Dutch brewing giant Heineken says global real-time connectivity and an event-driven architecture (EDA) is the best way to support the 350 global and local beer and cider brands the company sells in more than 190 countries.
The technology is also expected to be a major contributor to helping the brewery achieve the ambitious goals of its digital transformation plan ‘EverGreen’ for 2021.
Guus Groeneweg – Heineken’s Product Owner Digital Integration, who works as part of the company’s global IT organization at its Amsterdam headquarters – says EverGreen is focused on increasing cost efficiency within the company, making it the ‘best connected brewer’ in the world maybe.
Groeneweg explains: “Becoming the best connected brewer means everything – true application connectivity that leads to use cases for real-time analytics.”
“EDA really helps us achieve that ambition because events are about connectivity. For me, from an integration point of view, events are an important part of realizing our ambition to become the best connected brewer.”
Improving an inadequate solution
To get there, there are several challenges to overcome. For example, Heineken’s global IT team had to find a way to integrate the company’s many local business units, which consist of several operating companies.
Since many of these devices have been acquired, this means that many of these devices are still using the original pre-Heineken operating systems. Another challenge is that the data Heineken wants to “better connect” comes from a wide range of geographically dispersed sources.
The data also often comes with highs and lows, with large peaks resulting from the launch of a new Heineken brand. That carries the risk of overwhelming legacy approaches to data integration platforms that rely on point-to-point communication via synchronous, REST-based APIs—the modern standard for many modern applications today.
Because this could potentially lead to duplicated or misplaced orders, lost revenue and thus unhappy customers, a better way to connect a lot of operational data globally was needed. Groeneweg says, “One of the main reasons we started looking at EDA was that our integration platforms weren’t able to handle some of the, let’s say, ‘blocking’ moments where a lot of business messages are being exchanged.”
This eventually led the organization to consider “events” – which to some extent turns away from using Internet technologies to a more middleware-oriented way of working.
That’s because “event driven” is a software design pattern where loosely or even decoupled applications communicate by publishing and subscribing to events through an “event broker”.
In this model, an event is basically just a notification of something that has happened or changed—a change in the status of an application or system, such as a new order being processed or a customer’s payment card being auctioned, Groeneweg says. .
These events are then sent to a broker and to any other system or application that subscribes to that event. An appropriate response can then be triggered, such as alerting a technician to check a system in a factory.
In Heineken’s case, that means many events. Groeneweg: “If a forklift driver in Singapore needs to get his pick list on time and therefore wants to know which truck to load, it’s all based on messages. All 120,000 invoices that we process worldwide per day also need to be processed on time, And if a bar owner in Mexico or Brazil or New Zealand orders beer from us through their app, that’s also a message that has to arrive on time – otherwise they won’t get their product on time.”
25 million business process messages per month
A factor was also the concurrent IT decision – again seen as an important basis for achieving EverGreen – to implement a new global SAP S/4HANA, SAP ERP system across the group. Groeneweg explains: “This means that we no longer want to depend on point-to-point integrations. Suppose a customer in Mexico changes his address: our billing system needs to know that, our ordering system needs to know that many systems will know that.”
“In the past, we would have written one-to-one, point-to-point interfaces for every system that needed this address update from that one Mexican customer. But with EDA, instead of building all those individual interfaces, we the just integration pattern, we publish these customer data records once and all systems that want to know about this just subscribe to the main system and get their updates automatically.”
In total, Groeneweg and his team must ensure that at least 25 million such business messages (events) are delivered per month, all of which must be delivered on time and in full, otherwise Heineken will have to deal with incidents.
To meet EverGreen’s goals, EDA’s IT team has been using EDA for just over a year to better connect more than 4,500 Heineken internal business-critical applications across payments, logistics, inventory management and more.
EDA is supplied to Heineken by Solace, a supplier capable of handling such volumes of data and messages, which was the deciding factor in the choice.
Twelve months after commissioning, EDA has enabled much better burst management, says Groeneweg, for example when customers around the world choose to pay at the same time. It has also begun to smooth out production downtime, leading to better overall efficiency and customer service.
When HANA is online in about six months, Groeneweg predicts even more efficiency as the use of EDA will expand to more and more business processes. He adds, “EDA will be used in multiple geographies and probably a few other types of flow—not just customer material data, but multiple transactional flows, such as payments, inventory logistics movements, purchase orders, maintenance orders, and preventive maintenance. . . That’s where we want to be.” “