Coca Cola Enterprises in Sidcup – the real thing

Posted on 4 Jan 2012

Jane Gray finds out what keeps the fizz in business at Coca-Cola Enterprises as its Sidcup site celebrates 50 years of operations.

On September 27 Coca-Cola Enterprises’ Sidcup factory threw open its doors to local dignitaries, retired employees, community groups,  employees and their families and anyone else who cared to see just what it takes to produce one of the world’s most highly demanded consumer products and the UK’s number one grocery brand with reliability and efficiency.

Over 150 guests and 200 employees  attended the bi-centennial celebrations at the Sidcup plant and speaking with staff it is certainly clear that employees at all levels have a real pride in the heritage of the site. “We have a lot of families working here – aunts, uncles, daughters” explains Chris Doyle, Engineering Manager at CCE Sidcup. “And there is no problem with staff retention – quite the opposite” adds Distribution Operations Manager Steve Ransome,  before speaking at length about the contributions made to the business by the plant’s longest serving employee, Frank Mooney. Frank has worked at CCE Sidcup for 39 years and his name crops up repeatedly as TM’s tour of the plant progresses.

But this Walton-esque picture of CCE is just the surface appearance of a focused business with highly efficient manufacturing operations in which every member of staff takes ownership for seeking further improvement.

With sound procedures in place for advancing employee suggestions CCE Sidcup is constantly discovering new efficiencies, many of which have helped the plant meet and exceed company targets for yield and sustainability – two core focus points for the business.

CCE UK at a glance

Number of sites: 6; East Kilbride, Edmonton, Milton Keynes, Sidcup, Wakefield, Morpeth

Number of employees: 4,500

Market share: 28.1% of the UK soft drinks category

Points of interest: CCE UK was nominated in The Sunday Times Best Green Companies list for 2010. More recently CCE received the 2011 Brammer Award for Sustainable Manufacturing. CCE is also a finalist for TM’s own Manufacturer of the Year Awards in the Manufacturing in Action category.

In the primary processing area for syrup for instance, an idea from line operative Sam Whitehead to alter the Clean in Place (CIP) has saved the plant around 12 million litres of water in a single year. In recognition of his contribution Sam was nominated for the CCE Icon rewards initiative.

Water efficiency has been a key focus for CCE since the launch of its Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability agenda. This agenda is driven from the very top of the organisation with CEO John Brock, acting as a champion. Despite the global nature of CCE, Mr Brock’s interest in CSR is felt every day in CCE plants through frequent communications like newsletter and management briefings – there was even a video of Mr Brock’s latest ambition setting announcements for the company playing in reception as TM arrived on site.

Coca Cola production line at Sidcup

These most recent targets for CSR are important since they have changed the approach to reducing CCE’s environmental impact. Whereas targets previously stated ambitions to reduce water or CO2 usage in manufacture and distribution a new vision based on reducing the CO2 footprint of a half litre bottle of Coke by 30% by 2020 will require a different efficiency mentality says Ian Barnett, Environment Manager at CCE Sidcup. “It should help people to realise the end results of our sustainability work better and visualise how work in a variety of areas helps towards a common goal,” he comments.

Key milestones for CCE Sidcup in sustainability

2011 represents a year of unprecedented investment in the CCE Sidcup site. More than $30 million have been poured into capital, technological and people investment and much of the focus behind this spend has been to allow progress with sustainability objectives – all investments in capital equipment now require validation of the relative environmental credentials of that equipment.

Some key sustainability milestones for the Sidcup plant include:

  • 2010: Achieved zero waste to landfill
  • Altering the CIP process to use a third of the water previously required has saved around 12 million litres of water
  • Reducing the duration of the water jet in the rinse cycle for PET bottles from 7 seconds to three seconds has saved an estimated 12 million litres of water.
  • Ambient filling rather than chilled filling on some PET lines has saved an estimated £40,000 annually
  • Innovative packaging which removes the need for product trays on selected lines has saved 350 tonnes of cardboard
  • Preforms for the moulding of PET bottles have been reduced in weight by one third providing carbon savings for both CCE and suppliers

Next steps

Speaking about next steps Mr Barnett says “There is a commitment to working more with our suppliers in the future to find broader savings and benefits. We are also beginning to look at obsolescence of equipment and facilities like our boiler system.  The challenge now is to move from gathering the low hanging fruit to a concerted effort in reducing our baseload.”

While the buy-in of employees has been critical to meeting both sustainability and productivity targets within CCE, the ambitions of the company in these areas go well beyond efficiencies detectable to the human eye. The desire to drill down into production data for further improvement prompted the roll out of a bespoke performance diagnostic system in 2009. LineView is used in all CCE factories inEuropebut is customised to suit the product mix and operational characteristics of each site.

The LineView system provides detailed performance information for all of CCE Sidcup’s seven production lines. Intelligent analytics track the effect of downtime on output without the need for operator intervention. The system does however allow for operator comment on line incidents providing a comprehensive information capture system.

Line managers can view relevant performance information along or across production lines on their desktop PCs. Information is quick and easy to assess thanks to clear colour coded charts and other visualisation tools.   “It is so easy to see where problems are occurring or where time has been lost over anything from the last 15 minutes to the last 30 days,” enthuses Mr Doyle though he does add the proviso, “It is the processes put in place around how we act on LineView information that really drive improvement – without them it is just an expensive screen saver.”

In a bid to make even more use of the LineView data at a broader business level, feeding performance metrics into top level strategy formation, CCE is currently in the process of rolling out and integrating a SAP enterprise resource planning system. When Sidcup comes online with this roll out in 2013 LineView information will be pulled into the ERP system automatically providing far higher visibility on performance and resource distribution requirements across the enterprise.

