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Creating internal solutions at a global level: Grupo Bimbo adopts AI to empower its workforce

When Gabriela López, Global Internal Control & Risk Management Vice President of Grupo Bimbo, faced the task of consolidating the nearly 200 internal policies of a giant of the food industry such as Grupo Bimbo in order to bring closer and elevate the company’s culture, she found that it was not enough to develop a communication tool but that it should have the ability to interact with its 145,000 collaborators —as they call their employees. 

“First we developed a chatbot, but if you don’t feed it with the right and necessary information, it won’t answer back when you ask it something it doesn’t know, and people become demotivated. That was the big challenge,” explains López.  

Grupo Bimbo, founded in Mexico in 1945 and now a prominent global player in its industry, with presence in Latin America, the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Africa, is no stranger to innovation. While Bimbo has solidified its position as a major producer of bread and related products, its distinct hallmark lies in its relentless pursuit of adoption of technologies, both externally and internally, to fuel its ongoing progress. 

This time, the company sought to apply that same strategy behind closed doors. The objective of López and her team was to gather the group’s compliance policies in one place and make it easy for collaborators to consult them quickly and easily through a search engine that will also allow them to interact, ask questions, and access information in a personalized experience and in the different languages spoken within the company.  

To accomplish this goal, just as it had previously done to innovate its operations, Grupo Bimbo opted to harness the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI).  

Through Microsoft’s Azure AI technologies such as Azure Open AI Service, Form Recognizer and Cognitive Search, Grupo Bimbo’s Business Technology team developed in two weeks a solution that has an integrated copilot where the user can make queries about company policies. The Grupo Bimbo copilot for internal control and risk management employs advanced AI technology to seamlessly convey information in a synthesized format, complemented by readily accessible reference links that pinpoint the exact sources of the global policy, thereby reinforcing the response with easily verifiable consultation resources. 

“This solution allows you to remove barriers, enabling people to easily enter and consult the policies in a simple way, in the language they need,” says Raúl Blanco, AI & Advanced Analytics Lead of Grupo Bimbo, who led the team in charge of the development of the Copilot Products, as these solutions are known inside the company.  

Diego Bustos, Chief Data Officer of Grupo Bimbo, uses the Copilot Product developed for Grupo Bimbo’s Global Communication team. Photo courtesy of Grupo Bimbo.

The Copilot Product can respond in all languages where Bimbo has collaborators and operations, from Brazil to Canada, Romania, Mexico, and other countries where it has a presence, no matter what language the query is originally made in.  

“The search process is simple and the answers are immediate, it saves a lot of time in search and translation issues,” says López who, remembering the chatbot they had before and comparing it with this new solution, highlights that the chatbot “was very stiff and inflexible, it was not solan agile, you have to ask many questions to get to the answer and now, with AI, with one single question you get the answer immediately.” 

The main benefit of this solution, according to López, is that it promotes compliance within Grupo Bimbo’s policies, which apply to all Bimbo collaborators in the 34 countries where they have a presence. Previously, the complexity of finding a policy, such as when they are expanding their presence to new markets, could be a reason for non-compliance. Now, these new collaborators can access and learn the company’s culture more directly, and when it comes to traveling they can consult guidelines about purchasing flights, fares, accommodations, meals, and more. “We were at risk of the policies becoming dead letters. You have a huge library, and it turns out that nobody consults them because the search is very complex. Now there will be a lot of alignment,” says López. 

Grupo Bimbo decided to replicate the technology to build the first Copilot Product and empower all individuals and other departments equally, such as the Communications team. The Copilot Product for communications, also driven by Microsoft AI, has different tools that support the team in generating emails, crafting content for social media, proposing images for marketing projects, text translation, among others. Because the tool is a copilot, the user is in control. “We are looking for a better user experience,” says Diego Bustos, Chief Data Officer of Grupo Bimbo. The goal, Bustos explains, is to facilitate the work of collaborators.”  

José Antonio Parra, Vice President Global Digital Transformation and Data & Analytics of Grupo Bimbo. Photo courtesy of Grupo Bimbo.

