WINNER: COCA-COLA ENTERPRISES
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Seven years ago, few people at the Edmonton, north London, plant of Coke bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) would have given odds on it surviving, let alone winning prizes. Indeed, when CCE took the plant out of the previous joint venture into full ownership, its challenge to managers was bald: turn it round or close it down. Utilisation was running at 38%, housekeeping was appalling, and the workforce disaffected.
The transformation since then has been spectacular. For the criteria that matter to the group - quality, utilisation, yield, safety and housekeeping - Edmonton has topped the league table of its UK plants for the past 18 months, bringing down its cost per case by 15% since 1997: highly satisfactory financials for the parent.
Yet although CCE is in its own right a high-performing multinational, this is no clone-like implementation of a standard manufacturing formula laid down by the centre. Edmonton is quality and innovation with a distinct north London accent.
The starting point was a unique five-year partnership deal with the site's trade unions, which won a stable framework for the turnaround process.
The agreement was also a symbolic recognition of the importance of people, even in a highly capital-intensive business where a new bottling line costs up to pounds 15 million (Edmonton has seven, turning out 28 million cases a year). In a root-and-branch change, individuals have been multi-skilled and integrated teams developed. Like the management, they are mostly home-grown, feeding the plant's strong local character. 'Everything possible is decentralised and devolved down to team level,' says general manager Richard Davies, who has led the transformation effort from the beginning.
People are one half of Edmonton's delivery system. The other half is systems to document the changes and ensure that the improvement ratchet can't slip back. 'We systematise everything,' explains Davies.
Edmonton was only the seventh of CCE's plants to win accreditation to Phase 3 of its Total Quality Management System. Now it is pushing for Phase 4. How? 'Facts are friendly' is an Edmonton mantra, and one way the firm has harnessed their power is by developing a software package called Lineview. For a plant that works a 116-hour week, Lineview - which identifies and measures losses on production lines in real time - 'is an incredibly powerful tool, which we use to drive performance,' says manufacturing manager Steve Adams. 'But the key message is: it can only do that if the operational teams own it and act on it. And they do.'
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