Wine, Changeovers and Social Distancing

Richard Milnes
Richard Milnes
Apr 3, 2020

How one US wine producer is maintaining business continuity during a pandemic



Someone asked me the other day, at what point in this pandemic do we lose the stigma around drinking in isolation? I was confused by the question as I put down my Pinot Gris and asked; “stigma, what stigma”? 🍷 Clearly I'm not the only one. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis wine sales have gone up by a staggering 66%. That growth is on top of the already impressive year on year expansion of 4-8% the US wine market has been enjoying since 2010.


This led me to wonder, how can wineries possibly keep up with the increase in demand while key employees may be forced into learning how to run their operations from home. To find out we asked one of our customers, who happens to be the largest wine producer in the US. 1 in 5 of the bottles that are flying off the shelves come from one of their wineries.


Since California was one of the first states to introduce strict lockdown measures, the way in which their operations are being run has changed dramatically. Frontline teams are running a skeleton crew, keeping 2 metres apart and avoiding all but essential verbal communication. Managers, supervisors and anyone else not touching the machines are working from home for the foreseeable future.


We were able to ask Gary Beltrami, a Senior Operations Manager at the winery, how they were coping. He has been using Zaptic on his site since 2019, along with a number of other digital tools that have been introduced into their stack. When he told me that there was “Practically no change day in, day out” I had to dig deeper.


Digital communication and performance reporting

When being a manager in world class manufacturing centres around a “Go and see” culture, how do you stay close to the operation while adhering to a stay home and hide policy?

This is where communication with the team becomes critical, he explains.

Transparency over shared knowledge and operational data is more important than ever. Ensuring that managers at every level of the operation can digitally access key performance data is essential. They achieve this through a mix of:


  • • Human based checks, audits and tasks have been digitised into Zaptic. Ensuring that managers can access data from their maintenance rounds, breakdown reports, changeovers and more all from the comfort of their own home

  • • Machine and control data is fed in to their SCADA system which they can use to view and control the plant remotely


Conversations have gone digital too. Although some workers are still on site, problem solving and other daily operational conversations are now conducted in the Zaptic platform, maintaining visibility and a shared consciousness between workers and their managers. In the app, managers and operators can have conversations based on specific results or issues that have been collected in the system. For longer conversations and whiteboard sessions they use a mix of video conferencing (WebEx) and a digital whiteboard (Touchboards).


Shift Changeovers



For Gary, a big part of how he keeps in touch with the operations team is at shift changeovers. Even before social distancing this was a pain point for them, a rapidly growing operation made it difficult to be present at every meeting. They were tracking live values on whiteboards, capturing key metrics on passdown sheets and verbally passing over key information in their changeover huddle.


When they invested in a connected worker platform, the first thing they did was move all of their changeovers to a digital workflow. Workers are prompted to enter their shift findings before they leave for the day. This data is automatically fed into a trending dashboard which is visible for all levels of management. Issues are tracked and closed automatically based on work completed in the platform and ongoing issues are automatically flagged. This freed the workers from needing to re-enter the same values on whiteboards, paper and spreadsheets.


They still stress the importance of conversations, however. Now more than ever ensuring a connected team is important. Each changeover conversation now happens via video conferencing. Because issues and root causes are already captured and made visible via Zaptic, the conversation focuses on the actions the teams take to resolve the problem. Ensuring that workers get home safe and on time.


Tags and issue resolution



Another cornerstone of their operation is how they handle and resolve issues that occur. Due to the complexity of their system, process experts are spread across the business. Many of them are self isolating at home. This presents a challenge as key breakdowns could bring production to a halt.


Gary explains that before Zaptic, tags were recorded on paper or over the walkie talkie. At a later point someone may add the incident to their system of record for maintenance issues. This wastes valuable time in resolving the issue, and often key information from the frontline such as images never make it to the right people.


This is why they built their tag identification and resolution flow into Zaptic. Key information is captured at source, such as photos of the issue at hand. Process experts are immediately notified based on rules to look at the issue. They can then feedback questions and guidance through the system.


Task management

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With managers working remotely, they needed to find a new way of assigning non-standard work to the frontline. This was tracked either in peoples heads or on whiteboards. Without the face to face contact required to manage that system important tasks could be forgotten.


To ensure business continuity with their other processes they started to use Zaptic as a way to allocate and track completion of tasks and actions. This removes the need for follow ups and gives them one standard view of work that needs to be done.


Final thoughts

Now, more than ever is the time to invest in digital operations. But there is no one size fits all and every operation is different. What systems work for some companies may not work for others, and there are a lot of great tools out there. We are going to try and share other case studies from different customers in future articles.


We, too, needed to change here at Zaptic and are offering completely remote set-up to new Zaptic customers to keep operations going during this time. If you want to explore how Zaptic could work for you or pick our brains in general, we would like nothing more than to be helpful in this time so please contact us below.

Stay safe, everyone!


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