Chapter 10: A Recent Idea

I proposed the following on our company Yammer account:

HERE’S SOMETHING TO YAMMER ABOUT: What is the ABSOLUTE coolest thing everyone has done in Supply?

Mine was yesterday inside a Chip Tank in Brewing. I was 20 feet inside a dark hollow metal drum oozing with spent yeast and beechwood. I was spraying down the 5000 gallon vessel with my trainer when I accidentally dropped the pressurized hose. It started whipping around the deathly-slippery tank. With my life literally in my feet, my head swiveled 360 degrees on its axis until it located the offending hose. I quickly lunged my rubber boot forward…all the while convinced I was about to fall straight on my back.

I stayed up. Anyone else want to Yammer?

I’ll let you know of the response.

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Chapter Nine: The Can Line

Watch the endless swirl of aluminum make its way through the packaging floor.  Listen as the cans pass through an endless array of mechanized genius.  Marvel at the speed and precision of a seamer closing cans at a rate of 1600/minute.  Puzzle at the way a machine can be converted to handle so many shapes, sizes, and beer.

Embrace the smooth sound of a line in steady state… otherwise… prepare to be tested.

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Chapter 8: Bottles. Cans. Beer. Life.

There comes a time in every young packager’s life when he must admit to himself and others that he has ultimately given himself over to the line.  He must admit that the subject of his dreams now revolve around the packaging floor.  He must realize that his conversations now focus solely on the making, the bottling, and the essence of beer.  He must acknowledge that brilliant ideas no longer take the shape of random thoughts but instead center on ideas to save more beer.  He must admit to himself and others that he is beer and beer is he.

This is that admission.

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Chapter 7: Moving On…

Tastings, presentations, reports, formal feedback, informal feedback, safety training, sales training, communication training, blog training, taste training, food pairings, brewery tours, can plant tours, business simulations, personality assessments, innovation workshops, mentor meetings, mentor lunches, Busch stadium concessions, free beer pick-up, happy hours, White belt certification, product knowledge classes, Stella pouring competitions, Clydesdales, Dalmatians… and that’s just a short list of all the amazing things I have seen and done in Saint Louis!

Yet all great things must come to an end… if only temporarily.  Soon you will be hearing about my time in Supply Training!  My first rotation is going to be in the breezy New England state of New Hampshire.  I will be working in the Merrimack Brewery on the packaging lines… that’s where we put the beer in the can, the can in the case, the case in the truck and (in a few more steps) the beer in your fridge!

I will be spending 9 weeks learning as much as I can, working on the packaging floor and understanding the deceptively complex world of packaging… there’s more to it than meets the eye! If you don’t believe me stay tuned…or get a sneak peek if you’re ever in the area!

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Chapter Six: Beer Anyone?

Ever heard a funny one liner? I’m sure.  Ever heard it twice?  I bet.  Ever heard it everyday from countless people and had to feign a face of amusement?  Well I have!  And if you haven’t… and want to… go ahead and accept a job with a beer company.  Because when you do and decide to talk to someone about your new position (no matter how intelligently you describe it) you will always get the same response…

“So whattaya really gonna do…be a taster?”

I must have heard that same line a thousand times before I started my position at ABI.  Each time I would laugh, smile, and pretend to be shocked at the originality of such a well devised one-liner.  What I didn’t know was that while I was assuring today’s jokester I’d be doing little beer drinking and much more working, I should have been responding:

“Actually, yes! I am going to be a taster! And I’m going to love it!”

Here at ABI we have more than a few courses titled “Product Knowledge” and I guess the good folks in the People Department found no better way to teach than to taste!  During week four we got in-depth exposure to the beers of the world!  We tried our domestic products, our imports, our limited runs, our big brands, our small brands, our competitor’s products and anything else we could wrap our palates around.  We ate and tasted and ate and tasted!  We learned about the many nuances of the beer…aroma, taste, feel, body, and so may other previously hidden dimensions of beer.

We tasted, profiled, examined, and enjoyed every aspect of our product… both on and off the clock!

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Chapter Five: I am…

Blue! No, not sad.  Instead think… analytical, detail-oriented, and precise.  I’m also yellow and red with very little green.  No, I haven’t lost my mind… nor is this some secret code.  I’m talking about my personality profile which ABI provided for all the Global Management Trainees (after having us take a standardized assessment).  I’m sure everyone has taken some sort of a personality test before but I doubt most have read a 26 page dossier detailing every aspect of their personality.  Well I have and let me tell you, it’s more than a little bizarre reading a computer generated report that appears to be written by your mother, your brother, your sister, your friend, and everyone else who may know a thing or two about you! 

It takes a little thinking and a bit of introspection to truly appreciate such a report and more importantly its intended use.  You see, the report had a few uses.

  1. 1.      Help the trainees better understand themselves
  2. 2.      Help the trainees better understand each other

And finally the reports will be given to our future managers so

  1. 3.      Managers can better understand their trainees

It’s the last bullet which I find most incredible, most impressive and most telling of the opportunity I have before me.  ABI has not only armed me with the tools to understand myself and others, but furthermore has armed my future managers with tools meant to better our communication, our relationship, and ultimately my experience within the company.

 I am…amazed.

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Chapter Four: Global Perspectives

As the dust settled from the windy city another whirlwind of activity quietly brewed on the horizon… we were finally ready to put the GLOBAL in Global Management Trainee! 

While I had already enjoyed a week of new experiences with my 14 American counterparts it was time to meet our global comrades…and the experience would prove anything but ordinary!  We had trainees from China, Canada, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and places and faces from everywhere in between!  The excitement was palpable, everyone was eager to find out about new cultures, new styles of work, and uncover our differences, similarities, loves, passions, interests, and everything else under the sun!

Early in the week we split off into groups designed with diversity at heart… my group alone had Belgians, Brazilians, Canadians, Chinese, and Americans.  We all spoke a common language, worked for the same company but each of us was unique, exciting, and different in our own ways!  We embraced the diversity early and navigated the many intricacies of our personal experiences and home markets… I learned early in the week that the internet in China was vastly different from the internet we Americans know.  The Brazilians taught me about their markets and the unlikely segmentations and positioning of key brands relative to my own American understanding. The Belgians gave me a domestic perspective on what I had once known as imports.  The possibilities for learning were endless and each of us rose to the challenge.  We absorbed as much as we could in our short time together and emerged with the foundation for a truly global perspective… there is still much work to be done… but then again, that’s what Facebook is for!

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