Unlocking the pathway to sustainable manufacturing

Steve Adams – group director of supply chain operations at Coca-Cola Enterprises GB, explores how to create a more sustainable manufacturing sector for the future.

Last year, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) set out on a journey with Cranfield University to assess the current landscape of sustainability in food and drink manufacturing, and to look ahead across the next couple of decades to paint a picture of what the factory of the future might look like by 2050.

Steve Adams, Group Director of Supply Chain Operations and Coca-Cola Enterprises GB
Steve Adams, Group Director of Supply Chain Operations, Coca-Cola Enterprises GB.

We’ve carried out a combination of industry discussion on the latest trends, investigation of current best practice and commissioned an original quantitative study – all of this has been a fascinating learning experience and this week we reveal the full findings of the project in the shape of a final white paper.

Our partnership with Cranfield officially began in March 2015 when we hosted a roundtable at our Milton Keynes factory.

This brought together an impressive group of both our industry and academic peers to discuss and debate the key factors that must be addressed to maintain and accelerate the sustainability journey in manufacturing.

This identified six primary themes of People; Big Data; Technology; Collaboration; Value, and Resilience, published in an initial white paper.

These themes formed a crucial basis for our second stage of study, where the research team set about investigating the key actions needed to lead the food and drink industry in the right direction.

Our second white paper shares a vision and roadmap towards sustainable manufacturing for the future, presenting the challenges and opportunities the industry needs to address to achieve rapid and fundamental change.

The full report can be downloaded here

We unearthed five pathways, with specific actions that businesses of all sizes can apply which we believe will truly impact not only their own organisations, but also their employees, consumers, customers and the wider societies in which they operate.

These pathways are include anticipating the future; providing nutrition; sharing the benefits; inspiring the next generation, and joining forces, which I can summarise briefly as:

Anticipating the future:

The industry’s use of Big Data and the Internet of Things will increasingly help to assure quality and address resource productivity. We predict this will evolve still further to improve efficiency across the broader supply chain, facilitating greater real-time visibility, better decision-making and helping the balance between supply and demand

Providing nutrition:

‘Smart’ ingredients will emerge, with the potential to replace or alter other content such as sugar, fat and salt; for example as we have done in recent years with stevia, a natural, calorie-free sweetener made from the stevia leaf

Sharing the benefits:

Industry collaboration will increase in the coming years, from companies co-creating new products to sharing intellectual property for the benefit of the entire sector

Inspiring the next generation:

People will remain vital to tackling the challenges of sustainability so it is vital for manufacturers to link with young people, both in supporting career development and demonstrating the broad value of the sector to society

Joining forces:

Companies will have to find new ways to work more closely with each other, including competitors, and with customers and society

There are some important actions to take from each of these pathways. They are detailed in the report, but include the wider sharing of information; utilising rich data to optimise production processes; continuing efforts to reduce waste in new and innovative ways; engaging more closely with society while integrating with universities and schools; increasing emphasis on personalised nutrition, and encouraging open innovation and shared IP as a direct means of protecting the environment.

Overall, the crucial importance of collaboration and strong leadership shine through above all else. Leadership will be key in accelerating progress towards a truly sustainable future.

Coca Cola Production Line
CCE has embarked upon a £56m operational investment plan this year.

Pioneering companies and inspiring individuals will be critical in driving the industry forward. There must be ownership of the debate and a collective commitment to positive change, to work more closely and boldly together.

At CCE, we look to do this through our strategy, Inspiring Sustainable Soft Drinks Choices Together – sustainability is absolutely at the heart of what we do, and our approach focuses on actions in three key areas: health, environment and community.

It is also with this in mind that we’ve embarked upon a £56m operational investment plan at CCE this year, increasing total investment to £356m over the past six years.

Reflecting the essence of the key pathways identified in the research, these investments – ranging from automation to water treatment – will help to accelerate our journey towards sustainability in GB.

As an industry, we have come a long way already and should be proud of the fact that British manufacturing is extremely progressive in terms of technical advancements, product innovation and its ability to react to customer demand.

As we continue our journey to 2050, companies that take the lead will reduce their costs, be more resilient to changing conditions, and develop great trust with consumers and society.