Quality Improvement Activities

Our Basic Philosophy

At the Asahi Group, we have formulated a response flow in the event that there is a problem with our products. When a problem occurs, we respond rapidly and appropriately, and strive to determine the cause for the occurrence of the problem. By sharing the results with the entire company, we are making a link to preventive measures and quality improvement.

Furthermore, we have stipulated our response measures in the event of an occurrence of a major accident. Similarly, we are linking them to prevention of recurrence and quality improvement.

Examples of improving our products and services with the voices of customers of Group companies:

Response to Product Complaints and Accidents

We formulated the Asahi Group Response Manual for Serious Quality Issues to structure our response to serious accidents related to our products. Under the guidelines, incidents are promptly reported through a designated emergency channel to the president and a task force is established to handle the situation.
In responding to accidents, we place top priority on safeguarding the lives (health) of our customers and make a company-wide effort to minimize any damage through the following basic approach.

  1. We endeavor to ascertain the facts and circumstances, promptly disclose necessary information to prevent increases in damage and concern.
  2. We take the initiative in taking every appropriate action for our customers and society, including disclosure to the mass media, corporate announcements (information calling for attention), recalls, and so forth.
  3. We promptly report to the supervising authorities and quickly respond to any requirements.

In the event of a voluntary recall, the background of the situation and the shape of our response are discussed and shared. Subsequently, initiatives are taken for the prevention of recurrence within the Group and the strengthening of the Quality Assurance System.

Efforts to Ensure Quality and Product Safety at Each Stage of the Supply Chain

At the Asahi Group, we are engaged in quality assurance activities through the entire supply chain including product design and development, ingredient procurement, production, logistics, distribution and sales.

We will continue to aim to produce products that satisfy our customers and give them peace of mind.

