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Building ‘ONE team’: Collaboration at the heart of Wincanton and Kraft Heinz evolution

Comment | 20 November 2020

Two people packing canned goods on a factory floor.

Collaboration is essential to any successful business partnership. Wincanton and The Kraft Heinz Company have worked together for close to 25 years, but it’s the last 18 months that have been truly evolutionary. A project designed to streamline the way the two companies work together has been a huge success and has enabled a robust COVID-19 response. It’s this collaboration that impressed the judges at the Supply Chain Excellence Awards 2020, who awarded Wincanton and Kraft Heinz the Team of the Year accolade.

We explore the success of the project and why it’s been so significant.

With a relationship stretching back to 1996, Wincanton and The Kraft Heinz Company are certainly not strangers. The partnership has grown from Wincanton managing the transportation of Kraft Heinz products to executing a successful logistics operation that supports the food and beverage manufacturers’ UK operation.

Although the relationship was strong, it evolved further in February 2019, with the two forming a truly collaborative operation. While Kraft Heinz and Wincanton had worked together for some time, significant portions of the operation were divided between the two. This created barriers that slowed some processes, siloed information and led to duplication of responsibility.

‘Project Anoles’ – named after a lizard known for its ability to adapt to its surroundings – sought to change this by building ‘ONE team’ that covers all aspects of the logistics function. This was a significant cultural shift and one that was only made possible thanks to the trust between the two businesses.

As a result of this project, the Wincanton and Kraft Heinz operation has increased efficiency across labour and operational process, and overhauled training methods for new and existing staff, boosting colleague engagement scores.

Sharing resources and data

By sharing resources and data, working as a true team became possible.

The ‘Anoles’ project has been built on trust, empathy and shared goals. Although it’s not uncommon for large manufacturers to work with logistics partners, integrated operations are not the norm, making this approach unique.

“It’s exciting and rewarding to be recognised not just for what we’ve accomplished in partnership with Wincanton, but for how we got there. We’re all so proud of the collaborative relationship both companies have, which has built a team that really delivers for our customers.
“It’s been a challenging year for everyone, so to know that we’re on the right track is truly rewarding. We’re full of energy and are excited to continue to accomplish great things.”

Laura Kussler, Head of Distribution UK&I at Kraft Heinz

The decision to build a single team of senior dedicated supply chain professionals that overlap both the Wincanton and Kraft Heinz businesses has streamlined processes and eliminated duplication of responsibilities.

One example of this is a new planning and operation department. This works across Wincanton and Kraft Heinz, harnessing data analytics to make quick, accurate decisions. By collating and reporting on key metrics, the team makes more effective decisions across the entire supply chain, allowing Kraft Heinz to better react to changes in demand and availability. This is only possible by the transparent sharing of data, which ensures both businesses are working towards solving shared problems.

As well as planning and forecasting, better lines of communication have been established between the Wigan National Distribution Centre (NDC) and Kraft Heinz’s operations in Europe and Asia. The operational teams across the two companies are now interlinked, which has decreased complexities and increased productivity, helping to introduce new products to market at a greater pace.

Away from high-level decision-making, the project has increased colleague engagement and satisfaction. With changes in place - including new induction and training processes to ensure topics such as shared language and goals are used - colleague engagement scores have risen year-on-year. Another measure of this increased engagement is a record-high number of submissions to Wincanton’s ‘W2 Ideas Accelerator’ initiative. This encourages colleagues at any level to submit new business ideas that improve or rethink processes.

COVID-19 response

Amid this period of change, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Changes in consumer behaviour and supply chain disruption affected operations across the country, including the Wincanton and Kraft Heinz partnership.

In the first week alone, the Wigan NDC saw a 15% increase in volume, which continued through the following six weeks. This peaked at a record-breaking 2.7 million cases despatched in a single week, a 42% un-forecasted increase.

The foundations laid by the ‘Anoles’ project were tested from the very start. The operation responded to meet these huge volumes with minimal disruption, while also introducing safe working measures to protect the health and wellbeing of all colleagues.

One of the key elements of the success was Wincanton’s ability to support Kraft Heinz in ensuring that its operation was streamlined at a critical time. By optimising warehouse flows and onward transportation through alterations to customer order assembly, processes were made as efficient as possible to support increased volumes. Being able to achieve this at the pace required without impacting customer orders was only possible due to the changes put in place through the ‘Anoles’ project.

Read more about Wincanton’s experience across the consumer goods supply chain

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