On January 25th, Year 10 Business and Communication students visited the Coca Cola bottling factory at Edmonton, North London. They were given a lively and interesting presentation by Bill Muirhead, the education coordinator, who explained how ICT is central to everything that happens at the factory: from monitoring the sugar and bacterial content of the secret recipe of the Coca Cola to controlling the huge robots that shrink wrap the bottles, stack them on pallets and move them to the top of a huge warehouse. Just in time production depends on ordering raw materials like plastic and cardboard by accurately forecasting the demand for the product, which is done through data captured at point-of-sale terminals in supermarkets.
The students were asked to work in teams to produce a marketing strategy for a soft drink. They had to think of a slogan, suggest suitable packaging, identify an audience and then promote the product. They then presented their campaigns to each other and to Bill, who was extremely impressed by the originality of the girls’ ideas and the liveliness with which they were communicated.
We then toured the factory, and in preparation we had to don high vis jackets and rather fetching red hairnets (“red” to represent the colour of the caps on bottles of Coca Cola). The tour was an amazing experience and presented an opportunity to see ICT controlling operations on a huge scale. The noise of clattering bottles was very loud even through our ear protectors, and to see thousands and thousands of bottles being blown up from plastic blobs, rinsed, filled, capped, labelled, shrink wrapped, stacked on pallets, bar coded and moved into the warehouse in under ten minutes per bottle was mind blowing. Did you know that every bottle has a photograph taken of the position of the cap and if it is the slightest bit loose the bottle is automatically removed? Did you know that every bottle has a radio wave passed through its neck to check that it is filled to the correct level? We were also very interested to learn that Coca Cola is becoming more environmentally friendly by reducing the amount of materials in the bottles by 10%, using packaging that is 100% recyclable and rinsing with compressed air rather than water.