“The fact that beer exists is proof that God loves us!” says Dr. Sheps to a bemused audience of representatives from ISO national member bodies visiting Baltika Breweries during the ISO General Assembly in St. Petersburg. With a market share of more than 38 %, Baltika is the leading beer brand in Russia, and is part of the Carlsberg group, one of the largest brewers in the world.
But why are we here? There is more to standards and beer than needing one to read the other. President Sheps knows it well. A staunch believer in the product he sells, he lives and breathes quality and fully understands the benefits that International Standards bring to this renowned brewery. So much so that, although a busy man at the head of a large company, Dr. Sheps volunteers his time to participate as an expert in ISO/TC 176, the ISO technical committee responsible for ISO 9001 on quality management systems. It’s not surprising that Baltika has received numerous quality awards.
From Dr. Sheps we learn some interesting facts: Did you know that China is the largest beer market in the world? Or that the pH scale was invented in Carlsberg laboratories? Or that Carlsberg has over 500 different brands? And that Baltika capacities are enough to produce 500 million litres of beer every month? But the highlight is that the use of standards – calculated using a methodology developed by ISO – resulted in savings amounting to 3.4 % of the company’s annual revenue.
He explains that this is due to the fact that standards helped establish efficient high-quality manufacturing and product branding as well as an extensive distribution network. Standards have also been key to helping Baltika Breweries meet the needs and expectations of its customers.
To bring down the message, Dr. Sheps makes a powerful analogy by reminding us of the story of the Tower of Babel. “If we all speak the same language, there are no limits to what we can achieve. Standards are that common language.”
How did standards help?
By applying widely used standards of the European Brewery Convention, Baltika was able to purchase raw materials on the international market for a lower price. This had not been possible before when Baltika relied exclusively on national Russian standards (GOST) for procurement. Moreover, by requesting that their suppliers implement a robust quality management system, Baltika was able to secure supplies of consistently high quality, which made it possible to reduce the frequency of laboratory testing and transfer some of the laboratory staff to other operations.
Baltika’s management system, based on ISO 9001, was instrumental in streamlining processes, integrating acquired companies and optimizing cooperation between factories, resulting in a significant increase in labour productivity. Standards were also used in the refitting of railway wagons needed to deliver products, which is a precondition for operating a nationwide system of sales outlets. Finally, by turning to ISO 10002 for customer complaints handling, Baltika was able to improve its operations by encouraging customers to identify the company’s weaknesses, offer suggestions and express their preferences.