For months, Bowen and Bowen has been experiencing supply shortages – first it was Crystal water that you couldn’t find to buy, then Belikin beer, then, recently, even their flagship product, Coca Cola was scarce. All those shortages and supply breakdowns fuelled a storm of speculation – culminating in the recent rumour that Belize’s Biggest Bottler, a virtual monopoly was on the verge of collapse. Well, those rumors have reached the head office, and Bowen and Bowen today issued an exceptionally rare press release-slash-personal statement, which takes a very defensive tone.
It comes from CEO and President Michael Bowen, who succeeded his father Barry at the helm of the company. The statement opens by saying, quote,
“In…recent weeks there have been many rumours about Bowen & Bowen’s status. These rumours range from speculative to outrageous, and we unequivocally state that these rumours are unfounded.”
But the fact is that there has been a shortage of product and Bowen says this is due to “upgrading…computer systems and production lines.”
The first to get it was the bottling line at the Beer factory, which was shut down for two weeks to complete the installation of major key components such as a pasteurizer, and, new conveyors.
But it seems the most problematic upgrade has been a change in the company’s business management software. They’ve upgraded to an advanced system called E-R-P which Bowen says made things, quote, “get worse before they get better.” Bowen says that they implemented it on June first leading to a quote, “long, frustrating, and tiresome” week. He says the system held the company back on distribution, production, and sales – or, as we might say, everything! But they remain committed to it, and he says that things have continued to improve and promises, quote, “From here forward you will continue to see improvements.”
But that seems to be easier said than done. When we checked today there was no half liter bottles of sprite, or coke, and no small bottles of Coke and Red Fanta, and no Lighthouse or Guiness at the Belize City Distribution Center on Slaughterhouse Road.
Moreover, workers are complaining that the company has not been paying their overtime and commissions. It got so bad last week Saturday that truck drivers at the center went on a strike refusing to go on their distribution rounds until money owing to them was deposited in their accounts. After four hours they were talked out of it by a manager who promised to straighten things out by Monday. According to our reports, those overtime payments are still not sorted.
We tried multiple times to get a comment from Bowen and Bowen but at newstime they did not respond to e-mail requests for an interview. We say e-mail requests because we could not get through on the telephone lines which just rang off the hook.
Bowen and Bowen addresses customers’ concerns
Bowen and Bowen Limited is the only Belizean beer bottling company in the country. Its operation is important in many aspects of the Belizean economy, and for that reason customers are expressing concerns over recent occurrences. Most visitors who vacation in Belize consume the local Belikin beer; it is a beer that also remains the number one beer of choice for Belizeans. In the last month many establishments have been complaining about the service,or lack thereof –Belize’s Bowen and Bowen Limited.
The complaints expressed by many consumers and customers range from the untimely distribution of products ordered far ahead of time, to the lack of one or more products bottled by the company. More recently, there has been a shortage of Lighthouse Lager on Ambergris Caye and some businesses are forced to turn down patrons. These concerns not only affect consumers, but are also crippling businesses. Businesses that depend on Bowen and Bowen for stock don’t have the supplies necessary to run their business efficiently. According to those businesses, if they don’t have the product, they can’t sell it but still end up with the expenses of running their establishments; it is simply costing them money.
After hearing multiple complaints from a variety of readers, The San Pedro Sun contacted Bowen and Bowen to clarify the situation. While the company did not grant an interview, they sent out a press release on July 2nd in which they clarified a few of the concerns. “In the recent weeks there have been many rumors about Bowen and Bowen’s status. These rumors range from speculative to outrageous, and we unequivocally state that these rumors are unfounded. Undoubtedly, the root of this speculation is the perceived shortage of product. The truth is, at Bowen and Bowen we are upgrading our computer systems and production lines to better serve our customers. These upgrades have disturbed the flow of our supply chain. First, we upgraded the bottling line at Belize Brewing Company. This upgrade required us to shut down the brewery bottling line for two weeks to complete the installation.” Those improvements according to the release included a new filter to improve quality, an All Surface Electronic Bottling Inspector (ASEBI), an Electronic Full Drink Inspector, a repair and upgrade to the pasteurizer and new conveyors.
And while the company was forced to shut down for two weeks for upgrades, their new inventory and sale system has also caused delays. “Secondly, we are upgrading our software to an Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP) called SAP. When we first contemplated SAP we were told Belize was not ready for such an advanced system. We refused to accept those statements. We believe in Belize! We thought, and still believe that if companies all over the world can implement SAP, there is no reason why the hard-working, well-educated workforce in Belize couldn’t successfully implement this system; so, for the benefit of our consumers, our customers and our associates, we went forward with the application of SAP… . On June 16th, we stopped all movement and preformed a countrywide physical stock count to correct the SAP indicated inventory. From that point forward, things have continued to improve. We are still learning, and every company who has launched SAP has gone through a process similar to what we are experiencing. From here forward you will continue to see improvements.”
According to the company, they are also investing in their fleet of vehicles to speed up the delivery process in the entire country.While the company is hopeful that improvementsare coming, there were no indications by when customers and consumers should see the company operating as per normal. For the time being, Bowen and Bowen Company is asking their loyal customers to stand by them as they implement the changes. Bowen and Bowen Company Limited was established in 1969 and began bottling in 1971. Throughout the years they have undergone several changes in the company’s infrastructure.
San Pedro Sun