August 2009 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Gabriel Alcazar: He's Got His Job Down Cold

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When you tinker with a job that workers have been doing the same way for years, someone's bound to get upset. "Change management has always been one of the biggest challenges I have faced," says Gabriel Alcazar, supply chain manager at Sub-Zero Freezer Company in Phoenix, Ariz.

Consider what happened when Alcazar's team introduced a new procedure to gain a better view of inventory in the manufacturing plant. The company added bar-code labels to the storage racks, with each code representing a bin location. Now, as workers move parts and materials from one place to another, they use handheld computers to scan the labels. The data they capture gives Sub-Zero a continuous, real-time view of all inventory in the factory.

At first, employees balked at this innovation. "They thought it created more work," Alcazar says. "And they were somewhat intimidated by the computer."

Workers unfamiliar with the handheld devices were afraid they'd make mistakes. But getting them to perform the new process correctly was essential. Increased visibility would translate into more efficient production and more accurate cycle counts.

Managing change of this kind is one aspect of Alcazar's job. Reporting to the corporate director of supply chain at Sub-Zero's headquarters in Madison, Wisc., Alcazar has six direct reports: the warehouse manager, the distribution manager, a material planner for purchased components, a fabricated components production planner, a maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) products buyer, and an inventory analyst.

"My job is to ensure that all those positions are in synch and that we support the needs of this facility," he says.

When it came to getting material handlers in synch with the new scanning process, one key tactic Alcazar used was lending a serious ear to their critiques. "We asked workers to tell us what they thought should change," he says. Now that the process is in place, Alcazar has created a cross-functional team to document it, so everyone knows exactly what's expected and the company can train employees to that standard.

Alcazar and his team are refining plant operations in other ways. One project is aimed at capturing component availability to help keep manufacturing on schedule. Another tackles weekly manufacturing capacity planning.

In addition to documenting the new bar-code scanning process, the team has started to record other supply chain procedures. Written documentation is important for getting new employees up to speed. "It also gives us an opportunity to audit our own procedures, to make sure we are doing what we say we should be doing," Alcazar says.

Tackling everyday challenges and making continuous improvements are aspects of his job Alcazar enjoys most. Another pleasure is the family feeling among his employees. "We support each other," he says. "Once we get together, there's nothing we can't do."

The Big Questions

What do you do when you're not at work?

My wife and I are involved with a local animal shelter; I'm currently president and she serves on the fundraising committee. We've also fostered and found homes for 22 dogs. I'm working on my production and inventory management certification through APICS, the Association for Operations Management, and I'm vice president of marketing for my local APICS chapter. I golf whenever I can, and I love my Xbox.

Ideal dinner companion?

Abraham Lincoln. His story is so compelling: the failures he faced, his ability to keep going no matter what, and the way he's remembered.

First Web site you check in the morning?

The Drudge Report, because it gives different perspectives from various networks and news sites about what's going on in the world. I usually look at Google Finance as well.

If you didn't work in supply chain management, what would be your dream job?

Xbox game developer.

Business motto?

Pursue everything with passion and vision, look beyond the obvious, and find the positive in everything that happens.

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