Coca-Cola Enterprises’ VP of customer logistics lifts the lid on the brand’s journey from factory to fridge

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Coca-Cola is one of the world’s best-known brands, present in retail outlets worldwide. Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) manufactures and distributes Coca-Cola products in Western Europe. Here, Wendy Manning, vice president of customer logistics at CCE, takes The Retail Times on the journey of its iconic contour bottles from factory to fridge

Manning: local sourcing is key

Manning: local sourcing is key

You are likely to see at least one Coca-Cola product in supermarkets or newsagents the world over. At CCE, we are responsible for manufacturing and distributing a wide range of soft drinks from Coca-Cola to Fanta, juices, water, sports and energy drinks. Our operations span eight territories in Western Europe, delivering more than 600m cases of product to retailers every year, which are then sold to over 170m consumers.

So how is this vast operation handled? How do we ensure that every bottle we produce makes it into the hands of our shoppers on time and at the highest quality?

It all starts in our factories. We have 17 state of the art manufacturing sites across Europe and we are very much a local business, with almost 95% of our drinks being made in the country in which they’re sold. Much of our sourcing is also local, helping to keep the supply chain short and fast, which is important for keeping up with demand.

Once the ingredients and components arrive through the factory doors, our focus is to produce high-quality drinks, in the right quantity and at the right time, in order to meet customer demand. Our factories run some of the fastest production lines in the world. In fact, we’re able to get drinks from our factories to supermarket shelves within 48 hours.

Coca-Cola: from factories to supermarket shelves in 48 hours

Coca-Cola: from factories to supermarket shelves in 48 hours

We continually look for new investments to improve the efficiency of our operations – we recently opened a new €20m Automatic Storage & Retrieval System at our distribution centre in Dongen, The Netherlands. The new facility is designed to hold and automatically move pallets of bottles and cans – enabling us to more efficiently serve the needs of our customers, as well as to maximise the cargo space used in trucks. As a company we continually test new technology and innovations, such as Bluetooth beacon technology and 3D printing.

Throughout the manufacturing process, sustainability and efficiency are always front of mind. At our Wakefield production facility in the UK, we recently introduced a new combined heat and power system which will save 1,500 tonnes of CO2 every year. This kind of innovation has helped us reduce our operational carbon footprint by 23% since 2007.

While the technology and machinery in our factories is undoubtedly crucial to getting bottles out and into the market, our people are just as vital. Our 166-person strong logistics team provides exceptional day-to-day operational support seven days a week, 364 days a year to ensure on-shelf availability. It is this team that oversees all operations and ensures that once bottles are filled, each and every one makes it onto the trucks and on to the roads.

It may seem like this is the end of the journey for us but the job’s not quite over. Once products are delivered to the stores, we also have a role in ensuring that bottles make it all the way to the shoppers’ fridges. Our marketing departments have exceptional relationships with our retail customers to ensure that in-store merchandising makes our products easy to find.

Throughout the journey of our bottles, it’s important that we communicate with our retail partners, especially because retail can be unpredictable and even the smallest changes, such as the weather, can affect shopper behaviour. Our production systems are networked to allow us to raise or lower capacity, allowing us to meet demand peaks (expected or unexpected) by flexing up production at several sites if needed. And we’re fully prepared for exceptional levels of demand, for example during Christmas or major sporting events like the Olympics.

One way we stay close to our customers is by promoting closer collaboration to ensure we’re delivering what they need, when they need it and in a way that works for them. For example in 2012, we pioneered a unique 12-month job swap between ‘rising stars’ of CCE and one of our customers, Tesco. Not only did this add value to the careers of the individuals involved, but it also proved an effective means for sharing knowledge and insight between the businesses, helping to align strategies and develop plans to drive sales. Our customers recognise the efforts we make and we are proud to be consistently rated among their top three suppliers, across our territories.

From the beginning of each bottle’s journey when raw ingredients enter the factory, to the very end when it is chilling in the fridge, collaboration, sustainability, innovation and efficiency are the key factors that make that factory to fridge journey seamless and successful.