

  • Allocation – more effective assignment of products to lines, which includes grouping certain products into like families based on their characteristics (allergen content, packaging footprint, etc.) and assigning them to the most appropriate lines.

  • Production Frequency – involves determining the optimal run size and frequency for each product. They were producing certain products far too frequently incurring expensive changeovers. Conversely, some were not made frequently enough, creating unnecessary inventory.

  • Sequencing – defining the least costly and least time-consuming combination of changeovers on a line, by analyzing all parameters that may have to be changed and determining the most effective sequence.

  • Scheduling Process Stabilization and Capture – Sustainability of improvements are approached by leveraging a Product Wheel production design process and the Phenix Scheduler software supports documented, repeatable, and trainable process that is far easier to execute and provides better results on a day-by-day basis. The vast majority of production scheduling becomes routine, repeatable and automated, allowing the scheduler much more time to deal with the non-routine, unexpected problems.


​        As one of our client observed the approach that worked is “Zinata brings the playbook and as a team we learn how to read it, how to run the plays and are guided by a coach until we can win on your own.” This resulted in:

Optimum frequency of production and volume: This provided significant benefit as they were carrying too much inventory of their popular products and not enough of their less popular items. After looking at SKU’s (the cost of changeover, carrying inventory and other factors) the proper frequency of production of each SKU that would make the most amount of money was revealed. This reduced the amount of inventory that was being carried and showed that they should only carry fixed boundary of owned inventory.

Assigned products to appropriate lines to reduce feeder system changes: There were products that absolutely had to run on one line, and others that could run on multiple. Zinata’s analysis revealed that this was not happening, and products were being run on whatever line had availability or space. In assigning products to their proper lines, it was made it clear which products absolutely had to be made, but also recaptured time for “opportunity batches.” An opportunity where time could be reclaimed, provided a window to generate more products for critical clients, and deal with the unexpected in fluster free manner

Sequenced products to allow production variation to flow through the week with known “opportunity” batches: This was where a cultural shift occurred. There are unforeseen, unfortunate events that happen all the time – but what changed was there were no more alarming midnight phone calls to the scheduler asking, “what do we do,” instead solutions to errors became instinctual. There is now a precedent set for what to do when things are not going right; contrary to “what do we do,” the scheduling process is now teachable and simplistic. There was now has a companywide attitude toward scheduling that acknowledges some weeks will be better than others, and there will always be “opportunity” batches that will allow lost time to be recaptured and made profitable.

Scheduling processes were put in place that projected further and was PW driven: Since the entire plant was now clear on a plan of action when changes need to be made, it made the process teachable and allowed for “back-up” schedulers to be successfully trained. Schedule changes were reduced drastically (average is less than 1/week), which has led to more impactful and important things getting done. The main scheduler commented “I spend about the same amount of time, but now I am working on what really matters and am not solely responsible.”

        Throughout the organization, a paradigm shift occurred, that allocated the responsibility of plant success to a shared ownership and increased morale immensely. It is now known that a bad day in a week is not going to kill the plant or the workers anymore. Workers are incentivized to work to get things done, and done right, to get out of work on time with little challenges.

Representative Benefits Achieved

  • Yield increase of 8%

  • 6% increase in volume

  • 7% decrease in production days

  • 35% reduction in overtime

  • 2/3rd reduction in weekend runs

  • 16% change over reduction

  • Reduce feeder system changes from 150+ per year to <10 per year

  • Cut all other packaging changes in half

All of these changes were made and implemented while maintaining customer service levels.