Coca-Cola gets inspiration for IT automation from its bottling plants

Coca-Cola, the multi billion pound drinks company, today revealed that its automated bottling plants are inspiring its IT operations, particularly in the area of data collection.

Michael Connor, the multinational corporation's senior platform architect and the man behind the claim, said Coca-Cola is collecting unprecedented levels data as a result of automation processes that have been enabled through Splunk’s data management and analytics platform, in conjunction with the Amazon Web Services cloud platform.

"You've probably seen the millions of coke bottles spinning through roller coasters and it’s this beautiful symphony of automation," said Connor. “We’ve achieved a level of automation that I think our bottlers would be proud of."

The architect said that Coca-Cola – whose drinks are served 1.9 billion a day – is now trying to use data to inform every decision it makes because "without data you're just a person with an opinion".

For example, Coca-Cola is using data to determine how customer’s tastes are changing and which of its brands are most valuable at any given time.

Speaking at splunk.conf 2014 in Las Vegas today, Connor said: “When we moved to AWS at the end of 2013, we set out to automate every single thing we did. We’ve done that and as a result we’ve got an 80 percent reduction in IT tickets and we have achieved a 40 percent operational savings.

“In the space of a year, we handed a cheque back to the business. That never happens in IT.”

Prior to the implementation of Splunk and AWS, the IT manager admitted that Coca-Cola struggled to utilise a lot of the data it collected.

“We had a lot of little data islands around our company that were managed by what I affectionally call 'data cartels',” he said. “These are the guys who manage data so tightly and won’t share it with anybody.”

He said that 90 percent of time and money on one particular Coca-Cola project went towards getting data from these so-called cartels.

Following Coca-Cola’s adoption of AWS and Splunk, data from a variety of sources now automatically flows into what Connor calls a "data lake".

“All of a sudden we started getting this powerful data on loyalty programmes, vending, social media, fraud and security and promotions,” he told the 3,500 delegates at the fifth worldwide Splunk user conference today. All of the data feeds directly into Splunk's big data platform.

Coca-Cola is using the data it’s collecting to create dashboards and visualisations that in turn can be used to get insights that were previously impossible.

“We’re getting to know our customers in ways that we never could before," said Connor, before going on to reveal that Coca-Cola has been able to observe a big increase in vending machine purchases on college campuses shortly before hit TV series The Walking Dead begins.

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