Since it was founded three decades ago, Goose Island Beer Company has expanded well beyond its humble roots in Chicago. But despite rapid growth and expansion across the world, the brewery recently began facing a sales bottleneck in its hometown.
To help find a solution, it partnered with an innovative graduate program at the University of Chicago. The Master of Science in Analytics trains students on how to leverage big data to help companies solve real-world problems. Students work directly with a business to identify a problem, build a research method, and—after considerable number-crunching and rigorous analysis—develop a creative solution with immediate impact.
In the case of Goose Island, a three-student team began studying Chicago's liquor distribution business model, with the goal of helping the company put its sales team—and its beer—in more neighborhoods across the city. It started by gathering more than two million rows of information on 2,500 retailers. Then the team leveraged the methods and skills members were learning at UChicago to turn the data into insights on sales forecasts, customer demographics and opportunities for expansion.
“The fact that there’s no predetermined path or framework to follow challenged us to explore many approaches that would solve the problem,” said James Bushnell, one of the team members, who works in financial planning and analysis. “The optimal data and solutions are initially unknown, so you have to objectively trace the challenge through each approach to find its logical end.”