Colombina’s World Class system delivers six-fold return on ROI through autonomous work teams

Executive summary

Having started as a small confectionery concern nearly 90 years ago, Colombina is today a global, diversified food and candy manufacturer and an icon of the Latin American business landscape. To meet growing international demand and stay ahead of its competitors, Colombina introduced Colombina World Class in 2014, a best practice system supported by the TRACC Solution. Today the system is an indispensable instrument that enables knowledge transfer through best practice implementation.

  • 6 to 1 ROI increase (benefits and savings vs expenses)
  • 13.8% increase in Overall Production Efficiency (OPE)
  • 26% decrease in work-related accidents
  • 69% reduction in variable manufacturing costs
  • 76% decrease in product returns
  • 2% increase in production plan compliance
  • 3.4% improvement in operating ratio

Following Colombina’s meteoric growth in Latin America and the rest of the world, the management team soon realized that stiff market competition requires the continuous development of products and processes to meet the increasingly demanding quality standards of the customer. Increased demand of raw materials, growing pressure on the regulatory environment, and the scarcity of natural resources intensified the already fierce competition.

These influences prompted the group to automate most of the production lines at its main plant in La Paila, some 130km north of Cali, Colombia. The production lines incorporate the latest technologies designed to minimize the risk of human error. To maximize the plant’s efficiency, in terms of both cost and sustainability, Colombina’s executive team required a system to enable knowledge transfer through best practice implementation, most notably at operator and front-line manufacturing level. The undertaking was daunting to say the least – the La Paila plant employs nearly 2 400 people and production takes place across three shifts.


One of the management team’s resolutions was to remove all barriers between themselves and the workforce with the intention of creating core work teams defined by cooperation and autonomy. In 2014, the company introduced Colombina World Class – a best practice system based on the TRACC Solution. The core aim of the system was to help focus all employees – both operational and administrative – on the strategic objectives of the organization to ensure its survival and growth.

The introduction of the Leading and Managing Change best practice immediately challenged the status quo. An implementation task force comprising a multidisciplinary group drawn from Production, Maintenance, Quality and Planning was appointed to develop a detailed implementation plan of each practice in their scope of action. The new way of work soon resulted in a leadership culture driven by constant performance management and root cause analysis.


“Implementing the TRACC-based best practice system has challenged leadership at all levels. It required us to retrain our thinking in terms of continuous improvement and forced us to perform constant and systematic activities to achieve it. But, most importantly, it ensured inclusion and empowerment at all levels which resulted in our processes becoming faster, better, and less variable.” – Gino A. Sarmiento, Head: Production Planning Plant 1


Once this culture established itself, the best practices of EHS, Teamwork, Visual Management, 5S, and Focused Improvement were rolled out. Introducing these best practices rapidly improved the competencies of plant operators in terms of basic machine maintenance, awareness of environmental sustainability, and product quality.

The full implementation of Stage 2 best practices to every single corner of the plant took six years to complete.


“The journey to world class requires focus, discipline and a lot of courage. Only courageous leaders can achieve a meaningful transformation in performance, including people, resources and knowledge, and eliminate the complacency that may result after quick wins.”   – Carlos Pabón, Confectionery Plant Manager



One of the most significant outcomes of the Colombina World Class system was regaining 53 706 man-hours over a five-year period, resulting in overall production efficiency of 13.8%. An interesting observation is that when productivity efficiency went up, work-related accidents went down – dropping by a firm 26%. Combined, these improvements resulted in a 69% decrease in variable manufacturing costs.

KPI targets related to savings in water and energy resources were exceeded in the most energy-intensive areas, and resource efficiency is now fully aligned with the corporate sustainability strategy. Owing to its sustainability practices, the group was ranked for a third consecutive year as one of the most sustainable food companies in Latin America, and it was included in sustainability investment company RobeccoSAM’s ‘The Sustainability Yearbook’.

Finally, Colombina’s investment in the World Class best practice system resulted in a six-fold return on ROI and a 3.4% improvement in operating ratio.

Company Background

Colombina S.A. was founded in 1927 by Don Hernando Caicedo, a sugar mill operator from the Cauca Valley in Colombia. By mixing sugar from the mill with a variety of local fruits, Caicedo realized that he could infuse the tropical flavour of his fertile homeland into novel candies and pralines. Since then, Colombina has continued to expand into the international market, developing new and exciting confections and food products. It is, today, one of the largest factories in Colombia.


This resource has been prepared for general guidance on matters of interest only, and does not constitute professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained herein without obtaining specific professional advice. Competitive Capabilities International (CCi) does not accept or assume any liability, responsibility or duty of care for any consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this resource or for any decision based on it.