AUVers Tour Heineken Brewery, Da Nang

On Friday, October 26, eighteen AUV students, four faculty members, and one guest toured the Heineken brewery in Da Nang. Organized by Dr. George Main, the tour was to learn by engagement about Heineken’s successful model for sustainable development through their three Ps: people, planet and prosperity. Heineken Vietnam invested in 2017 over VND 18.9 billion in development programs and 8,600 hours in training, earning the title of pioneer in Vietnam’s circular economy model of the future. As of 2017, Heineken owns over 165 breweries in more than 70 countries. It produces 250 international, regional, local and specialty beers and ciders and employs approximately 73,000 people.   

Our tailored tour of Heineken was to observe sustainable manufacturing, a topic congruent with learning objectives at AUV in environmental protection, business development, and tourism. Participating students studied the Heineken Sustainability Report 2017 before their visit to draft questions for a more critical understanding of the tour as an academic experience.    

While on-site, students discovered a critical part of Heineken’s sustainable manufacturing centered around “Keep Shining,” an idea comprised of five essential practices:   

  • Sort: remove unnecessary items to reduce distraction and simplify inspection   
  • Set in order: make workflow smooth and easy  
  • Shine/Sweep: keep workplace safe and easy to work in  
  • Standardize: establish procedures to ensure seamless repetition of “Ss”   
  • Sustain: organize training sessions, perform regular audits, implement improvements  

This model has been adapted beyond manufacturing to health care, software engineering, government, and education, but “Keep Shining” was a rigorous part of efficiency in the factory. Upon reflection of the tour students noted how theories manifested practice and how they related to what they were learning in class. A full review of the tour, critical questions and reflection can be found below.   

What We Saw and Learned

Prepared by George Main, J.D.

Heineken Vietnam Backgrounder 

Heineken N.V. is a Dutch brewing company, founded in 1864 by Gerard Adriaan Heineken in Amsterdam. As of 2017, Heineken owns over 165 breweries in more than 70 countries. It produces 250 international, regional, local and specialty beers and ciders and employs approximately 73,000 people. 

Vietnam Brewery Ltd. (Heineken Vietnam) brews and markets Tiger Beer, Heineken, Bivina, Strong Bow, and Amber Stout. The company was founded in 1991 and is based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Vietnam Brewery Ltd. operates as a subsidiary of Heineken Asia MTN Pte. Ltd.

Corporate Structure

Source: Heineken Vietnam Sustainability Report 2017

Backgrounder Resources 

Introduction Session 

Deputy General Manager Ngo Van Hoa was our host and spoke for 20 minutes about the history of Heineken Vietnam and the Da Nang brewery. He informed us that this brewery produces Larue and Tiger beers; the HCMC brewery produces Heineken beer.

Plant Tour Begins 

Initial Mixing Process 

The tour of the plant began with the tall silos that define the profile of the factory and contain the imported key ingredients: 

  • Hops: the dried cone-like flowers of the hop, used in brewing to give a bitter flavor and as a mild sterilant. Oxford English Dictionary  
  • Malt: grain that has been steeped, germinated, and dried, used for brewing or distilling and vinegar-making. Oxford English Dictionary 
  • Yeast: a greyish-yellow preparation of the yeast fungus obtained chiefly from fermented beer, used as a fermenting agent, to raise bread dough, and as a food supplement. Oxford English Dictionary 

Signage Observation 

We noticed and commented on the signage throughout the plant, as the designers of the plant intended to happen. Photographs were not allowed inside the plant without permission, so we have none to show in this report. But one sign was quite puzzling: “Shining every day”? 

