Diageo case study: document management for one of the world's largest businesses

Behind every pint of Guinness, shot of Smirnoff or glass of Johnnie Walker is the international quality management system of Diageo, the world's second largest distiller.

We sat down with Janice McMillan, BMS Coordinator at Diageo, to explore how she uses Qualsys's document management module to keep on top of thousands of documents in a controlled, unified fashion for one of the world's largest businesses.

janice mcmillan diageo qualsys quality management system


Qualsys: Could you start by explaining how Diageo first found Qualsys? How did you come to be using our EQMS software?

Janice: Well, I actually started my work with Diageo as part of the project group working to implement the new software system that had just been supplied by Qualsys. The leadership team at the time had been looking for a way to view all compliance-related documentation in a single area, and chose Qualsys's solution. That was thirteen years ago. My manager leading the project and who sourced Qualsys was Hamish MacSween, who eventually went to work at Qualsys himself.  I believe he still does testing for you.


Qualsys: He does - though as he's based in Scotland the rest of the team don't see him as much as we'd like to! What was the main reason for selecting a document management solution back then? What was the goal?

Janice: The main thing was to build a system in one place across the entire packaging function of Diageo, so our end users didn't have to go around a dozen different systems to get the documentation they needed. The system was a success, so it eventually expanded into the distillation and maturation areas of the business [Diageo is the world's largest whiskey producer]. Now it's global. Diageo staff in other areas like Australia and Singapore heard about the system and jumped on the bandwagon.  The module is now used in North America, Australia, Southeast Asia, Ireland and Scotland, which is my area. I believe Ireland was the first area to use the system, with the Guinness operation.

We've allocated a lot of resources here in Scotland to support Qualsys's module, because it works so well for us. I look after the distillation and maturation processes, my colleagues further north look after malt distilling, a colleague at Shieldhall [Diageo's Glasgow bottling site] looks after the beer operations. The system has been configured with a range of owners and administrators to support what we're doing. 


Over 6.5 billion litres a year - that's a lot of supporting documents to manage


Qualsys: Are you happy with how the EQMS system supports the Scottish operation?

Janice: I love it. I've been here from the start and seen our use of the system grow. EQMS is my baby. It's been absolutely set up in the right way for us. That's really down to Hamish. It doesn't matter which site you're on - all the documentation storage and navigation is exactly the same. It's very uniform. We perhaps don't have that same level of uniformity worldwide yet, but Diageo is a huge operation so it's a long process.

For the same reason, it took time for everyone to realise the value of the system but now more and more people are engaging. We have internal and external audits all the time and getting our documentation in one place has reduced our compliance burden and meant we don't have to search for documents on G drives and H drives anymore. It's made life easier for everyone.


 It doesn't matter which Diageo site you're on - all the documentation storage and navigation is exactly the same. It's very uniform. 


Qualsys: And what kind of documentation goes into distillation and maturation? What's the paper trail behind a bottle of Scotch?

Janice: We use the system for everything. Health and safety, environmental, quality, security, HMRC. My job is to administer it all and keep it controlled and consistent with the right permissions. 


diageo quality document control Diageo needed a standardised, secure repository for their documentation


Qualsys: What does your daily routine look like as a quality professional?

Janice: The bulk of my activity is dealing with requests for document changes and updates, answering queries and running reports. This morning, for instance, I've uploaded 20 documents, answered 3 change requests, ran 15 document reviews and 2 batch date resets. That's a continual process and I use the system for all of it. 


I've been here from the start and seen our use of the system grow. EQMS is my baby.


Qualsys: So before you started using EQMS in 2005, what was the main challenge you faced doing all of that? 

Janice: The biggest challenge was getting my colleagues to pass the correct information onto me in a consistent format. We use the module to store standardised change request and upload forms for my colleagues to complete, so we follow the same process every time. Once the documents are ready, they then go into the system too. It's become a natural location for us.

We then run monthly reports to capture how many document reviews and approvals might be overdue and who's responsible for them, which is how we measure the impact of quality and track how well the system is supporting us. The reports are all instantly generated by the system, which is another great help. Then they're passed onto the leadership and governance team for review.


Qualsys: Why does quality matter to Diageo? What's the bigger picture?

Janice: It means everybody's compliant and following the correct procedures, so we're providing the best quality products to our customers. We want every Diageo staff member to do a great job for us and get home safely every day. It underpins everything we do. 


Image result for guinness factory

 The Guinness branch began using Qualsys's solution first, before Diageo expanded the system worldwide


Qualsys: Do you use any of our other modules?

Janice: The document management module's the main one for me, obviously. I also use the change management module to drive the workflows. My colleague Sharon Parsons, our IT Asset Manager, and our ISC auditors use the audit management module to manage the quality of our products.


The biggest problem before we began using the system was getting colleagues to pass the correct information on in a consistent format.

We use the system to store standardised forms, then when the documents are ready they go into the system too. It's become a natural location for us. 

The reports are all instantly generated by the system, which is another great help.


Qualsys: What would you say are your three favourite features of the system?

Janice: I like the simplicity of it for the end user. It can sometimes get complex behind the scenes for me because the workload is so high, but the simplicity for the end users is fantastic. It's so user-friendly. 

I like the fact there's an owner for every document. It encourages responsibility and ensures nothing falls through the cracks. 

And although this isn't a module feature per se, I love the support we get from Qualsys. Rob [Needham, Technical Director] and Simon [Wells, Support Desk Manager] have helped us a lot. You're very 'hands on'. You don't always get that with systems like this. Some companies leave you to get on with it. I know I can get on the phone anytime and get something resolved or cleared up quickly. 


diageo growth quality whisky

 Diageo reported a 6% growth in half-year pre-tax profits in January 2018 and plans to invest £150m in new Scotch whiskey visitor attractions, like this planned Johnnie Walker Edinburgh site


Qualsys: And what do you most enjoy about your role as a quality professional?

Janice: As an individual I try to get everything in my life under control, in the correct box and the correct area. That's how I am as a person. The system's allowed me to bring that approach into my work life. When I go to work, I have a start, middle and end to each process, from receiving a document to uploading it into the module. I like the uniformity of it. 


The simplicity for the end users is fantastic. It's so user-friendly. I love the support we get from Qualsys. 


Qualsys: What does the next year have in store for you? What's on the cards? 

Janice: I've heard about the Version 7 upgrade that you're rolling out this year. I'm excited about that. It's great to see you're always working to improve the software. Everything's an improvement and it'll be the same for me at this end. In the next year I want to improve everything I'm doing and get our quality processes even tighter and more efficient.


What to do next

Read what else Diageo achieved with our software - including topping the CQI's 2017 Good Governance Report - on the Diageo case study page.

Diageo have been using our solution for 13 years. Read their top 10 implementation tips here.

Looking to explore our document management module? Discover more here.

Or schedule a 15-minute discovery call with us at your convenience.

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Topics: Case Studies, Multi-site enterprises, Success Stories

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