Embracing digitalization for the better of the company

By: Sandra Felix Associate Partner

In the second blog post of the series, AB InBev Technology Director for Supply Chain Allan Freire talks to Proco Group, explaining how AB InBev are embracing digitalization.

Why are digitalisation and digital transformation strategies so important? More now than ever?

It’s simple. Digitalisation is so important because it is the keystone of the 4th revolution of the industry. Without digitalization, all other “stones” will have limited use. I’m talking about expensive stones/technologies such as motion, quality automation, PdM automation, robotics, logistics automation, data collection, mobile operation, etc. These can only offer their complete capability and bring their full value only through digitalization.

In addition, companies need to be ready to adjust quicker to any forecasted or non-forecasted market trend (COVID-19 is an example), which will lead them to growth. The most innovative companies that work under a customer centric strategy will have the majority of their Supply Chain, R&D, EHS, Finance, Sales & Marketing operations digitalized and these are the businesses that will survive trying situations. I’m not talking about big corporations, but about any company at any size that will face the future with advanced technology, which can be done by anyone.

This concept sometimes can be difficult to understand only in theory, but in practice, digitalization demonstrates its importance and return at the moment that it’s applied, without doubts or concerns.

What does digitalisation mean to AB InBev?

Digitalisation is the enabler of faster, stronger and better decisions. In the Supply Chain context, it mainly represents the following:

  • Multiple quality checks being 100% end-to-end automated, supporting quality increase, significantly reducing customer complaints and operational costs.
  • Predictive maintenance being performed in 100% of all equipment, reducing 70-85% of unplanned downtime.
  • Connecting down and upstreams of all major machines to drive performance in real-time by allowing real-time adjustments on machines’ settings.
  • Centralizing all shop floor information in a single location, normally called a Control Tower, and creating synergy between manufacturing, maintenance, quality, and EHS to accelerate problem solving resolutions and support operational excellence.
  • Facilitating the implementation and management of flexible solutions, through more accurate and complete data, in order to define the best routes – from planning to execution.

How has AB InBev built a digitalized culture?

It started with people being allowed to dream big (1st principle of AB-InBev culture), act as owners (4th principle), focused on common sense and simplicity (8th principle), and never satisfied with the results (5th principle). In summary, the base principles of the company’s culture allow the establishment of a solid digitalized culture.

Anheuser-Busch InBev is so strong in its culture, that it can be felt and seem from the front line to the C-level, and it’s energizing and contagious. In fact, in my 20+ years of a career, after 5 companies, it has the best culture that I have lived through and heard about.

Many companies today struggle to define their culture, which is impossible to create without the right people. Companies have hired CDOs (Chief Digitalization Officers) and sometimes an entire team under the CDO to drive transformation and have failed because they don’t have the right culture. Companies that have hired IT professionals, with only IT expertise, to drive Supply Chain transformation, and have failed. For such companies, I don’t expect to see them survive very long. Especially if they refuse to change their mindset and enact change within their culture and team.

How do you generate ideas for digital transformation strategies?

I break down the generation of ideas into three concepts:

  • What is new to the company, but already exists in the CPG Industry?
  • What is new to the food & beverage, but already exists in some segment of the industry?
  • What is new to the company and to the industry, which can be developed by Anheuser-Busch InBev and patented by us?

Normally, as AB-InBev is a leading developer of technology in the CPG Industry, I keep 35% in Concept #1, 40% in Concept #2 and 25% in Concept #3. This strategy allows us to show results in the short-to-medium term, keep our stakeholders satisfied, and maintain the team and suppliers engaged on the projects pipeline.

What is outside-in thinking?

Outside-in thinking is a skill that can and needs to be cultured by talent and technics. It can rarely be exercised alone, and when composed by the right mix of people and under the right culture (AB-InBev culture is one example), it can drive the future. Yes, simply like this, drive the future in terms of innovation, creativity, sustainability, disruptive trends, and high profits.

At this point, I would like to highlight that it can only be established by leaders with real intent to driving up the value of a company and to all team members. Leaders should allow a “try fast, fail fast and learn fast” policy, never pointing at people in moments of disappointments, but always pointing at the problems in order to fix any issue. Those leaders are rare today, but they orchestrate the future!!

What type of person is successful at AB InBev?

A successful person at Anheuser-Busch InBev lives our 10 principles (found at naturally. No company can succeed by forcing its employees to embody its culture. This approach is unproductive and stressful. On the other hand, personal and professional satisfaction plus great results for the company occur when there is a natural cultural match between the company and employee.

Without a doubt, Anheuser Busch InBev is one of the best companies to work for, as it places such importance on culture during the recruiting process, certifying that the experience between employer and employee will be satisfied.

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