Initiatives implemented by Group companies:
Major efforts at the product development stage (Asahi Breweries, Ltd.)
Topic Content
Incorporating customer feedback into product development Our development department confirms and analyzes each individual piece of feedback collected by sales staff from customers and each opinion and request received at the Customer Relations Office. These are then incorporated into product development. Furthermore, by sharing customer feedback collected by our nationwide sales staff over our intranet, we are creating an environment in which it is easier to incorporate customer opinions.
100 quality inspection items Quality inspections are conducted regarding 100 items in 12 categories to confirm whether each product can maintain sufficient quality until its best before date, and each product is subsequently evaluated and assured. Inspections are performed based on a checklist set for each product category.
Compliance tests based on the Food Sanitation Law and internal standards At every stage of new product development, from raw materials to the final product, we review compliance with quality standards as stipulated by the Food Sanitation Law as well as our stricter internal standards.
Selecting containers in accordance with the ways in which customers may use the product In selecting containers, we consider the various situations in which customers may use the product, and conduct investigations from a diverse range of viewpoints including ease in opening, drinking, holding and carrying.
Thoroughly confirming the appropriateness of container labeling At Asahi Breweries, Ltd., internal review entities such as the New Product Development Process Verification Meeting and the Public Expression Review Examination Board confirm the appropriateness of expressions concerning raw materials, best before dates, nutritional content, allergens, and production sites of raw materials.
Securing safety and quality during the manufacturing process and transportation We hold Initial Production Control Confirmation Meetings and Mass Production Confirmation Meetings to confirm a product's readiness for mass production as well as quality inspection methods for each process, from the receipt of raw materials and supplies to shipment. In addition, to confirm that quality is maintained in containers during transportation of new materials, we conduct tests using transport simulation equipment at our research laboratories as well as tests under actual conditions in which products are loaded onto trucks and checked for ink staining and durability.
Major efforts at the raw material procurement stage (Asahi Breweries, Ltd.)
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Securing raw material stability To stably procure raw materials, suppliers are selected taking factors such as quality, cost and supply capability into account, and supply is then secured by concluding contracts with the selected suppliers. From 1997, long-term contracts with imported malt suppliers were introduced to stably secure raw materials. Furthermore, because Asahi Breweries, Ltd. imports many raw materials, to avoid the risk of not being able to secure raw materials due to lack of crops caused by natural disasters or climate change, it is aiming for the local dispersion of farm produce.
Signing quality contracts with suppliers We review information such as lists of agricultural chemicals used, agricultural chemicals application records and analytic data received from suppliers, and only sign quality contracts with suppliers who can guarantee safety and reliability.
Quality audits of suppliers We conduct quality audits of suppliers for the consistent quality of materials. The Procurement Department regularly visits suppliers' material plants to check their quality control systems and sanitary conditions, from receiving materials to production and shipment. By means of these audits, we aim to share perceptions and initiatives related to quality with suppliers and thereby improve quality. If we discover any problems in the quality provided by a supplier, we offer instructions for improvement. If necessary, we will cancel orders from suppliers who fail to demonstrate improvement.
QA (Quality Assurance) Meeting We regularly hold QA Meetings with each of our large-volume suppliers to maintain and enhance quality.
Actions related to residual agricultural chemicals With respect to malt and hop, the main raw materials for beer, Asahi Breweries compares standards for residual agricultural chemicals under Japan's Positive List system with those of countries in which the suppliers are located (EU, Canada, US and Australia). The company also seeks information on the usage of agricultural chemicals from suppliers that operate under higher regulatory standards than Japan. If a supplier is using any of these chemicals, we request analytic data to confirm compliance within residual standards set by Japan's Positive List system.
Response regarding genetically modified food products The use and labeling of genetically modified food products differ according to the laws of each country. With respect to genetically modified agricultural products and processed foods made from these, Asahi Breweries, Ltd. complies with the relevant regulations in each country of operation.
Confirmation of the quality of procured raw materials To maintain the quality of procured raw materials, we have established standards for raw materials, raw material inspections and raw material risk management. We have also defined items, methods, frequency and standard values for analytic testing to check the quality and safety of raw materials every day upon receipt and prior to use. Before introducing any new materials, we obtain samples to confirm their safety.
Integrated management of raw material information with a system In June 2006, Asahi Breweries, Ltd. and The Nikka Whiskey Distilling Co., Ltd launched the AAA System, which guarantees integrated management of information on raw materials and products, as part of traceability enhancement. Under this system, the procurement department registers information on raw materials such as quality, nutritional components, ingredients and additives. Registered information is confirmed and approved by the Quality Control Center responsible for this system, allowing the goods to be used as raw materials for our products.
The launch of this system has made it possible to rapidly search the raw materials used in each product. It has also made it possible to search for only raw materials registered in this system for new product development to make product traceability more reliable.
Safety management of water With respect to water, the key ingredient for products such as beer, soft drinks, whisky and wine, we conduct inspections to ascertain safety and applicability to beer brewing based on the 26 inspection items of the potable water quality standards under the Food Sanitation Law and the 51 inspection items of the Ordinance on Potable Water Quality Standard as stipulated by the Water Supply Law. In addition, we also conduct additional voluntary inspections based on our own criteria, including residual chlorine concentrations, analysis of components that affect brewing and pesticide analyses etc. as necessary to accurately inspect their safety and suitability for beer brewing.
At some breweries, groundwater is used for processes such as the cleaning of beer production lines and pipes. Groundwater is managed with continuous automatic measurement of hydrogen ion concentration, turbidity and residual chlorine, and regular testing by sight, smell and taste by a water quality staff. Water tanks are also equipped to detect abnormalities in water taken from underground by keeping freshwater fish in them. In addition to daily management, we will continue to perform conformity with the Food Sanitation Act for the standards of drinking water and tap water by means of regular internal testing and testing by external analysis agencies to confirm that there are no abnormalities.
At Asahi Breweries, Ltd., we are striving to further strengthen our water testing system and to enhance our quality assurance system for water that is used.
Major efforts at the production stage (Asahi Breweries, Ltd.)
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Taikoban Guarantee The Taikoban Guarantee System, a unique quality assurance system, was introduced in 1991. Since then, it has guaranteed that products delivered to customers have been manufactured through prescribed processes and that designated standards have been achieved. If any abnormality is discovered, the system is designed to prevent a product from proceeding to the next step until the cause has been identified and quality can be ensured.
