Can do man

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Investment, Carbon dioxide

Can do man
We serve the whole of Great Britain from here and will be looking at a significant uplift in our volume more than 20% to 51M cases next year. It will be the first time our output will have been above 50M cases. The plant will have the capability to produce 75M cases by 2014.

We wanted to move to something that was very much about our people. There has been a shift in the general culture of the site, so we are much more focused on being the best. To do that, the managers had to look at what they were like as individuals, such as their ability to be over-controlling or how they related to people.

I shared my vision for this site shortly after I joined, at the back end of the last quarter of 2009. I had previously been site director at Edmonton, which was in quite a bad place in the late 1990s and early noughties. I and my team took it to become one of our best plants and we wanted to do the same thing with Sidcup.

You have to start by getting the senior team completely aligned with what you are trying to do, with a good skills set. There were a couple of changes in the team.

Most people understood where Edmonton had been and where it had gone. We have been open and honest about the things that needed step changes. Cost was one. We were also very clear about where we were doing well. This site has always had a very good record on quality, but to just have that is not a great place to be.

We set stretch goals. If you do this, you will think differently and achieve more. We have worked hard on recognition. We have an ICON winner each month and give them £100, 'thank you' cards or a free breakfast, for example, and a free car park space. And we give the team of the quarter £500. We have worked hard on talent, from making sure we don't over-use people who overachieve to ensuring people in the middle of the pack perform to a higher level.

Results are important, but what's also important is how people deliver them, so we look at how an individual tackled a problem and achieved objectives.

One of the programmes at the very heart of all this is our apprenticeship scheme. We have two apprentices, both very bright lads who are doing well and who in a few years time will be great senior managers in the business. We will look to take on another apprentice in 2012/2013.

I started my career as an apprentice electrician 24 years ago at Allied Bakeries. I worked for a very tough engineer from Liverpool, but he had very high standards. Fortunately I'm fairly focused. I got that from my father, who ran his own business for 35 years. He would say things like, 'no one remembers who comes second or third in a race'​, so I became quite competitive.

I worked in project management, helping to install a new production line, then spent time as a team leader with Allied for 12 years. I then joined Diageo, starting off running a single line at Laindon in Essex and ending up running five lines.

In 1998 Diageo restructured and went from five to three plants, based in Scotland. The Laindon plant went through a two to three year closure and I stayed until it closed. I was heavily involved in training the workers in Scotland.

I finally left in 1999, then joined Coca-Cola Enterprises in 2000. I was a manager in manufacturing and operations, then became Edmonton's operations director in 2007.

Since then I have gained marketing and commercial experience, working on growing the brand. Doing that allowed me to think differently and look at a different way of tackling solutions. When we looked at projects, we would look at what they meant in the context of the brand.

One of my special responsibilities now is heading up the Energy & Renewable Energy group for our company. I devote about 15% of my time to that. We have reduced energy use for this site in particular by more than 20% in the past three years. We have reduced water losses by more than 50% over the same timescale. In 2000 the Sidcup site sent 650t of waste to landfill. Last year we had reduced that to zero.

We need to be more sustainable. That's something that means more to me now I have a young child we are planning not just for our future, but also for the future of our children.

Part of my responsibility is not just to make a difference myself, but to create the right environment for everyone to contribute. We have people on the shop floor who really care about corporate social responsibility.

For example, one member of our team has helped us switch to using the geothermal properties of water from a nearby borehole to evaporate off the liquid carbon dioxide we use for processing. This system uses less energy. Previously we used steam from boilers to evaporate liquid carbon dioxide off for use in the plant.

Our guys have also managed to reduce the pressure used for bottle blowing by more than five bar, so that has produced a saving in that area.

Where we have needed to invest we have done so, but it's important not to underestimate the amount we can benefit from our own people. People can get into the mindset that you can only reduce energy required to produce carbon dioxide if you spend a lot. I don't agree.

Having said that, we do need to invest as well and this year we are making our biggest ever investment: £20.7M. The canning line represents our biggest chunk of investment £13M but we are also spending £1.5M on a new raw materials warehouse that will be strategically placed at the front end of the canning line. That will reduce truck movements on this site.

We aim to invest in distribution in 2017/2018 and this could include an Automated Storage & Retrieval System. In order to meet our output target of 75M cases, if we just put more production lines in and didn't do anything with the infrastructure of the site we would have several bottlenecks.

This year we looked to reduce our impact on the environment by removing the cardboard trays from our 500ml polyethylene terephthalate (PET) products. This meant investing in new packers and palletisers, saving more than £1M in material, plus 500t of cardboard each year.

Separately we have also spent £750,000 on our education centre. We regularly give talks there on our function in the factory and our investment breaks the paradigm that the food and drink industry is a dirty, low-skilled environment.

We have invested more than £50M over 10 years in our canning, plastic, aseptic filling and new product development lines. We have engaged in the replacement of a number of site services. Some of this has been about reducing energy, but it's also about what the site looks like. We fixed the potholes in the car park and put lighting up, for example. The feedback from staff was quite striking.

One of the challenges is: how do you secure capital for these things, because there is no payback for them. The offices here used to have no air conditioning, which made it almost impossible to work in them in the summer, so that was another £200,000 investment. We have targets for return on capital invested and we have to over-deliver in some areas so we can invest in these others.

We can now start investing in site building and fabric. Business leaders should start talking positively about the workplace. We have kept investment going to come out the other side of the economic downturn prepared. It's frustrating that Sidcup investing won't make the news, but a site shutting down across the road does.

Factory facts

Location: Coca-Cola Enterprises, Cray Road, Sidcup, Kent, DA14 5DF

Staff: 350 full time and agency, picking up to 420 in the summer

Size: 120,000m2​ for the total site

Operating Hours: 24/7

Products: 400 stock keeping units all the Coke brands, plus Fanta, Sprite, Dr Pepper, Lilt, Schweppes in can, glass and plastic formats. It's also the home for Powerade in Great Britain. A total of 80% of products are distributed to retail outlets and all the rest go through foodservice customers, such as pubs and clubs, or vending channels

Output: 51M cases in the coming year, with a target of 75M within the next three years


Name: Steve Adams

Age: 41

Career Highlights: "I oversaw dramatic improvements at Coca-Cola's Edmonton site.What we achieved there was colossal. The site had been underperforming for a number of years and, for example, we took it from 38% utilisation to 82.5% utilisation. It has also been great to start to see similar improvements at Sidcup."

Domestic: "I have been married for two years to my wife Roxanne and have one child, my son Hugo."

Outside work: "I'm a keen snowboarder. I have been doing that for a number of years. My favourite resort is Chamonix. I also run for charity and have participated in the 6km run for Kidscape for the past few years. I also go to the gym three or four times a week."

Related topics: People & Skills, Drinks

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