Factory Miracles

December Edition 2020

To be a contender for Redzone Plant of the Year (PoY) award, we need to see outstanding productivity, product quality and safety, as well as great teamwork. But those are representative characteristics of all 147 nominees for the three categories of Redzone Community Awards. For the top prize, we also want to see a clear sense of identity, a collective mission and a cultural transformation that results in a unified team from the shop floor to the top floor.

Indeed, to be named the best of the best in this category is really as much about the intangibles that make a manufacturer a great place to work as it is about the work itself. It is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer of all three finalist for the 2020 PoY, that they are great places to work, and not just because of Redzone. We see the true driving force behind these plants is how the people in them not only embrace Redzone, but why! The most successful candidates are those that have committed to personal transformations, both of themselves and for their whole teams.

Take Capstone Nutrition, for example. Although Capstone won a Team of the Year award for 2020, they had also won a Productivity Award in 2018. Their leadership team is very driven, and their CEO Jared Leishman was already on a path to invest in their culture with a philosophy that it would ultimately lead to improved results. It did, and you can see the sophistication of this plant with their philosophies literally plastered on all the walls. When James Hinkle, Plant General Manager, discovered Redzone, he immediately saw how it aligned to their tagline ‘Life Improved’ for their employees but moreover, it aligned to their strategic pillars of success – Trust, Science and Performance. Their implementation has not only connected each of their teams together – and to each other – but the clear alignment between Redzone and Capstone philosophies on production has better enabled their shop floor to connect with the business. Indeed, by flipping their pyramid, their business transformations were given a better ability to take root all the way down to the shop floor.

The other PoY runner up is the Nestlé Purina PetCare plant in Clinton, IA who took home the Redzone High Baseline Productivity of the Year award in 2020. Their Redzone Implementation team also took home an in-house, Nestlé Purina Best in Show – CEO Award granted to projects that support their strategic vision. This plant was a target rich environment for Redzone just given the scale of the facility. Basic communication was problematic due to the size and complexity of the factory and data for making operational decisions was scattered across multiple systems requiring days to consolidate. Breaking down the communication barrier by empowering each associate with a voice and an iPad resulted in a domino effect of shop floor ownership and engagement.

Such a digital transformation enabled a culture transformation of teams sharing knowledge and learning with their peers. Again, as is typical in PoY contenders, this was indeed a sea-change for the organizational culture with leadership providing round-the-clock support and attending coaching huddles. The response was immediate, and they quickly achieved new highs – even topping the stretch goals laid down by leadership. Again, Redzone was an enabler, but clearly the people and their culture are the success story at Purina.

But there can only be one winner, and perhaps the deciding factor between these deserving nominees and the winner, Marianna Beauty, is how their new culture enabled them not only to survive the challenges of 2020, but to thrive because of them. Unlike the runner ups, it was literally ‘do or die’ for Marianna Beauty. People still bought pet food and nutritional supplements. In fact, they bought more which brought on significant increased demand – an otherwise good problem to have.

But, while the whole world struggled through what Mike Cate, CEO of Marianna Beauty, called “The valley of despair” describing the 45 days following the first broad closures in March, three of Marianna’s four revenue streams dried up overnight. “We had to pivot,” he explained, “and I don’t think we’d be nearly as successful as we were this year if we hadn’t put the work in with the implementation of Redzone and our business processes.” But this is a happy story of people, process and technology that enabled Mike, Cory Jensen, the COO of Marianna, and the entire team down to every frontline worker who stepped up to transform the business.

