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Anheuser-Busch Talks Machine Payment Terms, Technology Needs

Remote management; simple HMIs, operator training, and long payment terms.

Quick hits:

  • Security risk is the challenge that keeps Anheuser-Busch from giving OEMs access into operations for remote management.
  • Energy efficiency and sustainability is top of mind, and therefore Anheuser-Busch is approaching new projects by partnering with machine builders to maximize flexibility, minimize complexity, and have training documentation in place.
  • Longer payment terms: Understanding long payment terms are not popular with suppliers, Anheuser-Busch will try to work with OEMs to get money moving earlier in the process and work on better overall terms and conditions. 

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Listen to the story here:

   Read the transcript below:

Ken Vonderhaar: Hello, I'm Ken Vonderhaar, with Anheuser-Bushe, Budweiser. I've been with the company for 34 years. And today we're hosting PMMI here in our tourist center to talk about packaging operations and talk a bit about beer.

Stephanie Neil: There's a trend for OEMs to offer more services, and I'm curious to know if you allow your machine builders to remotely manage your equipment.

Ken Vonderhaar: It's always a challenge with our IT team to remote into anything in the brewery. And that's just because of the risk. But, I think the trend is that we have to figure out how to do that. If at the end of the day we want to do that, we need to figure out how to do it safely. And try to do it in a manner that doesn't put our operations at risk. We do remote access on some of our equipment, but it's very limited. And it's equipment that is not accessible to the whole network. So we will have to figure out how to do that more with the packaging machinery providers.

Stephanie Neil: And when do you bring OEMs into the conversation when planning new projects around sustainability or other innovations?

Ken Vonderhaar: So there's two efforts that we're trying to do with regards to energy efficiency and sustainability. One is to make the current operation more sustainable, more energy efficient. And we absolutely need our equipment suppliers to come in and help us figure out how to minimize compressed air usage, reduce gas usage, reduce energy, and electricity usage. And so that is the first step. 

Ken Vonderhaar: But on the new projects, to your point, we are having earlier involvement with the suppliers and more of a partnering mindset than we have in the past. In the past, it was really a lump sum, competitive bid type of operation. And we still will do some of that. But in some of the more complex jobs, we will start choosing partners to deal with, and then figure out what those machines look like to maximize flexibility, minimize complexity, have the training documentation in place, and again, make the machine as simple as possible.

Stephanie Neil: Supplier relations are important. But there's an ongoing contentious trend towards longer and longer payment terms. Ken, how do you manage supplier relations in that environment?

Ken Vonderhaar: Well, we have certain targets around weighted average payment terms that are set by our board of directors. And we understand that long payment terms are not popular with our suppliers. And really quite honestly, we're not trying to make things tough for our suppliers, and we recognize that that is a burden there. But what we will try to do is work with suppliers to try to perhaps change our progress payments to try to get money earlier into the process. Or, generally speaking, try to partner with them a little bit more to work with better overall terms and conditions. Maybe not necessarily the payment terms, but say liability terms and that type of thing, that we can work with them to make it an easier contract for them to sign

Stephanie Neil: You cited that 40% of your workforce can retire at any time. What are you asking of your OEM partners in terms of how accessible they make their machines and light have a tight labor market?

Ken Vonderhaar: So essentially, we're asking for simplicity, we would like all the complexity to be under the hood. And we would like an operator interface that's very simple and easy to understand. Also, an interface that our younger employees are able to interface with with some type of video screens and that type of thing as well as setup procedures that would be built into the operator screen. And the same thing goes for training or operators to do that also. 

Ken Vonderhaar: So this is Ken Vonderhaar with a inheritor Busch, Budweiser, we appreciate pmmi coming to St. Louis here and being a part of our tour and enjoying our facilities. And thank you guys for coming.

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