Beer and Disaster Relief

When it comes to disaster relief, timing can literally mean the difference between life and death.

This past week, the AB Inbev brewery located in Cartersville, GA, transformed its production line to produce nearly 50,000 cans of emergency drinking water  to assist the victims of the floods in Texas and Oklahoma. This particular brewery has had a history of doing good deeds in times of crises, providing 44,000 cases of drinking water for victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and and the same type of assistance during Hurricane Katrina in 2004.

Since its inception, Anheuser-Busch has made a tradition out of converting its production line to deliver clean drinking water to those affected by disaster. Having worked with CPG companies in the past, this is one of the better examples of corporate responsibility I’ve come across.

More importantly, this is a good example of how manufacturing processes can be utilized for high social impact when its needed most. And it also makes intuitive sense for the socially minded– if manufacturing has developed in such a manner to produce goods and products at scale, manufacturing is also uniquely positioned to deliver a high number of emergency products and services when they are needed. In this case, both AB Inbev and the brewery manager, Rob Haas, acted swiftly and diligently to help address a growing water crises in a flooding disaster that’s already left 22 people dead.

My curiosity around the speed with which AB Inbev could commit to such a social cause and turnaround a new product led me to do a bit more research around the changeover process in manufacturing plants. Unsurprisingly, water can be found in copious amounts in beer breweries. A 12 ounce can of beer usually contains 12 ounces of water (or at least >90% of the fluid volume). Water is a significant part of the brewing process and is used in both malting and mashing. If you’re a beer enthusiast, you know that the amount of minerals found in your local water can affect how your beer tastes. Check out an example beer brewing production line show below from:

It seems in the beverage industry, changeover times in production can be quite fast (within a twenty-four hour time span in the case of AB Inbev) depending on the complexity of the change over and the requirements of the new product. A 2012 paper on a SAB Miller brewery in South Africa from the University of Pretoria, aimed to use the Six-Sigma methodology of DMAIC ( Define- Measure- Analyze- Improve- Control) to identify areas of improvement in reducing the amount of time during a changeover.

So, why is this important?

Reducing changeover time has major implications for a business because it empowers a company to act quickly and flexibly in a market with constantly changing product demands. There are number of factors that affect changeover time including the change parts management system and data capturing capabilities during production.

Change over timing is also important as it relates to disaster relief for obvious reasons. When disaster strikes, how quickly can your business respond to help a community recover?

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