Barry Callebaut

How Barry Callebaut is Digitalizing and Scaling an Operator-Centric Culture

Foster a Safety Culture Digital Work Instructions & Troubleshoots

Headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, Barry Callebaut is a world leader in high-quality chocolate and cocoa products. The organization has over 175 years of chocolate heritage and employs over 12,500 people across their 64 worldwide manufacturing plants.

Open Communication and Problem-Solving

Gemba walks and team boards are central to Barry Callebaut’s daily operations. They enable the management team and functional experts to attend to and support operators. It also provides a way for operators to flag any issues with others for resolution.

With Poka, tracking issues and reaching the right individual becomes much easier. Once a solution is found, it’s easy to share it across different sites so that learning happens not just at a plant level, but at the organizational level.

Poka helps us execute faster and more dynamic problem-solving. It allows us to see - through visuals like pictures and videos - what happened in previous shifts and share accomplished activities. We can easily socialize defects and issues through these same media and escalate them to management.


Leandro Lima, Abraao Dos Santos and Cenzar Henrique


Accessible Information and Data-Driven Decision-Making

Having access to real-time information is key to executing a powerful Gemba. Barry Callebaut records team meetings and team boards and shares them on the factory feed to improve visibility. They started this practice during COVID so that those who couldn’t attend the discussion were still involved in the process.

During Gemba walks they can also leverage smart forms that document past issues and maintenance. Finally, merging their connected worker solutions with their manufacturing execution system (MES) provides access to real-time sensor data from the lines to make quick and data-backed decisions.

MES and Poka are digital enablers that make our Gemba more dynamic, create visual tools for our sites and improve workshop productivity.


Newman Chang

Plant Manager, Suzhou

How Poka Fosters a Real Operator-Centric Culture

Barry Callebaut can upskill their workers, give them the essentials to execute their jobs, and make them part of the solution. Most of their workers are growing their knowledge themselves while developing process improvements. Poka creates a significant level of autonomy and empowerment for frontline employees, which is the intrinsic motivation they need to not only perform tasks well but take pride in their work.

What we’re seeing with Poka is that it’s really supporting us in most of the elements that make a difference.


John Schouten

Head of Global Operational Excellence

They can centralize all communications and knowledge, increasing visibility and fostering collaboration both vertically and horizontally. Issues are resolved faster, and standards are consistently updated and documented, creating a continuous improvement cycle. Overall, Poka contributes to creating an operator-centric culture by making employees' lives simpler and more rewarding.

Barry Callebaut Poka modules Slide pptx

The Role of Leadership in Change

Any change journey requires leadership behavior adaptations as well—change cannot simply be imposed on frontline workers. At Barry Callebaut’s digitization journey, they ensured that managers were visible and empathetic to change. Engaging in dialogue and caring about how new technology affects operators goes a long way. Their advice to other companies undergoing digital transformation is to ensure operators have a voice. Leadership needs to listen to their feedback, both the good and the bad, and adapt accordingly.

The last insight provided by John Schouten, is to invest in skills. He mentions that “when you implement a tool like Poka, you cannot underinvest in training and follow-up.” Monitoring KPIs and usage is a good starting point, but it doesn’t replace the engagement that post-implementation follow up provides. Barry Callebaut uses a buddy system and behavior reinforcement to “model, coach and apply the desired behavior” by shop floor leaders. Investing in adoption makes it easier to stick to goals, and have people get on board with the idea that the journey is a shared one, requiring the commitment of every individual.

Barry Callebaut Leadership Slide

Moving Forward with Modern Solutions

One thing made very clear by John is that technology does not replace visual boards and group problem-solving methods. A solid foundation in manufacturing best practices will solidify the adoption of digital solutions. However, unlike traditional methods, technology allows improved adaptability that helps plants quickly shift when facing challenges. Therefore, combining a strong worker-centric culture and strong habits with digital technologies is the best way to move forward for any manufacturing organization.

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