International Beverage Holdings (InterBev) is a global drinks manufacturer, marketer and distributor headquartered in Thailand, with divisions around the world.
The company ensures the authenticity of its products by rooting each brand’s global development in its home territory. The UK division is responsible for several products that are household names, including Caorunn Gin and Old Pulteney Single Malt Whisky – named ‘World Whisky of the Year’ in 2012.
An innovative and ambitious business, InterBev is actively investing in its growth around the world.
Developing a product is a complex process, involving as many as eight teams across the business – accounts, production planning, procurement, maturation and blending, quality, marketing, sales and customer services. Each time the process is run, people in nine or ten different roles are required to take part, from a pool of around 35 staff available to perform those roles.
InterBev had two legacy systems for New Product Development (NPD) and Existing Product Development (EPD). NPD was used for major changes, such as brand new products, and product line extensions – new products within an existing brand. EPD dealt with smaller changes, such as new label designs and promotional stickers.
Despite having similar goals, the two systems were not connected, and weren’t even on the same platform – NPD used Lotus Notes workflows, while EPD used Microsoft InfoPath forms.
The systems were viewed as prescriptive and inflexible. There was no allowance made for the team to easily go back a step to make simple updates; instead, they would often have to cancel the process and start a new request. Additionally, for NPD, a lot of investigation and planning was taking place before the details were entered into the system. The system was only used once there was a high chance of the process going through successfully. This meant that, if a new product failed to reach the stage of being added to the system, weeks of research and valuable intelligence were not being captured centrally.
InterBev sought CompanyNet’s help in designing a system that would enable better visibility of what was happening during the NPD/EPD process, and provide opportunities to identify ways the process could be made more efficient.
Knowing that getting the process right was as important as building a better system, we took the opportunity to rework it. CompanyNet facilitated sessions with the business to help them streamline the process, identifying which steps could be simplified or removed, and combining the NPD and EPD processes. Once the new process was agreed and documented, we began building the solution.
We created a flexible new system built on SharePoint, based on the newly-streamlined process, that would make things more straightforward and satisfying for InterBev staff. The new system now allows users to move backwards in the process any number of steps. For example, if the Finance team rejects a proposed product as unprofitable, the process can be moved back to the packaging stage to rethink the specification and reduce the cost.
Critical Path Report
The system creates a Critical Path report, which reveals the minimum length of time the process should take, together with an estimated completion date. This is done by combining the length of each task in the process; where multiple tasks can be done in parallel, the system only considers the one that takes the longest. The resulting Critical Path Analysis chart shows the time each task is expected to take. It can be used to quickly identify steps in the process that are frequently taking too long, or which are being done more quickly than expected, allowing InterBev to fine-tune the process.
We also took advantage of integration with InterBev’s existing SAP system, which provides supply chain information such as pricing and bills of materials for existing products. This data is combined with informed estimates entered by staff to generate profitability reports.
Where data generated by the system had previously been very difficult to interpret, as it was in an XML format, we introduced intuitive SharePoint lists that are much easier to query. Rather than just taking place ‘offline’, ideas and discussion are now captured in a SharePoint collaboration area. This ensures that previous work is not lost if a new product idea is deemed infeasible or doesn’t go ahead.
The solution we built for InterBev has had a positive impact across the business.
Decisions taken around new products are now better-informed, well-documented and backed up by evidence. The new system provides much better visibility of new products in progress, as well as helping staff identify steps that are proving a challenge, and spot which parts can be made more efficient.
It’s far easier to track what’s going on, giving the business complete oversight of new product development. Elements of the system that improve efficiency mean that the time to market for each product can be reduced significantly. And because the whole process is easier to visualise and understand, the way products are developed has become far more transparent.