As an industry, the manufacturing sector has faced multiple challenges over recent years, which has put to the test the resilience and innovation of the brilliant businesses of the UK.
While we’re of course not out of the woods just yet, it does admittedly feel like hope is on the horizon as manufacturers reap the rewards of weathering the storm of everything from the energy crisis to global economic uncertainty.
Now that we as an industry can finally look ahead, it should all be about futureproofing – making sure that your business continues to have growth potential and is in the best position for success over the coming years.
At Clearly Drinks Group, we view this time as a pivotal period for us and a chance for the senior leadership team to come together, share ideas, and put an actionable strategy in place so our people and stakeholders can be confident for the future.
The people you have in the team can make or break your business, so it’s important that nurturing talent is part of your futureproofing plan – ensuring you are hiring and retaining the best people for the job and the candidates who feel passionate about playing a part in your success.
Like many firms in manufacturing, apprenticeships are invaluable to us at Clearly Drinks Group. We are proud to offer both manufacturing and operational apprenticeships as well as engineering technical apprenticeships which give hands-on educational experience within the business.
As a sector, one thing we struggle with is raising awareness of the great career opportunities within engineering and manufacturing amongst school and college-aged students, so investing in apprenticeships helps give young people the experience they need, and with full-time roles available once the courses are complete, this provides you with skilled staff who can be part of your journey.
It’s not just enough to have new candidates through the door, you must also consider line manager development as part of your futureproofing strategy to ensure they can be retained. Giving senior members of your operations team the platform to share insight to help design further education programmes and learning hubs for your staff, will ensure that everyone is getting the correct training they need and that everyone will be working at the best of their ability in a nurturing and collaborative environment.
Although it has been a challenging couple of years, as a business it has allowed us to be even more mindful of loss prevention and how we can make our operations as efficient as possible. As part of our futureproofing plan, we have implemented a bespoke in-house Total Productive Maintenance-based Continuous Improvement strategy that focuses specifically on loss.
This is something we’ve been working on for some time and we’re proud that this is being rolled out as this will reduce all aspects of loss for the business including wastage, energy and materials, meaning that profitability and efficiency for the business is built on solid and lasting foundations.
In addition, we have also invested in automated line-based monitoring and infrastructure projects, meaning that going forward we are able to increase the efficiency of the lines that produce our drinks, ensuring improvement measures can be identified and implemented quicker as part of continuous manufacturing development.
As a manufacturer working in the FMCG category and one that prides itself on agility for its contract pack customers, this is so important to us to ensure there is minimal downtime and that all our lines are working effectively and to full capacity.
Again, while it’s great to have these new strategies put in place, it’s essential to hold regular standard review meetings to ensure that the plans are delivered as they are intended and that we can maintain a structured approach to how we keep the business action-orientated and forward-looking.
This current period certainly feels like a turning point for the manufacturing industry and while it’s important to proceed with caution, something businesses are now much more programmed to do, it’s exciting for us to be able to plan ahead. The next 12 months will be crucial to our business in making sure we are investing in the right places and delivering a solid strategy for the future.
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About the author
Ian Forrester is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Clearly Drinks Group with notable engineering experience within HSE, production, logistics, and strategic planning.
Ian has worked within operations and engineering at several household drinks brands throughout his career including Carlsberg Group and Britvic PLC, before taking up his role as operations director at Clearly Drinks Group in 2019 and then COO in 2021, where he has supported world-class manufacturing implementation at its Sunderland site.