CAMBRIDGE, Mass., — When a company has reached peak market saturation, it can take ideas from competitors or do something new.
Beverage packaging and processing systems supplier Tetra Pak was at this inflection point. But as a company with more market penetration than its competitors, the latter was the only option and the way to accomplish it was with data.
The company grew through expansion, sitting comfortably in 177 markets internationally. "We can't grow to the next market because we're already there," said Mark Meyer, CIO at Tetra Pak, while speaking at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in Cambridge, Massachusetts Wednesday.
While the size and success of the packing company is its strength, it unintentionally created data silos, a typical point of contention for large companies. Decentralized data allows everyone to have "a different version of truth" because it's managed and interpreted differently by every internal business organization, said Meyer.
So how can a company make decisions at the corporate level when there are many versions of the truth? "You got to be stubborn and patient," said Meyer. That enables the company to operate with a single business strategy through data management.
Companies are asking how they can make money with data when the old moves no longer work. Companies have always known how to create data but how they collect it and then use it is changing. Managing data in a centralized place, with meaningful insights, empowers the rest of the business to "do what they think is the fun part," said Meyer, referring to departments like HR, marketing and finance.
The data solution
Tetra Pak eventually identified data as enabler to transform itself from an industrial company to a process-oriented company. The company had always locally monitored what was happening with a machine, meaning when something broke, the customer informed Tetra Pak and the company would carry out the "break-and-fix" model commonly followed by industrial companies.
The break-and-fix model is outdated and the only track for Tetra Pak to liberate itself from the routine was to pursue predictive analysis and then some.
Tetra Pak recognized that its machinery is likely only 50% of what customers use. The other half of their processing equipment comes from other suppliers. Ultimately, who the supplier is doesn't matter as much as having 100% of their machinery functioning properly. The company began to roll out a service called Plant Secure, to assess a customer's entire plant.
With Plant Secure, customers can share data coming from more than Tetra Pak's machines and get a full picture of their plant. Plant Secure and data-dedicated solutions like it elevated Tetra Pak's position in its markets.
However, Tetra Pak's plans only work if Plant Secure delivers results. "If we don't save you anything, we don't make anything," said Meyer.
In April, the company launched a connected packaging platform used to "transform milk and juice cartons into interactive information channels, full-scale data carriers and digital tools," according to the announcement.
The platform is rooted in data management, offering producers traceability in the production process, retailers will have transparencies in the supply chain, shoppers will be informed of where goods are coming from. The tracking feature will give Tetra Pak and its customers the ability to monitor and detect potential issues.
Tetra Pak's data goals demanded external industry partnerships. The company has to partner with integrators and suppliers to enable capability.
"There's no way we can move fast enough" to manage the onslaught of real-time global data collection from customers' plants," said Meyer. The company partnered with Microsoft because of its cloud capabilities while providing the IT base "we want to work with."
But Tetra Pak recognized its customers want the same sort of digitalization of their business because they want to see the same real-time data for they are sending to the company.
Now that Tetra Pak has sold packaging and processing technologies, it eventually wants to break further into the food industry. The company doesn't directly play a role in producing milk, but the link between producing and packaging is data, and therefore, more business opportunities.