|(L-R) PSE President/CEO Hans B. Sicat; Cirtek VP/Director Nicanor Lizares; Cirtek Chairman/President Jerry Liu; Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines Honorable Jejomar Binay; PSE Chairman Jose T. Pardo; and CVCLaw Senior Partner and Former National Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, Jr (photo taken from Cirtek Holdings website)|
I still remember the days of old when I was growing up. Whenever we had a power outage in our area, it was a challenge to reach Meralco. Phone lines were jammed all the time. We had to tune in to radio stations via our portable radio to find out what areas were affected and how soon power would be restored. No one had any idea if their area would be affected by maintenance of power lines. Basically, Meralco customers were pretty much in the dark (pun intended).
A new Meralco, however, has been emerging from its corporate shell. Going beyond its official website which was then a one-way, company-to-customers information dissemination tool, it began engaging the public on social media by creating a Twitter account (@meralco) and a Facebook page. Suddenly, access to Meralco widened beyond the capacity of phone lines as maintenance schedules were posted online and inquiries from customers were answered more rapidly.
In continuing plans to better inform the public and to improve public service, Meralco has revamped its website to make it more responsive to the public’s needs.
When you land on its homepage, it gives you two different portals. FOR CUSTOMERS provides answers to customers’ concerns including electricity consumption, bill-related matters and new account applications. THE COMPANY is where you find corporate information like annual reports, business partnerships, stakeholder relations and investor information.
Since most of us are consumers, I’ll focus on the FOR CUSTOMERS portal. Here’s what you get when you choose that option.
The navigation bar on the topmost part lists the website’s main sections. At the bottom are links to frequently accessed information. The Quick Links on left sidebar provide more detailed information for customers and the center area is reserved for the most recent videos, photos and articles for customers to know.
The Meralco Appliance Calculator (AppCal for short), which is a link under Quick Links, brings you to a web application where customers can compute and gauge their electricity consumption based on the different appliances they use at home. Computations can be specific to the type of appliance, corresponding wattage, and frequency of usage. The AppCal calculates cost per hour, day, week, and month. The AppCal also takes into account the prevailing generation charge for the month.
For those with smartphones and tablets, AppCal is now a FREE downloadable app. I’ve downloaded it on my ipad.
Today, September 30, 2011, McDonald’s Philippines turns a big 30!
The first McDonald’s in the Philippines opened in 1981 in Morayta. Today, there are about 325 McDonald’s branches all over the country.
To celebrate three decades of serving burgers, fries, sundaes, chicken and more to young and old alike, 4 Anniversary Stores (Makati Cinema Square, Greenhills, Quezon Ave. and North Ave.) underwent a major renovation to give McDonald’s a brand new look.
This new design concept can actually be seen already in McDonald’s stores in other parts of the world. Some of the features include comfortable, spacious dining areas, vivid color splashes, dynamic graphics and architectural accents. Common to every branch are some features. A red blade (vertical external posts that distinctly mark every McDonald’s store), a white ribbon (horizontal lines that go around the external part of the store), and a pylon (the familiar McDo yellow arch), and TidyMan (a caricature that marks the spot in each branch where people can dispose of garbage).
Despite some common features, the anniversary stores do not look the same. The profile of the type of people who frequent each branch was studied so that every branch layout projects the lifestyle and habits of its clientele.
MAKATI CINEMA SQUARE
The theme here is FORM. Instead of bright colors, this branch is done up in subdued brown considering that most of those who come here are urban dwellers. Following the red blade design outside, a red ribbon runs around the ceiling of the branch. Stylized text and modern graphics line the walls.
