Grupo Bimbo leverages 10 years of progressive digital transformation with home-grown tech
Raúl Obregón, Bimbo’s chief information and transformation officer, looks back over the past decade to highlight the successes that supported the seamless operation of the global company, and sets out his ambitious plans for his Future Systems Landscape.
Obregón joined Grupo Bimbo in 1998, working through several leadership roles from regional sales manager at Bimbo Bakeries USA (BBU) to president of Bimbo Latin South, among others. One common obstacle he faced in all his roles was the lack of actionable data and business intelligence necessary to optimise performance and take difficult decisions. Motivated to make a change, he created an inhouse technology incubator, which he dubbed Future Systems Landscape.
Baking in corporate values
His vision of combining the company’s existing IT systems with a real time IoT infrastructure, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics became the corporation’s strategic plan, and to-date, has produced measurable results, landing Bimbo at the leading edge of the green and ESG movements.
In fact, the little icon from Ethisphere at the bottom of the Grupo Bimbo homepage testifies to the kind of company it is. Bimbo believes that living its values and profitability go hand-in-hand, an ethos that has seen it being honoured five times as one of the world’s most ethical companies.
The beating heart
However, Bimbo strives to become a data-driven company, placing digital transformation at front and centre. From its 1945 start as a small bread bakery in Mexico City, the corporation has grown into one of the largest bakery manufacturers in the world, with more than 100 brands, 13,000 products, 203 bakeries across 33 countries and one of the largest distribution networks in the world, with more than 3.2 million points of sale.
The company’s operating footprint is undoubtedly massive, but this hasn’t stopped it from turning out products that it quietly rightly can be proud of, zealously safeguarding cleanliness and quality. To turn out millions of loaves daily, Bimbo depends on real-time metrics that illustrate everything from machine speeds and temperatures to downtime. And everyone in the company – from execs to factory floor workers – relies on this data, bringing the production of a centuries-old process into the modern era.
“We’re a 75 year-old company baking across the globe in the 21st Century,” said Obregón.
“Digital transformation, along with all its component parts like factory and fleet automation, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing, are central to sustaining and expanding our leadership in the CBG space.
“That’s why we are always making strategic capital expenditures, investing in innovation, and using data and business intelligence to inform our decision making.”
Of Bimbo’s most successful initiatives over the past decade, Obregón cites four critical areas of progress:
Obregón successfully launched Future Systems Landscape, a companywide technology incubator that is powering much of the company’s digital transformation.
“We have a dedicated group of more than 75 individuals across Mexico, the US and Spain, within different areas of our company that are constantly looking at ways to accelerate growth and productivity through innovation,” he said.
“We also have a specialised unit focused on innovation that’s non-baking.
“This group has had a substantial role in developing new approaches to the company’s IT systems, automation, robotics and sustainability initiatives.”
Working with Microsoft and Oracle, Obregón accomplished a migration of legacy inhouse systems to the cloud, enabling Bimbo to share information in near real-time across the enterprise, as well as handling the increased flow of data from its deployed IoT sensors and systems.
This, in turn, enables Obregón’s IT department to leverage leading-edge analytics of mission-critical business intelligence to optimise operations and stay one step ahead of the competition.
“A global information system that’s tied to financials and the supply chain of the company has opened new doors for data-driven decisions and AI use cases that will further drive efficiencies and augment the capabilities of our associates,” said Obregón.
Bimbo has 203 bakeries in 33 countries worldwide, more than 130,000 employees and a fleet that services 34,000 routes. Transforming an operation of that size was a massive undertaking and took nothing short of altering and updating Bimbo’s entire digital landscape.
Future Systems Landscape, Obregón’s 75-member inhouse incubator, developed a proprietary mobile information technology management tool that has now been deployed across the sprawling multinational enterprise. As a result, fleet and distribution operations have been materially improved through increased connectivity, more efficient data flow and greater availability of analytics.
Baking is labour intensive, so managing the factory floor, warehousing and distribution presents unique challenges.
However, rather than depend on outside vendors, Obregón’s IT department and tech incubator developed a line of electric Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs) to increase factory and warehouse efficiency, empower and protect employees, and deliver even more leverageable operational data for analysis. This has all been achieved.