Coca-Cola Enterprises reveals five-step pathway to ‘factory of the future’

Collaboration, effective data management and bridging the skills gap form key parts of a new five-step pathway to creating a sustainable 'factory of the future' in the UK food and drink industry, drawn up by soft-drinks bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE).

CCE has this week released the second white paper as part of its ongoing research project with Cranfield University. The paper outlines the five steps that food and drink businesses need to take to future-proof manufacturing processes and facilities by 2050.

In line with the findings, CCE has also launched a new £56m operational investment plan to ‘accelerate its journey towards sustainability’.

CCE’s group director of supply chain operations Steve Adams said: “Our research with Cranfield University has revealed valuable insights on how sustainability will evolve across the food and drink supply chain. Identifying five key pathways and suggested actions to support the sustainable journey to 2050 and beyond, is helping us shape how we think about the future of our own business.

“We’re excited to already be putting these actions into practice and have today launched a £56m investment plan as we continue our commitment to sustainable local manufacturing here in Great Britain. We hope others will embrace these pathways and visions for the future to help shape and transform the future of the sector towards more sustainable manufacturing.”

The white paper outlines the sustainability vision and roadmap that CCE will be following to implement sustainability into its manufacturing process. The company has already begun implementing part of the vision, with £356m spent over the past six years.

Five steps

The white paper suggests that companies should ‘anticipate the future’ by using big data and the Internet of Things to address resource productivity. CCE has already moved to address this through a £33m warehouse that will save more than 3,800 tonnes of CO2 a year by using big data to reduce road miles.

The second step detailed in the paper is ‘providing nutrition’ – CCE will be focusing on improving nutrition to align with package and labelling ethics and animal welfare. The Coca-Cola Life project has already been adapted to contain 45% less sugar as CCE primes itself for the effects of climate change on raw resources.

The third step, ‘sharing the benefits’, refers to collaboration within the food and drink sector to share intellectual property and co-create products that protects the environment. CCE has already started crowdsourcing ideas from innovation platform OpenIDEO to encourage better domestic recycling habits.

‘Inspiring the next generation’ is the fourth step – CCE will task itself with inspiring Generation Y – who are already looking to work with socially conscious companies – to bridge the skills gap that could arise with an increase in technology and innovation. In order to integrate better with future generations, CCE has invested £4m to encourage 390,000 young people to move into manufacturing careers.

The final element of the pathway is ‘joining forces’; uniting rival companies with customers and society to create a holistic approach to reducing key footprints. CCE has pledged to become an ‘agent on change’ in this regards and is already working with Keep Britain Tidy to launch research projects.

Circular navigation

The pathway forms the second part of CCE’s and Cranfield University’s ongoing research collaboration. The first part – revealed in June last year – offered up six key themes that the manufacturing industry would have to embrace in the shift to a sustainable economy, including big data, collaboration and resilience.

Both Coca-Cola and Cranfield have recently taken steps to accelerate the growth of circular economy in the manufacturing sector. CCE’s 2014/15 sustainability report includes a pledget to embrace a ‘more circular economy way of thinking’, as well as the commitment to 40% recycled or renewable materials for PET bottles. Meanwhile, Cranfield this month announced the launch of the world’s first ever circular economy Masters.

Matt Mace

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