A new sunrise, Asahi Europe & International pours clearer brew

Asahi

Brewing golden ale is an elemental activity. As such, it requires superior ingredients, special environmental conditions and perfected processes. Running a business to support such exacting conditions requires an equal level of flawless systematic operational excellence.

As a business built on a reputation for consistent product quality, Asahi Europe & International (AEI) recognised the challenges faced when using non-integrated systems, legacy application and continuously increasing manual and repeating task lists.This meant that the majority of people’s time at Asahi was being spent on repetitive tasks performed on multiple platforms at high transaction volume.  

Consequently, people were distracted and prevented from spending time on skilled and strategic activities. Unsurprisingly, these lack of efficiencies were also having an impact on the top-line. AEI decided to establish an internal automation and innovation digital factory, or automation factory, to address these issues and deliver a coherent operation.  

 

System slops and spillage 

Running a core cloud estate and IT stack on Microsoft Azure, AEI decided to adopt UiPath as an automation solution and build an intelligent automation platform in AEI to bridge the digital gaps in business processes. 

With some previous experience and research studies, UiPath was found to be more suitable due to its ease of development and deployment. 

Also, the strategic alignment and overall approach designed together with EY and UiPath enabled AEI to innovate and disrupt existing process flows. AEI also found that developing on the UiPath platform helped fuel its speed to market in terms of its innovations and process digitisations.

A recent internal audit has confirmed both UiPath and overall execution of the programme is meeting the audit and compliance standards. Analysis confirmed the solution is secure and compliant and that the digital factory’s status can be defined as ‘best in class’. AEI has now put in place an iterative process to drive continuous improvement via digitisation and ensure future initiatives follow the same profile.

 

One team, one objective

AEI was very clear that technology should be an enabler to drive the business forward, not a substitute for broken or cumbersome processes. The selection of UiPath along with EY to help deliver the digitisation agenda, was based not just on technical credentials, but also on both organisation’s ability to collaborate with AEI’s existing team. 

The aim was to select both a technology provider and a strategic business transformation partner that would work in sync with AEI’s internal stakeholders and drive a ‘one team, one objective’ approach. Such was the success of this effort that both EY and AEI IA CoE colleagues jointly worked to support each other and bet on each other’s strengths in shaping the initiatives with internal stakeholders for execution and deployment.

 Several innovation workshops on the ‘art of the possible’ were run, successfully engaging business stakeholders and bringing together the ecosystem of partners to ‘create meaninful connection’, an objective aligned to the company strategy. These ideation workshops have generated ideas for a centrally managed pipeline to convert them in to potential business cases/solutions by collaborating with business stakeholders and transformation team.  

In full flow, AEI’s digital programme aspired to shape a culture of innovation and digitisation across the organisation. A key benefit of the Automation Factory is its ability to track, measure and quantify benefits created inside each individual business case. It can also capture learnings post implementation to help embed an iterative mindset of continuous improvement. 

Initially, AEI’s selected business use cases that were assessed for their ability to realise maximum value. The objective here was simple – to drive awareness of automation advantage internally. AEI looked beyond traditional metrics such as cost reduction and avoidance, efficiency, compliance and the improvement of both customer and employee experience; the team also continuously tracked the increased operational capacity released back into the business as a result of digitisation with finance and business case owners.

 

It’s the weekend, let’s automate

Projects were selected in batches and a release plan to minimise disruption was created in close collaboration with impacted stakeholders across AEI, EY and UiPath. This was a success as no major disruption linked to the digitisation was reported during the 15-month programme.  Any upgrades

to the platform or security patches were carefully planned over weekends to avoid gaps in the business processes. 

There has now been a shift in overall mindset change within AEI towards innovation, digitisation and automation. People have been more open and curious, asking questions like, ‘What can we automate next?’. Users of automations have positively noted the new ability to get better quality data in real-time, which has led people to be more critical and challenging of pre-existing practices and processes. 

The working mechanics of the arrangement between AEI, EY and UiPath is a template for the future. The full set up includes services to cover ideation or art of the possible, design, build and test, run and maintenance processes. The AEI team says for any automation or digital factory model to be effective it must align with overall business goals – and this has been done both collaboratively and successfully.

 

Digital by default

Looking immediately forward, AEI has had to work out how its business will positively capitalise upon the new additional capacity released due to the use of UiPath’s automation platform. AEI CoE continues to work to ensure its digital solution approach would become a default, ‘digital first’. 

The automation factory has now developed an iterative cycle of learning. EY brought in a wealth of expertise and AEI head of innovation, automation and analytics, Bhuvan Panwar, has commented that with EY they had the momentum from day one, as AEI didn’t have to focus on tech skills but focus on defining the exam question or problem statement and internal change management. 

Digitisation would look to create empowerment and capacity for AEI colleagues to take more ownership and drive faster decision-making across processes and functions. Primarily, this is possible thanks to the support and backing of the company’s own leadership. AEI leadership believes that to truly unlock the value of digitisation, it needs to empower colleagues at all levels to make decisions and to create meaningful connections. 

Perhaps it’s no surprise to learn that Asahi (朝日, 旭, or あさひ) means morning sunrise sunlight in Japanese, and AEI is certainly welcoming a new dawn in digitisation with their strategic partners.