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Zingerman's LEAN Journey: from Kanban to Kata

Zingerman’s Mail Order
LEAN implementation in a highly variable and extremely seasonal business


In this presentation, you will hear how Zingerman's has been building a culture of continuous improvement since 2003…literally from Kanban to Kata! Zingerman’s hires and trains 300 temporary staff each holiday season. Learn about Zingerman’s system for hiring, which uses a skills test rather than a traditional interview and achieves a go/no-go decision to hire on the spot, letting candidates know straight away if they have a job, which job and when they will start.


Betty Gratopp, Warehouse Manager

Betty Gratopp is the lead production manager at Zingerman’s Mail Order, an online gourmet food shop located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Zingerman’s Mail Order has annual sales of $18 million and offers about 1,000 different products ranging from fresh bread to aged cheese to estate-bottled olive oils. Orders are shipped five days per week via courier all across America. Daily order volumes are highly variable, ranging from 100 to 15,000 boxes and there is extreme seasonal variability as well, with over 50% of the year’s revenue happening in the last six weeks of the year. Betty oversees a crew of 50 and a part-time seasonal crew of 400. Betty has been the lead implementer and developer of Zingerman’s Mail Order’s LEAN transformation, now in its 13th year. She runs several kata storyboards, creates and steers all long-term planning, and teaches regular classes to her crew and outside organizations.


Jason Atlee, Production Manager

Jason Atlee is a production manager at Zingerman’s Mail Order. Zingerman’s Mail Order is an e-commerce company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan that ships perishable and non-perishable specialty food direct to consumer. Its annual revenue is $16 million. Jason manages the fulfillment operations, overseeing a full-time staff of 50 and temporary holiday crew of 200. He’s responsible for coaching multiple simultaneous Kata projects that involve the Zingerman’s crew and, often, outside students from the University of Michigan’s Lean engineering school. Jason also designs, constructs and tests many of the company’s lean workstations and marketplaces.

Rating: Beginner