This is the one closest to me and is the first ever drive-thru McDonald’s branch. It actually did not need renovating as it is one of the newly renovated branches that sports a modern look. But it’s been redone again to reflect FUN. The Italian designer, Fred Avanci, who designed the Greenhills look calls it LIM (short for Less Is More). Majority of those who come here are very young so splashes of color and a polka dot wall are used as accents. The colors used in this branch are warm. Because it is one of the 24/7 branches which also has a McCafe and a Dessert Center, the entire branch has been zoned. For example, the area nearest the McCafe has furniture and designs that look like a cafe, including small round tables since it is expected that those who stay here usually order coffee and sandwiches only. This is different from the zone area for the usual McDonald’s crowd where tables are larger to accommodate those having meals.
The theme here is ALLEGRO CLASSIC. Allegro means “happy” so while the colors are subdued (browns, reds, whites and oranges), this branch still looks very vibrant and gives out a cafe ambience. Its signature look is a bullseye. There is a party area as well as a play area for the toddlers. This is also a 24/7 branch with a McCafe and Dessert Center.
ALLEGRO URBAN is the look in this branch which is near Trinoma. The crowd here is older and urban so the branch features high ceilings and warm colors as well. It is a 24/7 branch as well but only has a McCafe machine and not a full-fledged McCafe. It’s got a Dessert Center as well.
I’m excited to drop by the Greenhills branch and check out the newly renovated place in person. Once these changes are rolled out to the remaining branches, the McDonald’s experience is sure to become a lot better.
HAPPY 30th ANNIVERSARY to McDonald’s Philippines!
Gardenia‘s meteoric rise in the bread industry to No. 1 is nothing short of spectacular. I remember my Mom telling me about a decade ago to buy Gardenia for my family (I was still buying another brand which I was familiar with growing up) and my reaction then was “What is Gardenia?” Today, ask anyone on the street what brand comes to mind when you say ‘bread’ and probably 9 out of 10 will say Gardenia.
I had been hearing about Gardenia’s plant tours and was secretly hoping I would have a chance to go some day. First, I wanted to know how all Gardenia breads were made since it was a permanent item on my shopping list. Secondly, I wanted to assure myself that the production process observed strict quality control. And third, just plain curiosity as to why Gardenia came from behind and overran all existing bread manufacturers.
My opportunity came last week when some of us bloggers were taken on a special tour of Gardenia’s plant inside the Laguna International Industrial Park in Binan, Laguna. Here’s what we saw and learned….
|A nice surprise – a special banner welcomed us at the main lobby|
In a special audiovisual room, we got to watch a video of the entire production process, after which the marketing manager also talked about how the finished breads are distributed throughout the country. Some trivia we picked up:
* Gardenia runs a machine that can produce 6,000 loaves of bread AN HOUR! In the same plant, they have a machine that can do 4,000 loaves/hour as well as a machine that can do 2,000 loaves/hour. In their recently opened Cebu plant, they use a machine that does 2,000 loaves/hour.
* From P137-M in total sales in 1995, Gardenia’s total sales in 2010 grew to P2.5-B. And based on a Nielsen audit in 2010, they command 67% of the bread market.
* Feeder trucks go out every day to different locations where smaller trucks meet them to further deliver the bread to the retail outlets so that consumers get them fresh every day.
* Every day also (esp for big retail outlets), unsold bread is taken back by Gardenia and brought to a holding area in the plant. There, contractors buy all the unsold bread. These are processed and broken down as fish meal. No returned bread is resold for human consumption. The holding area is thoroughly cleaned after all the bread is taken so that no chances of bacteria or molds can get into the production area.
Of course, nothing could beat actually seeing the entire production line from start to finish from a glass-enclosed viewing area high above the production floor so here we go…
Sponge and Dough Mixing Stages
50% of the bread’s ingredients are mixed and fermented in a cold room to develop the bread’s aroma. Once fermented, the other 50% of the ingredients are added in and mixed with the fermented dough.
