How Heineken’s Connected Brewery Ecosystem fuels automation

by Justin Honaman | on

Mounting pressure on the supply chain isn’t anything new. But its impacts are giving us something else to talk about these days.

Across industries, not just consumer packaged goods (CPG), we see an acceleration in new capabilities, with companies driving better decisions and spearheading greater innovation. Take smart factories, for example, where visionary consumer goods companies are investing in the tools and technologies that help their employees perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively, while at the same time providing analytics and insights that power automation. Many say the future of manufacturing lies within the smart factory.

When it comes to Heineken’s Connected Brewery Ecosystem, we believe this couldn’t hold more true.

To talk about his experience digitizing manufacturing, we had the absolute pleasure of welcoming Wiggert Deelen, Senior Director of Global Supply Chain Transformation at the Heineken Company , who joined the Consumer Goods Technology (CGT) webinar “ How Heineken’s Connected Brewery Ecosystem Fuels Automation ” alongside Justin Honaman, head of worldwide CPG and Retail Go-to-Market (GTM) at Amazon Web Services (Amazon Web Services), as well as Lisa Johnston, senior editor at CGT. In this post, we cover how Deelen and his team crafted Heineken’s Connected Brewery Ecosystem while drawing attention to some lessons they learned along the way.

With over 25 years of experience at Heineken, Deelen has worked in many operational roles in supply chain, but he says supply chain digitization is arguably one of the biggest programs he oversees. He also says supply chain digitization is what the Connected Brewery is all about.

Starting small

Four years ago, Deelen and his team started exploring the idea of a connected brewery ecosystem. At the time, Deelen was in an operations role in Europe, but after seeing the need to develop a program targeting top-line growth by driving efficiencies using digital technologies and data, he reached out to his boss for help with sponsorship (without it, Deelen and his team couldn’t experiment).

Deelen’s team started looking for “guinea pig” factories that it could use to test and learn. In the end, the team chose a high-performing plant in Poland with a significant level of operational efficiency because it wanted to prove that, by digitizing, Heineken could bring the plant to the next level.

“Beer is an asset-intense industry, so keeping operational excellence and continuous improvement up at all times is quite important,” Deelen says. “Digitizing the whole plant would give us insights that were previously unavailable.” While Deelen and his team had administrative systems with various capabilities in the past, they quickly realized that, by collecting and combining live data, they could have real-time insights and make faster near-real-time operational decisions. This ultimately inspired Heineken to enlist the help of innovative business technology company Schuberg Philis and Amazon Web Services to create a data-driven Internet of Things (IoT) platform for Heineken’s operations teams.

Connectivity is key

Heineken’s Connected Brewery program is an ecosystem of digital products that Heineken created to help employees in breweries perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively. There are many moving parts to this ecosystem, with six companies powering six different services in the “connected worker” and “smart brewery” categories. The connected worker side includes services like One2Improve, task management, and digital realities, while the smart brewery side includes services like IoT platforms, dashboards, analytics, and robotics.

Powering Heineken’s Connected Brewery IoT platform, Schuberg Philis builds, delivers, and manages the Connected Brewery IoT platform. This platform consists of operational data from the brewery’s production line machines—data that can be retrieved and stored. Data from a brewery is extracted and put into a data lake in Amazon Web Services. In addition, the platform collects data from enterprise resource planning systems within that brewery, helping Heineken connect in a digital-first world.

Getting into the swing of things

In its first Connected Brewery location, Heineken had to find ways to increase output. Eventually, the company created a dashboard to increase transparency, highlight targeted interventions, and inform decisions.

Heineken also implemented its Connected Brewery Kit (CB Kit), a piece of hardware developed as a secure connection between the operational technology and IT domain. This kit has a firewall and two industrial computers (IPCs)—one running Kepware software for communication with the programmable logic controllers. The other is running Amazon Web Services IoT Greengrass —a service for building intelligent IoT devices faster—for communication with the data layer on Amazon Web Services. This system makes it possible not only for the platform to retrieve data from the PLCs in the production lines in a brewery but also for Heineken to see past and real-time operational performance indicators. In the end, it was these moving pieces that brought the Connected Brewery project to life on a scale that, as Deelen puts it, “we couldn’t imagine possible.”

Apart from creating the dashboard and CB Kit, Heineken focused on driving task management with its operators. “We had a feeling that the operator job was getting more complex. What people needed to know and how to perform the job became more complicated,” Deelen says. After creating a connected worker app, Heineken made what was once hard copy information available to operators at the palms of their hands electronically.

Not only did this program create support for operators in their increasingly intricate tasks, but it also helped operators automate their cleaning and inspection, generating more interest and incentive for operatives to get on board with Heineken’s Connected Brewery Ecosystem. Just like with IoT, having control over their own dashboards, Deelen noticed the adoption rate of the connected worker application was much higher when operators were given more freedom to develop on a local level.

Looking ahead

Currently, Heineken has roughly 14,000 people around the world using its connected worker applications. With the help of its technologically-gifted partner Schuberg Philis, Heineken has 53 breweries connected in the IoT space and expects to have at least 60 breweries connected this year. On top of this, Deelen believes that over the course of the next 2 years, Heineken should be covering most of the more than 140 breweries around the globe with its connected worker applications. Though Heineken started its Connected Brewery Ecosystem for operational transparency, Deelen recognizes that with ongoing supply chain disruption, the company needs real-time visibility of processes within the supply chain.

As Heineken looks to the future, Deelen shares some advice business leaders can take with them on their own journey:

  1. Just get started: “Don’t get ready; just get started,” he says. “Don’t bother too much about the big plan. You learn by doing, and a big part of that is making mistakes.”
  2. Build people-focused technology: When it comes to building technology, Deelen emphasizes that “technology can do anything, but it’s more important to focus on the people who use the technology. Always think about the user and the pain points it’s solving for them.”
  3. Get comfortable with coding: “Get into the world of coding,” Deelen says. It’s vital you make the effort “because you can only apply technology when you understand the principles well.”

Closing the webinar, Deelen gives the audience one last piece of advice: no matter what journey you’re embarking on, think big and start small; build on your early successes and wins.

How Heineken’s Connected Brewery Ecosystem fuels automation

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Schuberg Philis is an Amazon Web Services Partner that focuses on the development and orchestration of the applications. Development, deployment, and maintenance of stable, reliable mission-critical platforms is a core competence for Schuberg Philis, as well as specializing in the transition of mission-critical systems to the cloud.