What set Marianna apart is the scale of their transformation, encompassing their entire production operation as well as the speed at which they accomplished it. Looking back, it happened just-in-time to face an existential threat of a generation that very likely could have closed their doors. Business transformation is often driven from ‘on high’ with leadership announcing sweeping initiatives that last a year or more in hopes of creating a ‘new culture’. But when you spend time with Cory and the Marianna team it becomes clear that their success comes from a “Team effort and it starts at the bottom”, as Eric Nichols, Production Manager says. Hundreds of individuals creating their own shop floor culture, with everyone pushing in the same direction, making 1,000s of small improvements toward a common goal. As Cory says, “Every push on the wheel contributes to positive forward momentum” and that momentum is spinning into a productivity juggernaut. Starting with a 50% productivity uplift in their first 90 days – that won them a 2018 Productivity Award – Marianna have since chalked up a 97% productivity uplift plantwide!


To truly understand the Marianna story, however, you need to understand those individuals who saw the opportunity afforded to them by a platform like Redzone and how they adopted it to drive that bottom-up culture and miraculous results.

In the July Edition of Factory Miracles we highlighted Marianna’s 2019 Productivity Award with stories of frontline miracle workers, Durga, Mike, Jamahl and Becca (who all grace the cover photo of this issue) but if you ask them, they will credit their broader operations teams’ commitment and contribution. As you climb the organizational ladder you hear the same sentiment from Cory, Eric and Ken Copponi, Maintenance Manager. People are everything at Marianna. That is itself a cultural miracle.

But if Marianna’s culture ‘starts at the bottom’, their success is clearly driven from solid leadership at the top. Cory and team may have won a Productivity award but the very next day, he had set his sights on the PoY. With the help of his coach Grant Ford, Cory drove hard to get the rest of the modules deployed and then never let his foot off the gas to get all teams engaged.

And when looking for an example of inverting the pyramid, just sit down with Mike Cate. When speaking about the frontline teams’ response to the pandemic, Mike explains, “I would say that the performance on the floor, totally exceeded expectations. You gotta remember that while we were navigating the product changes required to pivot effectively, people were getting sick! And they were dealing with issues outside of work that required them to keep their families safe and what have you. Navigating through what we did, I couldn’t be more proud of the execution on the floor.”


As described, it took lots of small transformations that translated into a giant one for the business. Being a manufacturer of hair care products for salons, three out of four of their revenue streams essentially disappeared overnight. To remain a viable business, Mike realized that they needed to pivot to a totally new category – hand sanitizers and soaps – one that the country desperately needed at that time. “We wouldn’t have been able to do that,” Mike explains, “if we didn’t have sound processes, systems and people that were really educated on what was going on both with our customers and on the floor in our manufacturing processes. To me, Redzone is not a system, it’s an entire business process capability that if you embrace it, impacts every phase of your operations.”

To me, Redzone is not a system, it’s an entire business process capability that if you embrace it, impacts every phase of your operations.


Marianna is a typical example of a company that has gone all-in on the Redzone journey, increasing their productivity and successes with each successive module.

They were a model deployment for their first phase resulting in a Redzone Productivity Award in 2019 with a 50% uplift. Marianna drove one of the most aggressive Compliance deployments across the Redzone community resulting in an additional 10% productivity and were paperless within 73 days plantwide. Their Maintenance deployment was very strong as well with a 46% productivity uplift through reduced downtime. And because good is never good enough, Cory continues to drive toward continuous improvement, focusing on changeovers. And with classic Cory Jensen competitiveness, a single focus line was not enough, so they are focusing on two at a time.

As if in preparation for a global pandemic, Marianna’s investment in people, process and technology prepared them not only to survive the virus, but to thrive in spite of it. They posted record months in sales and units produced in June and July of 2020 – the best two June and Julys in the company’s 50+ year history. Their resulting 97% productivity uplift enabled them to produce nearly twice the throughput compared to the two years prior with the same labor headcount. In the final analysis, when all indications – and most competitors – were heading toward a losing year, Marianna will post a 2% increase in revenue but a whopping 56% increase in profitability. TAKE THAT COVID!

Marianna has embraced the key strategies that make Redzone and the rest of the community successful:

That’s why they are the Redzone 2020 Plant of the Year!