The result of this solution has been enhancing the team’s efficiency and strategic investment of their time, says María Elena Ramírez, Global Communications Intelligence Manager & Governance at Grupo Bimbo, which has led to the ability to generate innovative ideas and projects. “It’s a very intuitive tool, it’s not difficult for the user to understand,” she says.  

Grupo Bimbo’s in-house technology team also applied solutions to make more efficient their sales team by integrating AI into its Power BI dashboards and enriching forecast visualizations. To achieve this, they trained the AI model to analyze sales trends and projections. Thanks to AI-generated forecasts, the company can design plans to boost sales and get ahead with scenarios that can improve its performance. 

Innovation to Drive Digital Transformation  

Grupo Bimbo took two approaches when creating these solutions, taking advantage of the benefits offered by Machine Learning (ML) and Generative AI. 

The first is to learn and amaze about the possibilities, while the second is to transform the way we work to do much more and easier. For us who are in several countries, constantly growing and whose business involves thousands of people and millions of customers, we could not pass up the time to adopt AI to maintain our leadership in the baking industry – José Antonio Parra, Vice President of Global Digital Transformation and Data & Analytics at Grupo Bimbo.  

Thanks to this vision, they decided to use Microsoft’s AI technology, as most of their business environment relies on Microsoft solutions expanding their capabilities through AI made perfect sense for Grupo Bimbo. “We have a very good relationship with Microsoft, it is a leader in its industry and the solutions they offer are also the ones that best connect with our business environment,” says Parra. 

The partnership of Microsoft with Grupo Bimbo is a great example of how an innovation mindset and the new AI capabilities can accelerate the transformation of such a large company that is already a leader in their Industry. – Rodrigo Kede, President for Americas Enterprise at Microsoft

An important aspect when starting to build these Copilot Products was data. Data quality is essential to its functioning. According to Bustos, “the data is like the flour, the production line is where we do the whole computation process, you cannot have failures in the production line, and the raw material (the data) has to be of the highest quality.” 

Along with quality, data security was essential for Grupo Bimbo in these implementations. The Grupo Bimbo copilots use internal company information, so they must make sure to keep it protected. Thanks to the responsible AI capabilities integrated in Azure, Grupo Bimbo maintains the privacy, transparency, and trust in its data. 

The next step, after development, presenting the solutions and testing, is implementation. Grupo Bimbo has launched these applications globally, rolling them out in the markets where it has a presence, such as Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Romania, among others, so that all its collaborators can know about them and start using them and experimenting.   

An AI-driven Shift in Work Culture 

 According to Parra, all roles will be transformed by this technology. As he mentioned, AI is going to enrich people, it is going to empower them. And that is what Grupo Bimbo seeks with the implementation of these AI solutions: empowered people, regardless of role and organization. 

From left to right: Diego Bustos, Chief Data Officer of Grupo Bimbo; Raúl Blanco, AI & Advanced Analytics Lead at Grupo Bimbo; and José Antonio Parra, Vice President Global Digital Transformation and Data & Analytics of Grupo Bimbo. Photo courtesy of Grupo Bimbo.

In the case of the Control and Risk organization, López is sure that the AI-driven solution will become a habit for people to clarify on internal policies. For Ramírez, in Communications, as a global team it will allow them to “standardize the quality of deliverables, we will be able to be more efficient in costs and we will be able to dedicate more time to the analytical part and make better decisions.” 

For Bustos, AI will put them in a privileged position, because they will be able to know their consumers and their customers faster, in addition to being able to give faster responses to the market. According to his vision, they will have more agility and greater predictability, to anticipate and customize solutions, in addition to simplify repetitive tasks and being easy to interact with.  

AI has to enhance the capabilities of a human being, it doesn’t have to replace it. –  Diego Bustos, Chief Data Officer at Grupo Bimbo.

At Grupo Bimbo, they are convinced this is the beginning of a journey that seeks to continue taking advantage of cutting-edge services from Microsoft to develop solutions such as the Copilot Products and the integration of AI into Power BI dashboards, to empower their collaborators and innovate.