At Mondelez, one of the world’s largest snack companies, tapping new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and robotics enables it to improve product recommendations, increase sales, develop business plans and monitor the health of cocoa trees.
Take product recommendations. The company’s sales teams now use a sales automation platform to determine which products a retailer should put on its shelves based on historical sales data, including what sells best in a particular neighborhood.
“It’s no secret that sales reps take orders based on their history of selling to a store and their relationship with the storekeeper,” said Sanjay Gurbuxani, vice president of digital services at Mondelez.
“What we’ve done is bring in AI and look at historical data about what that store was buying and what other stores were buying in that neighborhood,” he added. “So now our merchants will see suggested orders when they come into the store.”
Gurbuxani’s platform, first launched in India and expanding to other markets, has not only increased sales but also expanded the range of Mondelez products carried by each store. At the same time, the company has increased the digital skills of its sales teams by training them in data analysis and AI.
In many ways, Mondelez’s sales automation platform is an example of its efforts to bring about change through the use of new technologies. The company has established six centers of excellence, each focused on key technologies such as augmented reality, blockchain, natural language processing, drones, computer vision and low-code/no-code development.
“We’re trying to do old things and inspire company leaders and employees to embrace these ‘new age’ technologies and move forward,” says Gurbaksani.
The heat of the ongoing digital transformation at Mondelez has also rubbed off on employees outside of the technology teams. Powered by low-code/no-code development tools such as Microsoft PowerApps and Quickbase, business teams can now become citizen developers and build their own applications to facilitate, for example, approval workflows.
“In a few weeks, a team will go to a plant in Indonesia, and we’ll walk the entire plant and see what processes are manual, and if we can fast-track low-code/no-code, digitize and simplify some of the work that’s done today with pen and paper,” Gurbuxani said.
In the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa region, Mondelez has more than 100 citizen developers already building their own apps. The company has developed a framework for managing applications such as data entry and integration with other applications.
To avoid duplicate applications, Gurbuxani said, citizen developers are encouraged to go through the application library to ensure that the application they want to build exists in one form or another. “Can you improve on what someone else has done? Or do you have to start from scratch?”
Mondelez’s digital initiatives have been set up on Google Cloud in less than six months. The database provides new capabilities, including route planning, for sales executives in the field using data from various sources within the organization.
Mondelez is able to use data in its manufacturing plants to predict when a piece of equipment is likely to fail and fix it before it fails. In retail stores, it is using image recognition to match the store’s product layout to the planogram that retailers must adhere to when displaying products.
The company has started entering first-party data into its database about customers who buy products from direct-to-consumer platforms in markets like India. “We are getting to know our customers directly in real time and when we understand their preferences, we can create better personal relationships with them,” Gurbuxani said.
On the back end, Mondelez is undertaking a planning transformation journey by reviewing its planning processes to enable planners to better predict demand and anticipate supply chain disruptions.
“With AI and machine learning capabilities, we can understand what’s going on and our vision is to reach our goals without compromising the plan,” said Gurbuxani. “We’re cleaning up the data, making sure it’s robust, and we’re starting to feed the data into our data center and then run the right algorithms.”
Cocoa is a key ingredient in popular Mondelez products such as Cadbury chocolate and Oreo biscuits. According to Gurbuksani, a pilot will be conducted in Indonesia to deploy drones to monitor the health of cocoa trees in local farms. “With the images we collect, we can detect water and nutrient stress and get early warnings about pest infestations.”
A key ingredient to the success of Mondelez’s digital transformation journey is employee engagement.
“It’s not just planning and executing,” Gurbuxani said. “Everyone knows that digital has increased in the last few years, but we still need to make people aware of the impact it has on them and how it can help them, because it’s not something you can avoid.”