Steve Adams is a sensation at Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE). A former electrical apprentice, he rose to become CCE group director of supply chain operations for Great Britain in April last year, following a four-year stint as operations director at the Sidcup site.
“I don’t think you can run a supply chain from an office, you need to be out there where it’s happening and I’m a firm believer in that,” he says. He adds that 60% of his time is spent at CCE’s sites – “actually physically in the site” – where he interacts with workers on the production lines.
Operations managers need to be where it is all happening, he believes, and admits that he doesn’t spend much time at CCE’s head office in Uxbridge either, because of his need to be where the action is. “I can add value when I go to a site and, equally in my job, one of the key things I need to do is give support.”
There are around 4,000 people working in CCE’s GB manufacturing and supply chain operations and Adams spends as much time with them as possible. “I like to think about 30% of my time is spent with people. That might be giving some recognition or just walking around the sites, getting updates or having discussions.”
Adams works across seven sites that produce millions of cases of drinks per year. Products range from Coca-Cola and its Diet and Zero varieties, to Dr Pepper, Sprite, Lilt, Fanta, Capri-Sun, Oasis, Schweppes and Abbey Well mineral waters, to name but a few.
To fit it all in, Adams typically arrives at a site before 7.30am. “The role of operations starts early. I will go around the site with the site director and talk with people to understand how I can give support.
Capital investment (Return to top)
“Depending on what’s going on at a site, we may have a meeting. If we’re investing capital we may talk about that and review the project plan and things like that.”
He was not, however, up for discussing planned capital investment, as the company’s 2013 results are not due out until late February. But, he says, more than £112M has been invested into sites over the last three years, £30M of which on a new automated storage and retrieval warehouse in Wakefield. “That’s a big 30,000 pallet warehouse and we're just finishing the commissioning of that,” he says.
He also reveals that a new canning line will be installed at the Sidcup site at the back end of this year, which will process 150ml and 250ml cans, but he won’t discuss costs.
“We have got other investments this year, which I can’t discuss because they are not signed off. But they are mostly about corporate social responsibility (CSR), capacity and capability,” he teases.
One thing Adams is prepared to speak about in great detail, however, is his involvement in CSR. In fact, Adams led CCE’s CSR Manufacturing Workgroup, but has since passed the responsibilities onto the site director at Morpeth, following the take-up of his new role.
“CSR is important to me; I used to spend 20% of my time on the Work Group. I personally think we need to do some leadership around sustainability and our impact on the environment, both inside and outside work.”
Environment (Return to top)
Adams says his passion for the environment extends outside work, driven by the future of his two young boys aged 18 months and three years. “It’s serious, we all have to do something, don’t we? It’s important.”
Last year alone, CCE and retail customer Tesco received 37,000 consumer pledges to recycle packaging, as part of a joint scheme. Last month CCE teamed up with Waitrose to boost the recycling activity in shoppers’ homes by encouraging them to make a pledge to select one material to recycle for a month.
CCE’s target to reduce its environmental impact is ambitious, Adams discloses. He says CCE’s goal for renewable energy supply across the company is targeted to reach 35% by 2020.
Despite being a way off that massive target, Adams insists it is achievable. “The idea of a really stretched goal is that it’s realistic, otherwise you probably shouldn’t put it out there.”
People from the top to the bottom have CSR accountability built into their roles, which is one way CCE is striving to meet its green targets, Adams says. “It’s a foundation of the business and it needs to go across the whole business – it comes from the chief executive down.”
Around three years ago CCE decided to give staff on its production lines the opportunity to contribute to CSR in a very direct way. “It’s not just about capital investment," explains Adams. "You need to engage with the people that work for you because they have very good ideas that don’t necessarily cost a lot of money.”
Staff input (Return to top)
A recent session at CCE’s Edmonton site, he says, revealed nearly 600 ideas from staff to improve parts of the business. He highlights one energy-saving idea that centres around shrink wrappers for drinks packs. “One of our teams came up with the idea of putting an automatic curtain around the back of the packer when packs are not going through; it’s [providing] a 15% energy reduction.”
He also thinks employee ideas can be more valuable when used alongside larger capital investments and says the number of ideas coming into use from workers is about the same as those coming from the top of the business.
“We’re converting our electric packers into gas, which gives us about a 60% reduction in carbon,” he says. This, along with the curtaining, will provide big energy and carbon savings. “We’ve converted about 12 electric packers to gas so far and we're rolling the curtain idea out at the same time.” The company is saving 1,243t of carbon through the packer conversions alone.
It is not all about energy saving though. Adams acknowledges there is an issue of skills shortages in the food and drinks sector generally. He points to the work CCE does at its five education centres across the country – with a sixth opening in Milton Keynes later this year – to raise the profile of manufacturing.
Ageing population (Return to top)
While Adams says CCE does not have immediate skills shortages, it is aware it cannot sit on its laurels. “One thing we have to look at is an ageing [worker] population. Currently, 18% of our GB workforce is over 55. What’s important for me is bringing young people in,” he says.
That said, it is about quality as well as numbers. Adams points out that CCE has eight apprentices and not all of them were picked for their technical abilities. “We’re happy to bring people in with the right attitude and train them,” he says.
CCE’s five education centres saw 20,000 students visiting them last year and Adams is convinced they make a real difference to young people’s perceptions of the industry. “It’s a big investment though. And it’s not just building the centres, but the investment of time as well.”
But what does CCE get back from its investments in education? Adams claims it is not about a direct financial return. The company has pledged to invest at least 1% back in to the communities. “We are at about 0.5% now and I think manufacturing businesses in our country need to do things like this quite frankly. But it's not some kind of savvy business investment.”
Such approaches, Adams believes, will help the food and drink manufacturing sector to attract more youngsters. “If they want to work for CCE though, then that’s brilliant,” he adds.
Watch our exclusive video in which Adams discusses how the food and drink industry can use education to change perceptions of the sector.
Site responsibility (Return to top)
Adams looks after sites at:
East Kilbride Edmonton
Milton Keynes Sidcup
Northampton Distribution Centre
Output of each site:
East Kilbride: 16M cases a year
Edmonton: 44.6M cases a year
Milton Keynes: 48M cases a year
Sidcup: 42M cases a year
Wakefield: 100M cases a year
Morpeth: 2.5M cases a year
Employees at each site:
East Kilbride: 155
Milton Keynes: 220
Northampton Distribution Centre: 71