The innovative tech that's transforming how our beers are brewed, packed and delivered

Posted: November 02, 2020
The innovative tech that's transforming how our beers are brewed, packed and delivered

We've been carefully crafting and delivering beers to bring people together for hundreds of years. But our predecessors could never have dreamed of the incredible ways it's being done now.

For example, our St. Louis, Missouri, US brewery has a ‘digital twin' – a fully rendered virtual brewery where we can immediately see and repair equipment issues and test new brewing scenarios. Meanwhile, at our warehouse in Putian, China, we introduced forklift technology that helps operators detect when a pedestrian is within an unsafe distance and applies the brakes. And at our digital hub in Jaguariúna, Brazil, our teams remotely monitor the arrivals, departures and performance of our delivery fleet, and receive automatic alerts to contact drivers when they show signs of needing rest.

These are but a few ways AB InBev has re-imagined our future to improve the ways in which we source ingredients, brew, distribute and sell our high-quality beers. 

“Technology is empowering our people to dream big about what's possible in every aspect of our supply chain,” said Pete Kraemer, Chief Supply Officer. “Together we're developing new capabilities and becoming more agile to sustainably brew beers that reach more people on more occasions with the brands our consumers love.” 

Powered by people, enabled by technology 

Across AB InBev, our people are eagerly tapping into the power of artificial intelligence, machine learning and other digital solutions. 

For years Chi Xiaolan, a shift leader at Putian, our largest brewery in China, spent an hour a day with a marker and a whiteboard, manually making calculations and writing them out for the next person on her shift. 

 “It was complicated and laborious,” she said. “The new digital tools make my work much more efficient. It's completely changed!” 

Chi's whiteboard was replaced by a “command center” lined with digital screens displaying detailed data about the brewery's operations, including shift handoff information. Colleagues now spend less time on mundane, routine tasks and more time using their expertise to be more innovative in their daily work. Putian now holds the AB InBev record for the most consecutive hours of 100% line efficiency at any of our 260 breweries. 

Putian maintenance technician Lin Fusheng says he previously had to rely solely on his experience to know why a piece of equipment failed. Now, a new automated high-speed camera monitoring system, accessible on his mobile phone, helps him quickly find the root cause of issues on the bottle filling lines he maintains.

“The monitoring system is very precise and to the second,” said Maintenance Technician Lin Fusheng. “Now I know exactly how often an issue has occurred. It's helping me make better decisions.”  

"Stopping for maintenance is one of the most costly and disruptive aspects of running a brewery,” said Pete. “Being able to quickly identify something as simple as an overturned bottle can yield significant savings and ensure we deliver what our customers need on-time.” 

Real-time answers, just a click away 

In Mexico and the Dominican Republic, like in many of our geographies, our delivery drivers used to leave our warehouses with only a basic mobile phone and a list of customer orders.

“Our small grocery stores and neighborhood retailers didn't know if their orders would be complete and filled precisely, or what time we'd arrive. Often, we couldn't complete our scheduled deliveries on time, leaving them without the product they needed,” said Victor Nader, delivery leader for Grupo Modelo in Mexico.  

Now, drivers carry a suite of mobile tools and can communicate arrival times, product availability and the exact amount owed. The retailers can also make digital payments, which keep our drivers safer, and share real-time feedback on their experience. 

“Through technology, we are connecting with our customers and their needs more than ever before – and it's delivering meaningful bottom-line results for them,” said Goran Djuric, global vice president of logistics for AB InBev.

“Our routes are more predictable so we've seen a reduction in safety incidents and we are working fewer hours, giving us more time to spend with our families,” said Delivery Leader Victor Nader about the new delivery tech in Mexico.

Training is another task that's radically changing with artificial intelligence and mobile devices. Before starting on the job, brewery operators must learn numerous standard operating procedures (SOPs) to safely and consistently produce our beers. In our North America breweries alone, we have 20,000 SOPs – and until recently, people mostly learned them by reading lengthy documents.

“The new tech makes a huge difference in getting our new colleagues thoroughly trained so there are no delays in getting them started,” said Carl Rogers, Environment, Health and Safety Manager at our Magor, Wales brewery.

Enter the introduction of tech platforms to create what's essentially a super-charged YouTube for training videos made for and by our brewery experts. Colleagues demonstrate how to safely perform each SOP by filming it, step by step, on a mobile device in minutes. Using artificial intelligence, the video is immediately transcribed and translated into dozens of languages. Colleagues surveyed across the world report that the training is more engaging and memorable and they're learning 10 times faster than before.

"It's thrilling to see our people grow, adapt and embrace change so we can keep doing what we've done for centuries – brew the world's most delicious and iconic beers,” said Pete. 

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