Yes we can

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Yes we can
As a UK arm of the top-selling soft drinks maker globally, Coca-Cola Enterprises is fully aware of its environmental impact and responsibilities

Ian Johnson, operations director

This plant was built in 1989 on a greenfield site and I was here from the start. I began my working life as a mechanical engineering apprentice at a foundry. From there I worked for British Rail, the National Health Service and the dairy industry before joining Coca-Cola & Schweppes Beverages as it was in 1989.

I progressed from senior technical operator to process team leader, to process development manager, to engineering product manager before moving to the Sidcup site as manufacturing manager. I rose to general manager for Sidcup operations before moving back to my Yorkshire homeland, returning as Wakefield's site operations director.

Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) bought the land for this and the canning factory next door, which was operated by the National American Can Company (Nacanco) and is now run by Rexam, with whom we have a close relationship. Cans are manufactured, printed and sent straight across to us.

On opening, we had two canning and two PET (polyethylene terephthalate) lines. Now we have 10 canning and bottling lines and two Husky pre-form machines one for large and one for small PET bottles, which cost about £6M for blowing our own bottles. We started making our own pre-forms last year, cutting 135,000 road miles. We used to ship them in. We have budgeted for making 450M pre-forms a year, but are still not quite self-sufficient.

We have three canning lines, which can fill 2,000 cans a minute. The other six carbonated lines and one still line handle PET. We are just introducing our new 1881 closures for PET, which are 1.2mm smaller at the top and use a smaller pre-form, reducing plastic use.

We have a five-year rolling masterplan of investment, which we review twice a year. We have spent over £20M in the past year.


We invested £13.5M in a new canning line earlier this year. We installed a new Krones blow moulder (line eight) costing £2.5M, which is more energy efficient and blows 55,000 half-litre bottles an hour at lower pressure. We are trying to use natural daylight on line eight, which is more beneficial environmentally and provides a more pleasant working environment. In April we installed a filler that can fill 2,000 cans a minute accurate to 0.1ml.

We installed a combined heat and power (CHP) unit for our on-site anaerobic digestion effluent treatment plant. It requires heat and generates methane, which we use to power it.

We are investigating a big CHP project for the main site, which could provide up to half of our required power up to 6MWh a year. We hope to get agreement for this by the start of next year. This is very exciting.

CCE and the team is very committed to anything to do with corporate social responsibilty (CSR). Every year we have a CSR week across the business. We have even converted some of the spare land at the back of the factory into 32 allotment plots for employees, which has gone down well. CSR is really just good business. If you reduce water and energy, you also reduce cost. We now also send zero waste to landfill and have done for 18 months or more.

We recently halved the amount of water we use for rinsing canning lines one and two by using a new type of spray nozzle. We are investing millions in clean-in-place (CIP) sets, replacing kit that's 20 years old. They use much less water and are more energy efficient.

We also operate real-time monitoring on all lines to monitor the time taken to CIP and rinse. We're shortening the rinse time from 48 to 35 minutes in a European initiative that began in November 2009, reducing the amount of water used and planned downtime. We saw rewards there from February/March.

On line seven we use air rinsing, a development over the past few years. We already use air rinsing for pre-forms on line eight. We want to use it for all lines.

We are also looking at how we use water for lubrication. We are trying to move to dry lube for all our conveyors. It was a massive success when we introduced it five years ago and it has doubled the life span of the conveyors that we use it on. We use 1.25l of water for every litre of product that we make, which we believe is world class.

We have invested in energy monitoring and targeting, allowing us to meter power used by production line and we can look at energy consumption during non-productive times. This is driving significant improvement in litres/kWh. We have achieved huge savings on chillers by filling cans and bottles at 1214°C, rather than 24°C. Line seven even fills at ambient temperatures.

We have replaced palletisers on lines three and four and we're running a trial looking at three different versions of plastic pallets that take away manual handling issues to supply into the multiples. These are merchandisable units with wheels. The idea is that you put multipacks of cans on to returnable pallets, which can last 1824 months. Then, when you get to the store, you just pop the wheels out, pop a handle into a slot and wheel them to the end of the aisle. We are testing this with 27 pallets, then 10,000 through the supply chain of a high street multiple. If it works, they will be in production for Christmas. This has meant a significant change to machinery, which has to be able to handle plastic and wooden pallets.

We can pack 2l bottles on merchandisable units with a KHS robot palletiser. When we started here we packed 24 cans to a tray, with shrink-wrap around them there was no multipacking. Now we can multipack four, six, eight or 12 cans in film, and in board in sets of 10, 12, 15, 24 and 30. We are working with Bristol-based Graphic Packaging International on reducing the amount of cardboard used in our packaging from 2011. Our on-site warehouse has a working capacity of 22,000 pallets and outside storage for another 25,000.

In other projects, we began our first big run of 500ml, rather than 330ml, cans of the energy drink Relentless in October. The first process was ensuring cans went through the filler okay.

Safety is paramount

Safety is paramount for us. We give our 12 safety reps a day to devote to analysing safety issues every month. We have a recognition dinner for them and incorporate site safety meetings into these days. In 2005, 15 accidents caused lost time. There were four last year and just one this year so far. Three things have caused the change: updated machinery guarding standards; going through behavioural safety standards with staff and increased ownership by leadership and site management teams. If you choose not to follow procedure, we have also introduced consequences.

Elsewhere, we're in consultation around restructuring our 256-strong manufacturing technician population at Wakefield to become more efficient. We're looking at the roles, responsibilities and format of each team. This will potentially result in reducing some numbers and increasing others.

We spent £147,000 on training when we installed line seven and invested in similar training for our line eight blow moulder. We also have lots of in-house cascade training where appropriate. We have full-time educators employed to look after the on-site education centre, providing training based on business studies courses. A total of 6,000 people pass through there every year.

We are proud of our Education Centre, which hosts two school parties a day for education sessions and a tour of the factory. The visits are tied into the national curriculum. We also try to accommodate special project work. We had a student with us for a year looking at energy use, for example.

Interview by Rod Addy

Factory Facts

Location​: Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), Kenmore Road, Wakefield 41 Industrial Park, Wakefield, WF2 0XR

Staff​: 500

Size​: 146,860m2, 72,000m2 of which is under roofed cover.

Operating hours:​ 24 hours a day, bar Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Products​: Key products produced at the Wakefield site are Coca-Cola, Sprite, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Schweppes, Oasis and Relentless, which are distributed across Britain. CCE does no contract manufacturing or own-label business at Wakefield. The only products made there fall either under the Schweppes or Coca-Cola brand.

Annual output:​ More than 100M cases.


Name: Ian Johnson

Age: 50

Career highlights:​ "Hosting a site visit by David Cameron during his election trail. Also, being involved in two major greenfield site projects from start to finish Clarendon Wing at Leeds General Infirmary and CCE Wakefield."

Domestics:​ "I am married with two children and four grandchildren."

Outside work​: "I have always been passionate about photography and I do a bit of wood turning I made the bowls in my office. I like travelling and have been to the Antarctic twice on a Russian ice-breaking ship. The next place I would like to go is the Great Barrier Reef. I also abseiled down Wakefield Cathedral two months ago for charity."

Related topics: People & Skills, Drinks

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