The History of ZAP>IT®

February 12, 2020

ZAP>IT is one of Zatkoff Seals & Packings’ cornerstone solutions, originally designed to improve the inventory management process for customers ordering and handling thousands of parts throughout the year. Today, ZAP>IT streamlines the entire procurement process — but it’s beginnings weren’t as smooth.

As we look toward the future, we’re reflecting on how ZAP>IT has evolved over the years.

Where It All Began

Prior to the early 1990s, businesses typically ordered a three-month supply of inventory at a time.

However, in 1994, one of Zatkoff’s customers wanted to buy parts in monthly quantities. Not only was the request out of the ordinary, but the quantities were also too small for the distributor to handle. The customer’s parts were 80% custom, so the Zatkoff team assumed the customer wouldn’t take their business elsewhere, declining the request for monthly orders. Unfortunately, six months later, the client did just that. It was a blow, but also a big learning experience for the Zatkoff team — one that showed it was time for innovation in the company.

The initial ZAP>IT — not called this at the time — utilized a floppy disk to download information onto a computer, and sent order information via dial-up modem. While it was quite advanced for its time, it was still a clunky system due to technology limitations, as computers were largely complicated and difficult to maintain. The Zatkoff team needed further testing and improvements to the process to serve customer needs more effectively by reducing the burden of maintaining specific hardware and software.

Taking it to the Next Level

Shortly after the creation of the initial system, Zatkoff got a call from one of our clients, a Fortune 500 industrial manufacturer. They were using a barcode scanner system with other vendors and wanted Zatkoff to improve upon it. David and Gary Zatkoff, sons of founder Roger Zatkoff, joined Keith Roberts, Zatkoff’s account manager, and drove down to their plant in Bryan, Ohio. representative at the company demonstrated the order scanning process:

  • Six separate inventory cells with color-coded bins
  • Scanner gun sends the order to the distributor
  • Acknowledgement of order sent
  • Order invoice sent back
  • Reports created to determine order accuracy

The Zatkoff team took the scanner guns, wrote a program for them, and started testing it. David and Gary worked more than 15-hour-days for about six weeks developing and testing the program — even involving several other family members to test the system from their homes. After all this effort, they got the system working, and the client became the first ZAP>IT customer — though it still wasn’t named as such.

It’s All in the Name

How did the ZAP>IT name come to be? As the system gained more and more customers, suggestions were thrown around for a name in March of 1996. We ultimately decided on “Zatkoff Acquisition Program = A Greater Number of Inventory Turns” or, “ZAP>IT” for short. It was fitting, as the program’s purpose has always been to address customer inventory management concerns, so they always have stock to meet their needs without having excess inventory with carrying costs. So, the name stuck and continues to be used today.

ZAP>IT’s Transformation Through the Years

ZAP>IT’s Transformation Through the Years

With this new and improved system, Zatkoff needed to get the word out. David educated managers across all Zatkoff branches on how ZAP>IT worked, so they were able to then educate their salespeople. David and Gary assumed the younger managers would have better luck selling the system, as a more technologically-savvy group. To their surprise, the older managers were more successful — the relationships they’d developed over the years had established them as trusted advisors, which worked to their advantage. Within the first year of ZAP>IT’s introduction, the program had over 20 customers.

In the late-1990s, a ZAP>IT customer in Cincinnati, Ohio, called wanting to use the Internet to order parts rather than using a dedicated phone line. With an eye toward the future, a new system was developed using perforated labels. As parts were used, labels would be brought into the office, and scanned via a scanner connected to a computer, sending the order signal through the Internet.

Moving to an Internet-based system was difficult. Many customers were skeptical of the new technology, and didn’t think they had the infrastructure to support the barcode scanning process. David continued to present around the world, delivering over 700 presentations to educate customers about ZAP>IT, sometimes presenting to the same company two or three times over several years until they were comfortable with the system.

Constantly Improving for Customer Satisfaction

Over the years, Zatkoff has heard about many operational inefficiencies from customers, and has always strived to find innovative solutions for them. The average vendor will spend over $200,000 per year in expedited freight charges because of inventory issues — even with an vendor-managed inventory system. ZAP>IT has evolved to consistently resolve these types of issues for our customers. We have completely customized individual ZAP>IT implementations according to each customer’s particular needs.

We have continually made improvements over the years, including moving customers to web portals. Zatkoff incorporated advanced shipping notices to send a notification to customers’ computers about what parts are coming and in what quantities, using a unique identifier.

Most recently, in the last decade, further improvements have included measurement reports based on algorithms that ensure shipments are meeting requirements and other key performance indicators. These reports help to maintain customers’ inventory without over-stocking their parts. And, to help customers deal with the inevitable yet frustrating spiked orders, forecasting was added in the ZAP>IT system in order to provide customers with predictive inventory analytics.

Today, 57% of Zatkoff transactions go through the ZAP>IT system, which speaks volumes to its convenience for our customers to facilitate orders and eliminate errors. In fact, our customers have reported savings of up to 40% by maintaining perfect counts and preventing overbuying.

We’re proud of the system we developed in the 1990s, and grateful for the customers who have put their trust in us as it’s evolved over the years.

The New ZAP>IT®

Though the ZAP>IT program has matured since its creation, we’re just getting started. We are introducing our new Integrated ZAP>IT® Solutions, specifically designed to streamline the procurement process and lower the cost of acquisition. Discover more about the new Integrated ZAP>IT® Solutions in our recent blog article.

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