The “Keep Shining” sign is an adaption of the 5Ss of manufacturing and looked similar to this:

The words of the 5Ss don’t have the everyday meanings ascribed to them: 

  • Sort: remove unnecessary items to reduce distraction and simplify inspection 
  • Set in order: make workflow smooth and easy 
  • Shine/Sweep: keep workplace safe and easy to work in 
  • Standardize: establish procedures to insure seamless repetition of “Ss” 
  • Sustain: organize training sessions, perform regular audits, implement improvements   

Heineken Vietnam emphasizes Keep Shining: “sweeping or cleaning and inspecting the workplace, tools and machinery on a regular basis.” Spare equipment, unused parts, rejects, and personal possessions were swept off the factory floor, and our guide repeatedly identified our proper place to stand on the factory floor. 

Can the 5Ss improve teaching and learning at AUV? How? 

The 5Ss have been adapted beyond manufacturing to health care, software engineering, government, and education.  

Can the 5Ss help us at AUV?

Fermentation Process 

Our tour guide explained that the yeast added to the mixture defines the type of beer brewed according to the type of yeast used and the time of fermentation. 

  • Larue yeast fermentation takes 9,5– 10 days
  • Tiger yeast fermentation takes 15 days
  • Heineken yeast fermentation takes  28 days
If you need more information, please access the website

The Da Nang brewery has two types of yeast and brewing times for its Tiger and Larue beer; Heineken beer is produced at the HCMC brewery.

Filtering Station 

Three filtering stations, each consisting of 16-18 cylindrical filter units, filter all the beer produced at the brewery. Filters are disassembled, cleaned, and reused instead of dedicating one filter station to one type of beer. 

Container Operations 

Container operations are complex and have several stages. Bottling and canning operations are in different buildings. Canning machinery prepares lids and cans while bottling operations begin with receipt of the empty bottles. Canning machinery produces 86,000 cans per hour and bottling machinery 50,000 bottles per hour.  

After assembly of the lids and can container, cans go through multiple wet and dry cycles to affix labeling and ensure the quality of each can. Rejects are removed from the assembly process at each stage. Boxing machinery assembled filled cans into the packaged beer you see in stores. The beer packages are grouped into pallets. This work is done by a large machine labeled a “Palletizer”.   

No hands touch the beer from the mixing of dry ingredients to the final packaging on pallets. 

Question and Answer Session  

We arranged with Heineken Vietnam to have a Q&A session following our tour. The session was in the Larue Bar. The AUV students drafted questions before hand and posed their questions with follow up questions. This is a summary of that session. 


Question: What stumbling blocks and compromises have Heineken encountered with its Vietnamese joint venture partners?  

Heineken: Every international joint venture follows the laws and procedures of Vietnam. The Ministry of Foreign Investment must approve each IJV before it can proceed. 

Question: What problems have Heineken Vietnam encountered with its suppliers?   

Heineken: Heineken Vietnam has a supplier checklist which must be followed. Suppliers that successfully complete the checklist have provided materials on time and according to specifications in the contracts. 


Question: How do I get a job working for HR with Heineken Vietnam? What is Heineken looking for from me? 

Heineken: All persons seeking employment with Heineken Vietnam must go through the corporate website. Please go there for information and employment application. 


QuestionDoes Heineken Vietnam encourage its locally-owned distributors to adopt sustainable business practices? What are some examples? 

Heineken: Heineken Vietnam has an excellent feedback and sales tracking system that we use to observe and measure the performance of distributorships. 


Question: What is the most challenging part of the brewing process from the point of view of sustainability? Why? 

Heineken: Every step of the brewing process is challenging. Our focus is on the competence of the staff to maintain our standards of quality control both inside the plant and with our vendors. 

Anh C 

Question: 97% of consumers trust the Heineken brand, according to Heineken’s published research. What is Heineken Vietnam doing about the problem of fake Heineken beer available here in Da Nang? 

Heineken: The sales of fake Heineken beer is a police and government matter. Violators are quickly caught. 


Question: According to Heineken’s Vietnam’s in-house research sourcing sustainability and occupational health and safety are near the bottom of the concerns of its stakeholders, yet the company ranks these near the top of its priorities? Why?  

Heineken: Heineken Vietnam has a business plan, and we follow that business plan. 

