Brewing up digital transformation with Heineken
Speaking at IoT Tech Expo in Amsterdam, director of data management at Heineken, Elizabeth Osta revealed how the beer manufacturer has made its value chain completely seamless through standardised data, how it is enhancing consumer experience through web 3.0, and how it’s using 3D printing and IoT to help its breweries reach net zero.
Ten years ago, when Osta stepped into digital transformation in financial services, “it was all about apps,” she says.
Generally, the app would be to make financial processes more seamless, but little did they know that creating an app to solve problems would create new ones.
“Even in large corporations, there was a disconnect between the promise of what the apps could bring and the reality of the difficulty of the processes and the technical infrastructure to realise the promise.”
This is because, back then, the digital teams were separate from the data and technology teams.
“Now, at Heineken, we have one big team integration where we’re working together on multiple fronts.”
Within the same team, Heineken has people working on the front end with consumers, and people working at the back end with the data.
And now, there is an increased appetite for good, standardised data to make seamless processes too.
“Without good, standardised data, we cannot simplify and automate processes [that help with] reengineering of our technical infrastructure, and the upscaling and activities that we’re doing to support our workforce.”
She explains that Heineken operates in “a very diverse technology and data landscape, and for a manufacturer like us, that diverse technology landscape is one of our challenges.”
To make the route to customer (R2C) more seamless, “we need to make sure that we do an incredible amount of work and effort to have a very simplified architecture with a standardised data landscape with an effective way of exchanging data inside and outside our ecosystem.”
Ultimately Heineken’s digital transformation strategy meant digitally transforming its R2C with data-driven insights and foresights, whilst also modernising and simplifying its IT landscape through automation.
“This is the most critical thing,” Osta says, “we need to use digital transformation to enable our colleagues, workforce, and employees.”
She voiced, “digital transformation fails if we don’t have a workforce that’s got the right culture, skills, and tools to perform their jobs effectively.”
With small town bars, restaurants, and ‘mom-and-pop’ shops being a critical part of Heineken’s customer base, the beer manufacturer created an app in which owners of each outlet could reorder stock.
As a global brand, the data in the backend is standardised and then the frontend “can be localised depending on the needs of the different countries.”
“The app is about reordering, but it’s not only about that,” Osta says. “We also have AI that supports our sales force with recommendations.”
Within the app, outlets can take photos of their fridges within their stories and Heineken’s AI will recommend how the store should lay out its drinks fridge to enhance its visual merchandising, (also known as planograms.)
According to Osta, 90% of orders in Mexico come through the app, and it has 40,000 outlets that take regular pictures of their fridges. “Through AI, we can see exactly what the composition is on the planogram, and we can send them recommendations on how best to stock.”
More locally, Heineken has partnered with Netherlands based start-up app ‘Tapp’.
Tapp collects data from 4000 cashiers within the Netherlands and recommends what the stores should reorder based on what its customer base is buying and will also point out what stock it could be missing in comparison to other similar stores within the Netherlands.
Wish you were beer
Heineken has also made movements in the world of web 3.0. Earlier this year, Heineken released its own metaverse beer, and during the pandemic lockdowns, held a street food festival within the metaverse with its Tiger beer brand in Malaysia.
Usually, Tiger holds an annual street food festival in Malaysia, but during lockdown the physical festival could not go ahead. “We had a huge void to fill,” says Heineken in its promotional video Osta presented.
So, “with smartphone users reaching a saturation level of 99.7%, we had to do the only logical thing. We brought the Tiger street food festival to them.”
With over 1000 avatars for players to choose from, anyone attending the metaverse street food festival could virtually walk into an array of live music, games, and entertainment. Not only that, but they could also order from real street food vendors also attending the festival and receive free Tiger beers within their physical homes.
Finally, “we are very committed to achieving our path to net zero carbon emissions,” says Osta.
“It starts in the breweries,” says Osta.
Now, it has its first fully green brewery in Austria, it also has one in France, and one in Brazil and is looking to make sure all its breweries will hit net zero carbon emissions.
To help with this, Heineken is using 3D printing in 40 of its breweries to create spare parts instead of ordering them in from afar and saving on unnecessary transportation.
It also has IoT in the breweries, and more specifically in its fridges that will count the number of beers in the fridge by using the IoT device and will efficiently change the temperature to what is only necessary.
Osta concludes, “for a manufacturer like us, digital transformation makes sense in order to bring value to our customers, to help us resolve prices, to help us in our climate change commitments, and for our colleagues.”
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