I have been at Silver Spring for 18 years, working my way up from operator on the shopfloor. I soon became a supervisor on one of the seven high-speed production lines, managing my own team. I then became a line manager responsible for a number of lines.
Silver Spring dates back to 1870 and was in family hands through to September 2009, when its business and assets were acquired by Privet Capital from the administrator Deloitte.
The transition from Silver Spring Mineral Water Company to Silver Spring Soft Drinks was a tough and very testing time given the amount of uncertainty that comes with a buyout. We exited loss-making areas of the business, sacrificing about £10M worth of turnover, and stopped injection moulding our own pre-forms for bottles last Christmas. But we have won three significant areas of business in the past three months and are returning to growth.
The decision to exit unprofitable ranges reduced our headcount. However, as we intend to expand our business and market share over the next two to three years we anticipate new job opportunities will be created, particularly in specialist fields. But for line supervisors it's difficult to get quality guys in now. We had to interview a lot to get the standards we wanted.
We have outsourced the machine tool room and fabrication workshop and are now focused on blowing, mixing and final packaging.
We plan to more than double factory output without growing the number of lines, with key focus on organic growth through brand development acquisitions and targeted co-packing relationships.
We are planning the launch of another two national brands in the next year and are expecting to put significant marketing spend behind them. We recognise the need for further capital expenditure to meet the changing needs of the soft drinks market and we are developing a three-year investment programme for the site.
We want to keep our nimbleness, our ability to turn on a sixpence. We took our limited edition Christmas Pudding flavoured Perfectly Clear variant, which we have launched for this festive season, from concept to launch in eight weeks.
We need to target inefficient machines. We have just bought a new pasteuriser, which we will be plumbing into the syrup room, and we will reconfigure one of the pasteurisers to give it sterile capability. At the moment our newest piece of kit is probably the [syrup, carbonate and water] blender we installed about five years ago.
We need to target sleeving capability [bottle labelling]. That would mean reconfiguring production lines. We are working on our one-litre sleeve production line at the moment, looking to more than double its output. We are prioritising [bottle] blow-filling and pre-moulders. We are looking to put a larger capacity sleeving kit into our blow moulding factory so we can process empty bottles and then run them down any one of our seven lines.
We have a lot of variance in efficiency down the line, so we are standardising production. Next year we move from catch-up to a real step change in the business. In general, we run 330ml, 380ml and 500ml products on lines A, B and E; 1l, 1.5l and 2l on line G and 2l on line C. Line F we use for pasteurisation, 300ml products and squashes and line D mainly for 1l sleeved production. We are not handling 3l at present, but we have the capability to do so. We want to spend our capital so that each product can run down multiple lines.
We have a multi-sector business development plan, which includes expansion in impulse, on premise and export markets. Lots of new products are in the pipeline including a new premier range for Perfectly Clear, which will have even more quirky combinations, including elderflower and other English hedgerow ingredients, herbs, nettles and vintage fruits.
We'll have new variants for our 1870 Mixers range; new Isotonic and Cherry flavours for our Pulsar energy drink; and a new Rabid energy drink. We are also introducing a new Summer Islands drink in Citrus and Berry flavours; a new 500ml impulse variant Bing cola; and refreshed packaging for our Stripes cola. We have recently moved from aspartame to sucralose as a sweetener on all our Perfectly Clear products. We're also looking at Stevia for other products.
We have made significant inroads on green issues, having recently moved to 55% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) for our Perfectly Clear products. I think 50% or more rPET is sustainable on current demand. We segregate all our waste and are targeting zero waste to landfill from 2011. We have also placed recycling bins by production lines.
Since the transition to the new company we have significantly improved our procurement supply base and have realised significant cost savings and in turn have benefited from improved supplier relationships. We use pre-form suppliers such as Artenius PET Packaging Europe. We are transitioning to a new national haulage provider for the bulk of our distribution and are negotiating options with regard to pallet suppliers.
We are in the middle of a major efficiency improvement programme. This includes many lean techniques: short interval control; 5S; problem solving techniques such as 5 whys; and single minute exchange of dies (SMED) [fast changeovers]. Some of these tools have not been applied in the past. It's about retraining the staff and getting the basics in place.
We will be developing an effective total productive maintenance strategy, which will include the use of failure mode and effects analysis tools and techniques. We are breaking the factory into coloured zones, each with a line manager. We have improved our thinking about how we lay things out.
We have been integrating engineers on to the production lines. Before they were in a separate department, but now they have a lot more ownership. We have always maintained one engineering apprentice on site as well.
All health and safety and cleaning policies have been reviewed and tightened following the transition to the new business. We have made significant inroads with regard to the improvement of technical standards and compliance. This has required a big input from everyone on the shopfloor. We carry out daily and weekly compliance audits covering technical and health and safety aspects, where previously we used to throw people at problems. We pick out themes per day.
We are reviewing major breakdowns. We have put together a small team to tackle recurring issues. Inspections are broken down zonally, which breeds pressure and banter over who has the best performance. We have seen some real improvements through that.
INTERVIEW BY ROD ADDY
Location: Silver Spring Soft Drinks, Park Farm, Folkestone, Kent, CT19 5EA
Staff: 150, including 25 agency staff
Size: 13,000m2 factory, plus 17,000m2 storage
Operating Hours: 24 hours a day, 5 days a week
Products: 350 stock keeping units of still, carbonated and pasteurised soft drinks, of which 60% are own-label, plus co-packed products for firms such as Britvic and Coca-Cola and 40% are branded. We have two national brands: Perfectly Clear flavoured waters and 1870 Mixers.
Output: 180M bottles a year from seven lines, with plans to grow this to 350M by 2013
Annual turnover: £35M
Name: Ian Rose
Career Highlights: "I was a key player in the transition from the old family-run business to the new private equity-backed business. A key focus for me was to keep the shopfloor teams focused and motivated during what became a very successful transition."
Domestics: "I'm in a long-term, stable relationship and have a son and stepdaughter."
Outside work: "I'm a keen darts player and play for my local pub team in Folkestone. It's quite addictive."