Consumer Markets

The future of supply chain innovation with AB InBev

In the third and final article of this series between Proco Global and Anheuser-Busch InBev, Allan Freire (Director of Technology – Supply Chain) speaks with Heitor Cremonez about the future of digitalisation, and how AB InBev is constantly innovating to ensure they are prepared for anything!

How has AB InBev coped with 2020? Considering that the entire world went digital, how was your journey impacted by the sudden involuntary switch to virtual?

Definitely, 2020 was an unprecedented time for the world and its consequences have been impactful for many, if not all industries. Throughout my career and personal life, I have seen many examples to suggest that if we are prepared, we will not fail. However, since 2020, I’ve seen only a very small group of companies prepared to respond promptly to all market changes, especially in Supply Chain. But I have also seen many companies that were prepared to react fast and without fear, able to support all customer needs. Anheuser-Busch InBev was definitely one of them.

What has Anheuser-Busch done? It has accelerated the digital transformation in all areas of the company, from Supply Chain and all adjacent divisions to Marketing and Sales. A great example in Supply Chain has been our Lighthouse in Carterville – GA. In 2021, we invested more than $30MM in a new can line and in more than 40 pilots that will drive ABI’s future in terms of Digitalization, AI, ML, IoT and Automation. What is even more interesting is that in 2022, the number of investments in our pilots – phase 2 – will increase by about 40%. Our Lighthouse is under our Brewery of the Future plan, which is part of our Supply Chain of the Future strategy.

What an amazing journey these past years have been for Anheuser-Busch InBev. We look forward to and are optimistic about a better future. We have no fear – every day, we work strategically to be 100% prepared to meet new challenges.

Where do you think the industry / AB InBev will be in five or ten years’ time?

We will be harvesting the fruits/results of our current strategy, which we strongly believe will generate more value to our customers, employees, and shareholders.

We will have completed the full rollout of all technologies from our Lighthouse to our 18 Breweries, 5 Can Plants, 2 Lids Plants, 2 Malt Plants and 1 Rice Plant in North America.

We will be working on our next transformation supply chain strategy, and do as we always do, keep Anheuser-Busch aligned with the latest technology to drive our competitive advantage for the overall organization.

How are you innovating?

Anheuser-Busch is innovating through an Ecosystem formed by internal subject matter experts, key suppliers, start-ups, universities, and benchmarking. These include:

  • Internal Subject Matter Experts – As part of AB-InBev’s culture, we strive to hire, train and retain the best talents. In North America Zone, the Technology for Supply Chain team (led by me) has increased from 19 to 35 direct FTE in the last 18 months and should add 20+ SMEs into its organization by the end of 2022, as we see more advantages than disadvantages by internalizing critical & advanced technical knowledge. Moreover, it’s important to mention that AB-InBev invest a very significant amount of dollars in training and updating the current 35 SMEs on the latest technologies and knowledge through the best universities and by partnering with key suppliers.
  • Start-ups – A great idea can come from many different directions and methods, and start-ups have proven to be a source of them. When formed by innovative, curious, perseverant, and courageous people, such start-ups match AB InBev’s culture. When start-ups align from big corporations in such a way, disruptive innovation occurs on a large scale, producing sustainable results for all involved. AB InBev is investing in many start-ups around the world and has been very successful in this approach. For example, we developed 3D printers with better capabilities of the ones valued at $30-40k, but at a cost of $12k. This allows a 2-year deployment plan of this technology to all Zones in order to cover the Supply Chain parts crisis. Magic? No, it’s innovation!

Do you believe we are experiencing a paradigm shift towards an ultimately more digitalised future? Why or why not?

Certainly. The future will be much more digitalized than forecasted by many experts of the industry. From my perspective, we will be very surprised when we compare 2026 with 2021. We’ll see that those who missed the opportunities provided by digitalization, or underestimated the need for it, will lament the market-share loss and the negative impact of all performance indicators linked with it.

What do you think is the “next big thing” – or what should we all keep an eye out for, especially in digitalisation?

This is a topic that I have already discussed many times with my peers, key suppliers and experts of the industry, and the conclusion has been the following in terms of Supply Chain Technologies only (not considering Financial, Sales, HR and other technologies): There is no next, until we conclude the digitalization journey. There is no next, until we finalize the exploration of all technologies in Industry 4.0 (Fourth Revolution of the Industry). There is no next, until we build a solid bridge between today and tomorrow.

What I can say is that the ‘next’ in terms of Supply Chain technology will follow customer trends. This will probably result in much more flexibility, speed, quality and safety for the manufacturing and logistic landscape, which will be necessary as marketing has indicated thus far.

Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn to stay up to date with all the latest trends and developments taking place across the end-to-end supply chain. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to design and implement your vision of the future, get in touch with me at Proco Global. We can help you find the best people, for your people.

The three articles in this series are:

  1. The Digitalization Mission: Introducing Allan Freire and AB InBev
  2. AB InBev – Embracing digitalization for the better of the company
  3. The future of supply chain innovation with AB InBev

 

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