Lucozade Ribena Suntory's new packaging line at Coleford factory revisited

28 July 2020

Earlier in the year, Lucozade Ribena Suntory (LRS) opened a new £13 million line at its Coleford Factory. The investment into the factory delivers a 40% reduction on water and energy needed to make each bottle and the high-speed bottling line fills 55,000 bottles an hour. This enables LRS to keep up with the demand for its drinks, including British favourites Lucozade and Ribena, whilst delivering on its 'Growing for Good' vision.

Gary Burford, Project Manager at LRS responsible for managing the new line, spoke earlier with Packaging Today about the new line, this time focusing on what, if any, impact Covid-19 has had.

How has the new line coped with covid 19?

  It’s business as usual for our new line which is currently running five days a week in the build up to what’s expected to be a busy summer for soft drinks. What this unusual period has done, is accelerate our learning. This is because the support engineers at Krones – who manufactured the line – had to return to Germany at the start of lockdown. We love having them on site as we’re constantly learning from one another but their absence has meant we’ve had to fast track our own learning, and as a result, have gained a vast amount of technical knowledge in the last three and a half months. 


What have been some of the areas where there was pressure on line, and how did the configuration of human and technology capital solve or address it?


The main pressures have been maintaining a supply of spare and consumable parts from Krones, who are based in Germany. With travel restrictions in place and courier delays a possibility, this was an early concern. However, with the wonders of modern technology such as video conferencing, they’ve been able to offer remote support which has meant we've been able to anticipate any stoppages, with any issues identified quickly resolved to keep production running.  


It also helps that lines such as ours use the very latest technology which can  provide us with a huge amount of performance data which we can  share and monitor closely. As we take on more knowledge, we are seeing production volumes and reliability improve with record production output days being seen. 


What has been the biggest takeaway from the experience of Covid-19? 

First and foremost, Covid-19 has underlined the importance of putting the health and welfare of our employees above anything else. Careful controls were rapidly implemented at the site to ensure that employees knew they had a safe environment to continue to work in, which is critical for keeping the production lines operational during these difficult times. 


It’s also highlighted our ability to adapt at pace, from refocusing our production schedule to meet the increased demand for our large park formats such as Ribena squash, or anticipating our PPE and heightened-hygiene needs before shortages began. 


Thirdly, it’s highlighted the importance of having strong relationships with our suppliers. We’ve relied on close support from our supply chain extending into Europe and this ongoing working relationship has ensured we’ve received committed support when needed.


Are there any changes you would make now if you knew this was coming ? If so/not what would you do and why?


Planning for our covid-19 response began in late January, before the first confirmed case in the UK and so we would absolutely do this again, with a view that any plan we make has to be flexible.


We’re lucky enough to have exceptional teams working throughout our supply chain and although it’s not always been simple, the creativity and determination each of our employees has demonstrated has meant we’ve been able to keep the nation supplied with our much-loved drinks. 


We have a saying at LRS - ‘Yatte Minahare’ which roughly translated from Japanese means ‘Go for it’ which really sums up our attitude to navigating this challenging period; we’ve been working determinedly and with agility to overcome every set of challenges, while remaining focussed on our customers, consumers and communities.  



Has this pandemic changed focus of line ( for example is sustainability still a focus or is agility or volume delivery more important ) ?


Flexibility has become more important as our production demand has been difficult to forecast during the pandemic; we have seen an increase in the number of product changeovers and the reduced clean times on the new plant have helped us to be more agile to meet customer requirements. This new need for flexibility is of course a focus for us but sustainability remains at the centre of everything we do, given it’s a business fundamental; part of our Growing for Good vision. 



What next? Is there anything you think you might see in future lines as a result of this global pandemic?


We are expecting production demand to continue to ramp up as lockdown restrictions ease and more people hopefully enjoy the sunshine. We are also continuing to develop plans to commence with phase 2 of our Coleford project with the installation of downstream packaging equipment.


Sustainability continues to be important to us, the pandemic has not and will not change this. Our aim is to keep driving down consumption of our utilities, reducing wastage and improving the efficiency of production lines.  

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