Dr. George Main 

Question: Is Heineken Vietnam looking into the generation of electricity using beer brewery wastewater in single chamber Microbial Fuel Cells? At present, waste water is cleaned—a process that consumes energy—and reused for cleaning and landscaping. Is your company looking into this new leading-edge technology? 

Heineken: Our brewery in Da Nang cleans all wastewater and reuses it at the plant and for other purposes.  

We had more questions but wrapped up the Q&A early. The staff needed to prepare for another tour.  

Reflective Learning Session 

During the bus ride back to AUV Dr. John Behzad introduced to the students “reflective learning.” Reflective learning is a learning process to bring together theory and practice. John Dewey is credited with its beginning in the American education system. He was quoted in saying, “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” 

Skills developed from reflective learning  

  • Metacognition  
  • Self-evaluation 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Transparency 

Dr. Behzad asked, “What did you see and what’s its significance?” This is a summary of the responses: 

Dr. Behzad 

Philosophy of quality control in action 

John saw the connection between Heineken’s philosophy of quality and the quality control measures seen in the factory: spick and span factory and emphasis on training evidenced by extensive signage and employees’ learned responses to questions. 

John connected foreigners’ safety awareness, one aspect of quality control, with the pedestrian lane striping throughout the plant, which was a result of safety awareness training. 

Continuous checking to remove defects at each step of manufacturing moved quality control from the end of the production line to be integrated into each step of the manufacturing process. 

Anh C 

Safety seen and practiced 

Safety, a core value of Heineken Vietnam, was very visible, from the fluorescent safety vests and hard hats that we wore to the glass enclosures that protected employees from injury caused by machine failures. No worker was on the factory floor unless s/he had a reason to be there. 


Heineken was proud of its technology and efficiency. 

We saw that during the entire beer production process, from its beginning in the tall silos of yeast, malt, and hops to its ending on storage pallets, the product—beer— was never touched by hands.  

Mechanical automation and standardization of the process made this possible. 


Machinery on the factory floor had simple readouts to encourage use and understandability. 

Quality control devices are only as good as the workers’ ability to use and interpret the data.  

Workers at the factory could quickly learn how to read and use the data displayed by the machines, removing the possibility of worker error and ignorance. 


Information systems appeared to be integrated into the production machinery and monitors scanned by workers. 

Heineken, aware of the importance of data, captured real-time data on the factory floor and distributed the data to all departments in the corporation from Da Nang to Amsterdam.   


Bulletin board postings throughout the factory kept workers informed and aware of successes and failures. 

Continuous improvement requires that the principals of continuous improvement—the workers—know what’s happening at the factory. Each department had at least one bulletin board that displayed production and safety metrics that were easy to read, interpret, and act on. 

Dr. Main 

The factory floor appeared deserted, small groups of technicians working in glassed booths and individual workers moving from station to station perhaps on shift change or delivering paperwork. 

Heineken solved its human resources problems of overstaffing, low worker productivity, and on the job accidents by reducing the factory labor force to the minimum necessary to monitor and service the machinery, accumulate data, and service other workers and outside guests. 


We have these conclusions from AUV’s tour of the Heineken Brewery, Da Nang: 

  • We saw foreign and domestic know-how and entrepreneurial energies blended into a successful local business that delivers Vietnam’s best beers. [Tiger is best.] 
  • We learned about reflective learning: what it is and how to use it. 
  • Students stood and delivered at question time in the Larue Bar, learning how to formulate questions, deliver questions, and follow up on their questions. 
  • Field trips are stimulating and fun learning. 
  • What did you learn? 

Improvements for next field trip based on this experience 

  • Handle translations Vietnamese to English and English to Vietnamese more smoothly. 
  • More flexibility in questions to the host’s ability to intelligibly respond. 

Our Thanks 

We thank Heineken Vietnam, Deputy General Manager Ngo Van Hoa, and all the workers we met at its Da Nang brewery for an excellent tour!