“The goal is to create the most complete set of information possible to manage an efficient and reliable supply chain. I see this landscape being fully scalable and easily transferred to new countries, markets, and products.”
Insightive.tv: Do you think IT is seen as an enabler or necessary cost?
Euan: I think it depends on who you ask. To my mind, it is an enabler. I think that much of our top level management is in agreement. We have quite ambitious growth plans, and significant investment in IT is seen as a requirement to achieve those goals. We need IT innovation — there is no doubt about that. If you look at this in the context of the entire Group the vision for 2020 is to increase sales of products such as Chang Beer and Mekhong Rum, alongside Scottish Brands like Old Pulteney Single Malt Scotch Whisky in international markets. There is a definite realisation that significant investment in IT innovation, and associated process changes across the board, are needed to make that happen.
Insightive.tv: Can you discuss any recent IT projects you have undertaken?
Euan: Over the past couple of years, we have undertaken a large number of projects to improve processes and efficiency in many areas of the business. We developed an iOS App that provides a digital platform to facilitate effective promotion of our brands across the globe. With relatively little training, sales staff from all countries are able to use that app to grasp the tools and information needed to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of our portfolio.
We are currently going live with a new NPD system. We are mid-way through implementing a digital core in our SAP, ERP system — relying on the SAP HANA database with in-memory processing. These are both part of a number of wide-ranging digital enhancement projects we are undertaking that include an upgrade of our CRM system, purchasing Cisco’s WebEx video conferencing capabilities, a Microsoft 365 rollout and the implementation of SAP’s Concur expenses solution.
We have recently implemented a new planning process that enables our sales teams to update forecasts in real time. Our logistics teams are able to snapshot that information and feed it into our MRP and SOP processes. This gives the potential for much more accurate and efficient procurement and production planning. This allows us to save money by avoiding overstocking redundant products. That data also allows us to better serve our customers by getting our products to them exactly when they are needed.
Insightive.tv: How far do you think the automation of your processes will go — if you could bring any type of IT solution to the production process, what would be your dream?
Euan: A lot of our production processes are very traditional — very tried and tested processes that won’t change. The thing that will change is the systems and processes that we use to monitor the stages of the manufacturing. For example, we have a system that was created by a third party that allows us to monitor every stage of the distillation process in real time. It allows us to remotely bring an end to a process and start another. That is something that will, over time, extend to all of our distilleries.
We just went live with a preventative maintenance system that is forming the planned maintenance cycles for all our production equipment. That has reduced downtime and increased efficiency while reducing costs. In the future, we are looking to augment our preventative maintenance cycles by actually tracking the number of times every specific piece of equipment has been used. That would allow us to glean the most accurate possible information about when those maintenance cycles should take place on an individual basis.
There are also IT uses in terms of developing new products, and managing changes to existing products. We have been through a process recently of implementing a new NPD process where, from the initial point of collecting ideas about what new products might be available, we are able to put those ideas through a collaborative sorting system. This system is built on our SharePoint program and processes that information with an e-decisioning matrix. That effectively allows that process, and the end result, to be simpler, quicker, more cost effective and give us the ability to bring products to market faster than we would have previously been capable of doing.
My vision for the future is a standard set of efficient processes and supporting systems, facilitating best practice in our interactions with our customers. The information captured will be delivered to our supply chain team via CRM, integrated planning, MRP, SOP, or collaboration tools such as WebEx, SharePoint SAP Jam or Yammer. The goal is to create the most complete set of information possible to manage an efficient and reliable supply chain. I see this landscape being fully scalable and easily transferred to new countries, markets, and products. The functions will be available via user-friendly app style interfaces accessible from any device. The information gathered from all these processes will be collected in a central database that supports real-time logistical analytics and accurate standard management reporting.
Euan Campbell is IT Director at Inver House. He has held this position since 2010 and has significant prior experience in IT leadership. With a focus on using IT to drive business outcomes, Euan is working to implement technology within Inver House Distillers in innovative and adaptable ways to meet the demands of 21st Century distilling. We spoke with Euan to gain insight into how Inver House Distillers is augmenting manufacturing to meet increased demand, and how Euan sees IT impacting the future of distillation.
Inver House Distillers, established in 1964, today operates five distilleries and produces a range of whiskies, gins and vodka. Its parent company, International Beverage Holdings Limited is one of the drinks industry‘s most dynamic businesses, and a subsidiary of Thai Beverages — one of the world’s largest alcoholic beverage companies. Inver House Distillers is currently expanding their production capability to further their distribution to markets in Eastern Europe and Asia.
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