Here's how 170-year-old beer maker Pabst is using predictive analytics to reinvent itself

Pabst Blue RibbonCredit: Justin Sullivan / Getty ImagesThe Pabst Brewing Company is utilising state-of-the-art technology to better understand its distributors, retailers, and customers.

The Pabst Brewing Company was founded as Empire Brewery in 1844 and throughout the years has brewed several popular beer brands, including Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The 170-year-old beer maker may have started selling beer in the 19th century, but it hasn’t remained stuck in the past.

Under the guidance of modern leadership, the company started using high-tech analytics in 2013 to track sales, define new business approaches, and beat the competition.

Business Insider spoke with Pabst Brewing CFO Cordell Sweeney about the focus on technology and how it’s streamlining the company’s entire financial cycle.

The brewer is currently leveraging IBM’s predictive analytics platform to “develop a volume forecast by package type and customer,” Sweeney explains.

Pabst has been transitioning to a rolling 18-month forecasting cycle on a quarterly basis and eliminating the annual budgeting process.

“Predictive forecasting is reviewed by selected members from the Pabst Brewing Company’s executive leadership team and then extended to the sales team via IBM’s web-based planning platform to gain valuable market insights,” Sweeney says.

Using IBM’s platform over the last several years has allowed the beer company to reduce cycle time for the accounting process to just five business days. Sweeney says the time savings provided to the company’s core business has enabled teams to spend more time and focus on innovation pipeline forecasting and other critical growth drivers for the business.

The new process also “allows mid-course corrections and better decision-making,” he says. “We have also integrated our monthly volume forecasts with a weekly forecast that is being used to support the near-term demand planning/inventory planning processes.”

Pabst is also focused on implementing IBM’s platform in order to track retail account customer profitability for major retail chains.

“Keep in mind that the beer business is regulated under a three-tier system where suppliers like Pabst Brewing Company sell to distributors, and the distributors are responsible for selling to and servicing approximately 600,000 retail accounts in the US,” Sweeney says.

“Through the IBM technology platform, we are now able to develop retail account P&Ls, gaining valuable insights into our chain business,” he says.

Pabst plans to fully implement IBM analytics technology into retail account P&Ls in 2016, allowing the company to fully utilise chain account team compensation programs.

Sweeney admits that change management has provided a significant challenge to implementing new technology at the company.

“Most employees are good with the status quo as opposed to always asking how can we do things better, smarter, more efficiently, and delivering more value-added results,” he says. “Strong executive leadership is paramount to ensure scope, schedule, and costs are adhered to.”

Among the biggest consideration is ensuring that the right employees are freed up from their day jobs to help implement new technology, and are properly trained to deal with the results provided by the new tech.

While implementing IBM’s analytics platform is helping Pabst better understand the sales channel and its customers, Sweeney says social media is still the most effective tool used by the company to market its products.

NOW WATCH: This woman got a prime seat at a Trump rally, and spent the whole time reading a book about racism

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.