Deoleo doubles down on sustainability through digital transformation

Olive oil is an integral ingredient in kitchens around the world thanks to its unique flavor and beneficial health properties. According to data from the International Olive Council (IOC) during a 2021-2022 campaign, global consumption stood at 3.2 million tons, 2.9% more than the previous period.

And one company that’s certainly contributed to this is Deoleo, based in Córdoba, Sapin, with its well-known brands such as Bertolli, Carapelli, Carbonell, Koipe and Fígaro. Founded in 1955 and present in more than 70 countries, Deoleo’s philosophy stems from a heritage of quality and tradition, and to value innovation and sustainability as growth vectors, with the aim of protecting its farmers, suppliers and the land. So the company’s vision is to lead olive oil production toward a more sustainable future.

To achieve these objectives, Deoleo has had to commit to a digital transformation process that allows it to achieve operational efficiency and contribute to its sustainability strategy. “We look for the right technology partners, establish priorities and approach the transformation with a goal to improve processes and promote automation,” says Maricruz Díaz, the company’s CIO. And if she had to establish the specific point at which the company is within the process of digital transformation, she says they’re somewhere in the middle. “We’ve come a certain way, but there is still a long way to go,” she adds. “But our modus operandi is very clear: we identify the company’s needs and identify the most disruptive technologies in the market.”

With so many facets, however, finding the most appropriate tool or technology can be a great challenge considering the many variables to consider, mainly the way in which the technology fits with what already exists internally. “When we implement a new tool or technology, this entails a review of everything related to process change and the way the people who are involved work,” she says.

Currently, the ERP, or, as Díaz calls it, “the core,” that supports everything is SAP. On it, key pillars are supported: production, sales, accounting, purchases, among others. Then there are other tools that communicate with SAP.

In search of efficiency with Siemens

In the pursuit of greater sustainability and efficiency, Deoleo has embarked on different digital transformation projects. The most recent is that of Siemens Digital Industries Software, the Siemens business unit specializing in software that helped Deoleo attain operational efficiency and, at the same time, contribute to its sustainability strategy to achieve its goal of zero emission status by 2030. At a more technical level, what’s been carried out with Siemens is the implementation of its Opcenter RD&L software, which has served as a platform to streamline, optimize and align all product designs and processes with the highest quality standards. “We’ve realized that aligning all R&D processes and data speeds the transfer of final product designs to general manufacturing,” Díaz says. “We’re in a transformation process that is being cemented and executed from different angles.” 

This implementation has taken place at the Córdoba bottling plant, the company’s headquarters, and in the area of ​​quality, for example, the company has carried out important modifications, such as the LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) project. “This is an improvement in the management of the entire process, from the moment the oil enters the tanks at our facilities, through the classification phase, placing it in the corresponding tanks and, finally, directing it to the bottling lines,” she says.

In this project, the results have been clear: use of digitization improves sustainability by consuming less paper, ink and energy, a faster time to market with integrated processes and communications, and the elimination of manual input. It also reduces waste due to human errors, expedites quality assurance processes, and promotes better visibility through data capture and analysis.

IBM and improving traceability

Deoleo has also worked with IBM on a product traceability project, through its Food Trust platform with blockchain technology. “With them, we’ve introduced the QR so consumers can learn about the entire process, from manufacturing to marketing,” she says. This has been achieved through developing an application through the Maestros de Hojiblanca brand that allows consumers to know all the information related to the traceability process. “Our idea, in the long term, is we can offer this added value to our consumers in all products and markets where we’re present,” Díaz adds.

In addition, Deoleo has launched the Manufacturing Printer System project, which focuses on the digitization of production lines. With this, it’s possible to automate the process in the bottle, box and pallet. This system is applied to the main Deoleo brands and, according to Díaz, the main benefit is it has a single marking and labeling system, in a way that it’s the system itself that monitors the process from the moment it starts to the end. “This has allowed us to reduce the software to be licensed, as well as drastically reduce manual errors,” she says. “Now we can say our products have undergone a significant improvement from the point of view of quality assurance, and we also see a reduction in labeling and marking errors. This has a direct impact on the reduction of claims by consumers.”

All these projects affect every department, whether it’s industrial, purchasing, quality, logistics, or marketing. So the role of the CIO is crucial. “In the end, we’re a transversal department that has to respond to the entire company,” says Díaz. “The main challenge is to establish priorities. We sit down with all the areas of the company and see which projects to tackle, and what the necessary investments are.” So the CIO, according to Díaz, requires knowledge, an external radar, and the need to combine it with the business needs and associated costs of all projects. “It also requires influence and leadership work because we’re working with processes, people and tools,” she adds.

In the case of IBM, Deoleo has launched the pilot with Maestros de Hojiblanca and Díaz is confident consumers will appreciate efforts made to protect and verify the traceability of product across the entire value chain without any possibility of errors.

Assessing future horizons

Díaz says Deoleo faces the future with great enthusiasm, always assessing new technologies on the market. “Deoleo will always be attentive to new technologies and be at the forefront,” she says. “We know what we have. We know what the market is doing, and we want to constantly improve. Most importantly, we want our professionals to be as efficient as possible through the use of tools that add value to them and the company.”

So Deoleo will continue to bet on technologies that improve the quality of their oils, as well as improve the efficiency of the processes that contribute to the fight against climate change.

CIO, Digital Transformation, IT Leadership, Supply Chain