Investment highlights

In a year of unprecedented investment for the Sidcup site perhaps the most important and certainly the most cash hungry, has been the installation of a high tech canning line.

Though now fully installed the line is still undergoing some commissioning work. When it becomes fully operational it will be capable of turning out 2000 cans of coke per minute. The project has cost around £15.5 million to install the line and was officially unveiled as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations on September 27. However investment in optimising lines 7 is ongoing as staff are trained and upskilled to get the most out of the technology at their fingertips.

Explaining the vision for multiskilled workers Mr Peter Geering says: “Employees from our other canning lines will be able to switch between the old lines and this new one and each will require very different ways of working.” A key area of difference will be change over times and expectations for the filling process. On the new line high tech automation will allow changeovers to take place in around 10 minutes – on the old line manual systems mean that it takes around 90 minutes to complete the same task.

CCE has developed an internal measurement system for line performance which takes into account the varying capabilities of legacy equipment and new installations. Similar in many ways to overall equipment effectiveness, the CCE line utilisation metric is recorded regularly on each line every day. Targets are based on historical performance cross-checked with known changes.

Frank Mooney and daughter Lynsey

The high tech manufacturing environment at Sidcup contrasts dramatically with its strong sense of heritage and record for long serving employees.  According to Mr Geering the longest serving employees understand the importance of change and are both flexible and forward thinking – providing great leadership for newer recruits.

This willingness to progress from a highly respected segment of the workforce has been a great boon as CCE brings its apprenticeship programme back on line and also recruits graduate trainees – for Steve Adams, Operations Director at CCE Sidcup the renewal of the apprenticeships in particular is a meaningful step forwards, “It’s a personal passion,” he explains. “Like many of my colleagues I started out in my career as an apprentice and I believe it is high time manufacturers remember how important the apprenticeship process can be.”

Despite manufacturing and engineering companies being the traditional home of apprenticeships only 11% of UK employers in these sectors currently offer apprenticeships in core mechanical and electrical engineering areas. Sector Skills Councils like Semta are urging companies to change this statistic – even highlighting opportunities for apprentices in other areas of the business like finance or logistics.

Contemplating this suggestion Mr Adams believes it will be a while before CCE takes such a step. “Typically our apprenticeships have a mechanical engineering focus – about a third of our current technicians have come up into the business through the apprenticeship scheme. For more business focused talent development our graduate scheme is excellent for developing a really broad understanding – graduate move around between departments so they get to know all the different functions.”

CCE is committed to recruiting talent for the next generation and to protecting its future competitiveness. The company CRS strategy is, again, central to guiding action on this commitment. “We find that the environmental and community work we do is of very real interest to potential recruits,” says Adams. At a time when manufacturing is low on the priority list of potential careers for most young people CCE is doing its best to capitalise on its strong CRS record and change young people’s perceptions of what the industry is like to work in.

To this end CCE Sidcup recently invested £750, 000 in a new Education Centre and has employed ex teacher, Caroline Mounter as Education Centre Manager. The centre is the fourth such to be opened by CCE in the UK. As Ms Mounter explains, the common purpose is one of communication – the centres welcome secondary school  and university students to visit CCE factories and offer subject focused presentations on how particular skills are relevant in manufacturing. Classes of students studying anything from business studies through, IT and design technology are able to gain insight through these centres into how they could apply their talents in the manufacturing workplace.

The CCE Sidcup Education Centre aims to receive 4000 students every year across 6 weekly sessions. Each trip is about 2hrs in duration – depending on the requirements of the class. Each session aims to include Q&A sessions with relevant staff members and Ms Mounter says that staff have been incredibly supportive and eager to get involved whenever possible.

Importantly however, CCE is not only aiming to educate the students that visit its sites. The education of those individuals most likely to influence career choices is critical. When the centre officially opened on July 5 this year an inaugural ceremony was attended by 60 representatives from local educational institutions, business and government. On an ongoing basis Ms Mounter hosts ‘twighlights’ for teachers. These manufacturing evening classes are well attended and Mounter says “Perceptions among teachers in particular are already being changed – we gather feedback from all our sessions to track this.”

In the past Coca-Cola has not been a name synonymous with sustainability and social care but the improvements, investments and actions at CCE’s Sidcup plant are indicative of a wider C-change for the company. With sustainability in its broadest sense as its guiding principle CCE looks set to hold many more anniversary celebrations for its plants around the world.

Tracking performance

CCE has a structured development system for staff and plant which adheres to a common scorecard. Cascading from the top of the business down to regional businesses, sites and shop floor teams performance is measured across eight KPIs relating to OEE, labour efficiency, energy ratios, water ratios, safety, quality (in terms of complaints per million units), customer satisfaction and attendance.

But although these measurements are important they are not in themselves the primary prompt for change.  Peter Geering explains that it is the lead indicators sitting behind these KPIs which give more insight into the root cause of problems and which are the focus for improvement activity

In terms of daily reference points for performance safety is paramount and the days since last lost time accident are recoded religiously. The bottle blowing facility currently holds the plant record with over 4270 days since the last lost time accident. The current record for the whole site is 439 days.

Coca Cola Enterprises, Sidcup at a Glance

History: Plant opened in 1961 under Schweppes management. In 1997 CCE purchased the site.

Number of employees: 332

Average production: 40 million cases of drink every year

Number of production lines: 7

Key brands produced: Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero, Diet Coke, Powerade, Sprite, Dr Pepper, Lilt, Fanta

Points of interest: CCE Sidcup is currently the only UK site to produce Powerade – one of the official drinks for athletes competing at the London 2012 Olympics.

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