The person responsible for each process in our brewing, packaging, engineering, and quality control departments checks the quality and operational status of equipment for each lot and issues quality warrantees using TECOS21, a plant network system. Finally, the person responsible for quality assurance checks all warrantees and applies a Taikoban seal that confirms quality prior to shipment.
Creating a system aimed at preventing accidents Asahi Breweries, Ltd. has systemized its stance of eliminating quality risk factors with the following procedure, and this is being implemented at each production site.
Activities are also performed including regular self-diagnosis each year based on standards and question items created in accordance with this stance and summarizing areas that require improvement in a countermeasure implementation report.
Six points on quality control in the production process (Asahi Breweries, Ltd.)
Inspection method Point
Sensory inspection Inspection based on the human senses, such as taste and smell. Conducted not only at the final production stage, but at all stages, from raw materials, brewing and fermentation to maturation and storage. The results of inspections are used together with analysis data to form the basic data for the Taikoban Guarantee System to play an important role in quality assurance.
Anti-oxidation To maintain beer freshness, initiatives are implemented at all production stages to prevent oxidation. For example, the percolation and packaging processes are monitored to prevent exposure to oxygen and we have installed equipment to prevent entry of oxygen during the brewing process. We also select malt suitable for producing products that do not readily oxidize as raw materials.
Chemical analysis Analysis is conducted under stringent quality standards during each stage from brewing to the finished product.
Microbial inspection We conduct strict checks to prevent the entry of microorganisms during each production process and maintain hygienic conditions.
Hygiene management To implement the safest management of food product plants, we formulate control standards based on the Food Sanitation Law, eliminate pests, conduct voluntary inspections and undergo inspections by outside specialists.
Appearance inspection No product is delivered that has not successfully passed through a series of checks, ranging from content volume to the text printed on packaging. We pay great attention to not only the quality of the product inside, but also its appearance.
Major efforts at the distribution stage (Asahi Breweries, Ltd.)
Topic Content
Speedy shipment and delivery for “Just made quality” For customers to enjoy the great taste of fresh beer, it is important that it reaches them as quickly as possible. To do this, it is important to reduce the lead time from when products shipped from plants to when they are placed on store shelves. It is essential that appropriate delivery methods and delivery times are established between Asahi Breweries, Ltd., wholesalers and retailers. Based on this concept, Asahi Breweries sales and distribution staff regularly visit the distribution centers of wholesalers to understand the environment surrounding the delivery of products. Meetings are held with the distribution staff of wholesalers in an effort to efficiently deliver products with optimal timing.
Plant and distribution center efforts In the course of delivering our products from plants, our ratio of directly delivering to wholesalers without passing through a distribution center exceeds 90% overall. We prevent product deterioration from extended storage in warehouses by knowing the required shipment volume ahead of time and shipping immediately after production. When we use a distribution center, we select a transit distribution center that immediately sorts and delivers products upon arrival to avoid a reduction in quality from holding inventory on site.
At plants and distribution centers, we thoroughly ensure the “first-in-first-out” process for shipping products starting from those with the earliest manufacturing date and ship products after confirming product quality, storage status within warehouses and shipment deadlines, etc. During unloading, in addition to type and quantity, we also confirm that there has been no leakage or damage of containers or contact with external sources.
Transportation methods for “Just made quality” To prevent quality degradation by sunlight and vibration during loading, unloading and transport, Asahi Breweries, Ltd., is promoting the introduction of wing open trucks, which speed up packing work, and air suspension vehicles, which alleviate impact on loaded products. Approximately 90% of vehicles are already fitted with these specifications.
Efforts in cooperation with business partners Cooperation with carriers is essential to realize quality assurance during transport. Asahi Breweries, Ltd. always confirms that the drivers of partner carriers have experience in the transportation of Asahi Breweries products, and drivers delivering their first loads are required to fully understand the checkpoints in loading and handling our products before they make the delivery. In addition, in addition to requesting cooperation in further quality improvement, the distribution departments in each region share the Asahi Breweries, Ltd. Quality Policy with partner carriers to eliminate drunk driving and excess loads, prevent serious accidents and damaging accidents, and promote educational activities on safety.
Major efforts during distribution and sales (Asahi Breweries, Ltd.)
Topic Content
Major efforts during distribution and sales (Asahi Breweries, Ltd.) Product Knowledge Training for sales staff so that they can respond rapidly and appropriately When Asahi Breweries, Ltd. is notified by a customer of a product defect, our basic policy is to visit the customer and respond by thoroughly investigating the issue and appropriately reporting on it rapidly. To implement this policy, Product Knowledge Training is conducted for new recruits and sales staff.
The training simulates the causes of diverse defects that can occur in the period between shipment from the plant and final delivery to customers so that trainees can ascertain the situation and cause of each problem based on a specific defect. For example, the defects that arise in a can of beer if it is dropped can be confirmed to differ depending on the direction in which it was dropped and the force.
By receiving such training, sales staff can question customers in detail regarding the situation in which the defect occurred, and the results can be used for accurate subsequent investigations at plants and laboratories.
The manufacturing plants of products being consumed can be searched with Asahi Quality Access The Asahi Quality Access Web site provides customers information about which plant manufactured the product they are consuming. By simply entering a portion of the manufacturer's code printed on the bottom of the can or the back of a bottle, customers can review comments from the plant manager and staff responsible for production of specific product.
Development of Keg Fresh Beer dispenser Keg Fresh Beer dispenser “Happy-End Kun” was jointly developed with Kyokko Inc. This is the industry's first electronic control draft beer dispenser that prevents loss due to spurts that occur as the keg becomes empty. It also detects grime on the dispenser's beer hose and alerts the user when cleaning is recommended if cleaning has not been regularly done.
Keg Fresh Beer Quality Seminars to supply “Delicious! Keg Fresh Beer” To cultivate professionals in “Delicious! Keg Fresh Beer,” Asahi Keg Fresh Beer Quality Seminars are being implemented for restaurants at eight base schools throughout Japan.
At the seminars, a group of instructors with considerable knowledge about beer offer various lectures based on the five principles of “Delicious! Keg Fresh Beer” proposed by Asahi Breweries, Ltd. Through strict practice, participants learn the necessary knowledge and skills for “Delicious! Keg Fresh Beer” ranging from appropriate management of beer kegs to the washing of beer mugs and dispensers and how to pour beer.
Many professionals who have completed this seminar have now become professionals who provide “Delicious!” experiences to customers throughout Japan.