The Digitalization Mission: Introducing Allan and AB InBev

By: Sandra Felix Associate Partner

Waves of digital transformation in the beverage industry are sweeping the globe, making the process of digitalization ever more vital to the survival of a company.

Digital transformation in the beverage industry has been at the crux of Anheuser-Busch InBev for a while and has seen it adapt and transform throughout the digital age. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be exploring the role of digitalization at AB InBev through the eyes of Allan Freire, the company’s Technology Director for Supply Chain. This first article explores Allan’s journey so far!

What is your and AB-InBev’s mission? How does digitalization play a role in attaining your goal?

The AB-InBev mission is to bring people together for a better world. This simple and strong statement is supported by about 30,000 employees in the USA and 170,000 employees globally, where digitalization, connected with our empowering strategy, supports faster, stronger, and better decisions. The support provided by digitalization doesn’t only extend to our employees but also to our machines and equipment to help them operate at higher levels of performance, availability and quality, resulting in an overall efficiency higher than ever seen before. So this in turn supports our demand growth and flexibility agenda.

How did you become interested in your sector and how did digitalization become part of it?

I was interested in the prospect of continuous career progress towards automation, business analytics, operations, productivity, and engineering. Then, when the 4th revolution of the industry appeared, I was ready to support it and build the digitalization block on my profile successfully.

Therefore, my expertise is Supply Chain Digitalization. This involves Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and IoT on shop-floor equipment (from simple coders to heavy fillers, packers, pasteurizers, cookers, etc). This type of work can only be successfully performed by supply chain professionals with high levels of expertise in both operational technology and information technology.

What are some things you do to keep you interested, updated and inspired at AB-InBev?

There are many! But I’ll try to keep it simple.

AB InBev and I share the same interest in technology that has only grown over time, which is fascinating! The latest technology in supply chain has allowed us to achieve what would’ve been impossible fifteen years ago. For example, high-speed cameras linked to our lines’ faults have increased the problem-solving resolution rate in our Lighthouse plant by 150%. In another case, virtual reality and smart glasses have allowed AB China to start lines with only remote support from vendors. As in, there are no vendors on site at all. This allows us to accelerate the learning and adoption of the line.

Now, what’s next?! What will we see develop over the next two, or ten years? That’s what keeps me interested in technology.

As for staying updated, I’m 100% focused on following market trends in terms of consumer, industry, and innovation technology. Consumers change their behaviour constantly, and I make it a priority to have the readiness to respond to customer needs promptly. It’s not easy to have a supply chain totally walking in parallel with the market trends. It requires many strategic studies, business alignments and empowering the internal tech team to be able to act with accuracy at the right moment. Flexibility is the main word that defines this process. So those that fail to grasp it tend to pay a high cost in terms of market share and profitability.

Lastly, staying inspired; I can firmly summarize it in the AB InBev Strategic Plan. It is the most exciting one that I have seen in the industry so far in terms of technology. Our Brewery of the Future strategy is transforming our Supply Chain in a unique way. We are driving reliability, sustainability, flexibility and visualization under customer-driven pace. It’s incredible, and it doesn’t happen by accident. It happens through an engaged technology team that act as owners, are never satisfied with the results, work under common sense and simplicity, manage costs tightly, and never take shortcuts.

What do you think are the keys to your personal success? AB-InBev’s success?

AB InBev and I have based our success on our company’s 10 principles under the pillars of Dream, People, and Culture, where I highlight the following:

  • We Dream Big: ABI is building a profitable, growth-focused company, where I’m one of the builders. In parallel, I build a profitable, growth-focused career.
  • A Company of Owners: I take results personally and lead by example in all things, especially regarding treating the consumer as the boss and managing costs tightly.
  • Never Satisfied: We embrace change, take smart risks and learn from our mistakes.

What are some of the most surprising lessons you’ve learned along the way?

There are three:

  1. Relationships matter more than outstanding school grades
  2. The culture of a company is crucial in its segment
  3. Supply chain knowledge at the C-level is so important

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Or given?

  • No success in life can compensate for failure at home.
  • The law of harvest never fails: in the future we will always harvest what we have cultivated today.
  • Always defend and work based on the truth, because the truth will always stand up at the end.
  • Someone told me that I could grow by competency just to a certain level. After that, growth would come only by fostering relationships.
  • Target the moon and work hard to reach it. You’ll get to the sky at least!

This article is the first in a series of three about digitalization at AB InBev. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn to stay up-to-date with all our latest insights.

For a conversation about digital transformation in the beverage industry and how it might impact your organisation, get in touch.