Guiness Rolls Out The Barrels

Technology helps this Irish brewer manage the movement of beer across the Atlantic.


In casting his eye around at the various software packages available, Cullen came across a company called SeeWhy, a Windsor, U.K.-based provider of what it calls a "real-time business intelligence platform."

SeeWhy CEO Charles Nicholls previously had worked at Business Objects, but he says that he founded SeeWhy with a vision for a new approach to business intelligence.

"The traditional way of extracting data out of operational systems, transforming it and loading it into databases, and then, once it's in the database, querying, analyzing and reporting, all that was problematic once you moved to become process-oriented and real-time," Nicholls says.

Instead, SeeWhy takes an "event stream processing" approach to BI, meaning that a customer can feed transactional data into the solution on a continuous basis, and the software analyzes the data in real time, streams the results back to the customer and provides alerts when it detects anomalous events. In a sense, the software aims to take the place of the analyst who would be querying the BI database, providing reports and firing off an e-mail to the boss when something amiss turned up in the data.

SeeWhy's "always-on" capability attracted Cullen, who was looking to adopt a more predictive and proactive approach to how his team managed the movement of the company's beer. After initial meetings with SeeWhy during which the solution provider worked with Guinness to map out the complexity of the trans-Atlantic supply chain, the brewer elected to move ahead with an implementation of the SeeWhy platform, with the solution provider hosting the software for Diageo.

SeeWhy worked with Diageo to configure the solution so that it would record each event along the supply chain for each shipment, and then continuously calculate for each shipment whether it would reach its destination on time. Many of the data feeds are automated, although Diageo staff do get shipment updates from carriers' Web sites and key that information into SAP. At present, Diageo sends data from its ERP system to SeeWhy at the close of every business day, and Cullen then reviews the reports coming back from the system each day to get updates on shipments en route or to check for alerts on late shipments.

Looking Into The Data

In the event that something amiss pops up on the SeeWhy dashboard, Cullen can drill down into the details on a particular shipment to learn where a shipment is getting delayed and how that will impact Guinness' ability to meet its delivery obligations. The system also provides a standard daily report with month-to-date performance and a predictor for what the month-end performance is likely to be, given the current state of shipments. Cullen and his team can use all this information to take action to get individual shipments or overall service levels back on track.

As might be expected, they were able to start improving Guinness' OTIF on arrival performance within months of adopting the solution. The metric currently hovers around 80 percent. "We could push it up further," Cullen says, "but if we did that we'd have an increased number of shipments arriving early."

Cullen and his team also developed new insights into the different factors that influence transit times and on-time delivery by looking beyond the "headline" information presented in the SeeWhy reports and drilling down to uncover root causes of delays or disruptions.

For example, using the solution, Cullen learned that the October-December time period sees both an increase in seasonal traffic headed westbound as well as less-favorable weather, so Guinness is now able to take those factors into account in planning its shipping lead times, with the result that the product still arrives on time.

In addition, the planning team has gained a better understanding of carrier performance based on the new arrival time metric.

"Interestingly," Cullen says, "we learned that one of our most competitively priced shippers is producing very good customer service for us. That obviously has led down a particular track when we are seeking increased shipping capacity to meet a peak shipping requirement. Not only can we secure the capacity, but we can get it at the right price. In the past, to be honest, we would have probably gone for our most expensive carrier in the belief that they offered the best customer service because we simply didn't have the visibility to know any better."

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