At this stage, the dough is cut to size, rounded, and passed through a check weigher so that every loaf weighs the same. Cut dough that are over- or underweight drop from the conveyor belt into a pan. No hands touch the dough throughout this process. Those that pass the weight test are moulded into loaves.
|Dough is divided and rounded|
|Rounded dough are weighed as they move on conveyor belts|
|Loaves about to have lids placed on them before baking|
Baked loaves are placed on a spiral cooler that has several open and turning circles, allowing air to freely go around the hot bread to cool it down prior to being packed and sealed. I watched like a child at the two giant mountains of bread slowly turning and turning. It was a fascinating sight.
|Automatic bagging and sealing with G-lock system|
|Almost ready to ship out!|
|Gardenia staffers remember the codes this way — TOY-BGRW|
I did get to test this. I was at the grocery last Wednesday and the G-lock was supposed to be yellow. I checked the bread on the shelves. Yup – yellow G-locks! Now we know how to check for freshness.
As a mother, I was very happy to have seen the innards of Gardenia. I am comforted, seeing how they made the bread, that I would always have fresh bread for my family. For those of us who do not have luxuries like time to bake our own breads (or mothers who bake), Gardenia is the sure alternative.
I’d like to thank the entire team of Gardenia, most especially its President, Mr. Jun Umali, who took the time to be with us and patiently answer all our questions.
|Bloggers with the Gardenia officers (the President, Mr. Umali, is the one with a tie)|
But a few days ago, a handful of us bloggers were invited to come see how Meralco was innovating, using available technology to empower its consumers and shape a world-class standard of living. We got a glimpse of what they are looking into to employ digital technology and incorporate it into home living.
As a consumer of electricity, walk through these possibilities with me and see which ones you’d like to see Meralco introduce soon to your home.
Innovation #1: Meralco’s Current Distribution Automation
Think of this situation. A power outage suddenly occurs somewhere in Meralco’s web of grids. In real-time, using information on their screen, they are able to pinpoint the source of the outage, shut down that malfunctioning grid, and even re-route power, if needed. The red and green icons on the screen reflect where the grids are closed or open. With these equipment, Meralco can monitor and control distribution systems from remote locations, including the overall health of the electric grid. All in real time.
They are now looking into other innovations that may be introduced to consumers. These innovations try to take advantage of existing and developing technologies to empower the consumer to manage his own energy consumption by making this information accessible even when the consumer is away from home.
I know that in North America, in particular, many green homes are already equipped with these technologies. Let’s take a look at some innovations.
Think prepaid load. If it can be done with mobile phones, why not power? If you can top up your phone via SMS, it can now be done for electricity as well. Here’s how it works:
|The lighted meter has load while the unlighted one does not.|
|Software allows you to monitor your usage and load|
|A light’s energy consumption reflects on this devic|
Simply send out an SMS indicating how much you want to top up.
When you’re done, this is the confirmation you see on your phone
Innovation #3: The Energy Management Portal
Imagine that now, you can have a device in your home that is able to check your energy consumption (by room or per appliance), compare your consumption to a previous month or previous year — all in real time. Via an energy management portal on a computer, you can analyze your consumption so you can turn appliances on and off to meet your power budget.
|Illustration of what a smart home could look like|
|From your device, monitor your energy consumption timeline…|
|…and your utility consumption — in real-time|
Innovation #4: The Smart Home
Here’s what a future smart home would look like. Add a “smart plug” to your TV, DVD player, ref or any other appliance and you can program it to switch on and off. Use your computer at home or when you’re away, use your phone or tablet to manage which devices at home turn on and off. All in real-time.
The demo below showed that with the device, you can actually set an electrical budget, say for a month. And by means of the software, lights and other pre-programmed devices can be turned off when it nears your electric budget.
Innovation #5: The Home Area Network
The prospect of a home totally controlled with the flick of a remote control was quite fascinating as I spoke with the people from Cisco. They walked us through different ways you could control your home in terms of security, entertainment and energy remotely. Your handheld device, whether it is an iPad, iPhone, Androids, etc can be transformed into control devices.
3 ways to open the door: 1) remotely via iPad 2) manually by inputting a code
3) manually with the use of a normal key
|Meralco Appliance Calculator as seen in the App Store|
But aside from this app, there are more apps coming to your device. Take a look…