Creating an agile mind-set at PepsiCo

A version of this article appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of strategy+business.

It appeared to be a routine day at the cookie factory in Mar del Plata, Argentina — a facility operated by PepsiCo Central and South America (CASA). Freshly baked treats were continually transferred from an enormous industrial oven onto an assembly line for cooling. As machines whirred and workers moved about, a piece of the conveyor belt broke down, bringing the action to an abrupt stop. The turn of events was no surprise to anyone on the line. They thought they knew what would happen next: The line operator would have to order another $300 part from Italy, and production wouldn’t resume until it arrived. 

The operator on the line that day in 2018 happened to be a skilled tinkerer who owned a 3D printer. He knew there must be a faster and less expensive way to get the part. That evening, at home, he began applying his problem-solving skills. It took him several tries and some 13 prototypes, but in the end, he created a replacement part that could be manufactured locally and quickly and for just $2. The line operator is now a go-to source for other employees in the company seeking to start similar initiatives.

This innovation didn’t happen by chance. In previous years, it would probably not have happened at all. But in 2018, PepsiCo CASA started an initiative to instill what we call an “agile mind-set” among employees

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