As Coca-Cola European Partners continues to make progress on its digital transformation journey, Tim Marsden, IT Director - Supply Chain, talks about the company’s appetite for exploring the very latest technologies, the ways in which it leverages analytics and partnerships, and its co-innovation work in digitizing the circular economy.
Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) came about as a result of a three-way merger, announced in 2015, between Coca-Cola Enterprises, the legacy bottler of Coke products for western Europe, and its Iberian and German counterparts. Now the biggest bottler by revenue in the global Coke system, CCEP embarked on a large transformation journey in 2017. Together with his colleagues, Tim Marsden, IT Director - Supply Chain, is leading the work to update the Customer Service and Supply Chain function through greater adoption of the latest digital solutions.
"We did that with two main programs of work. One was setting our objectives on a new business process hierarchy. Then, in parallel, we also developed a series of business capability development programs which covered all the different dimensions of our business, from the front office and commercial activities right through to the back office, processing and supply chain space," he begins.
In recent years, CCEP has moved to focus on enhancing supply chain activities, where investment is driving increased technology and digital solution adoption. From a manufacturing and logistics perspective, Marsden says the aim is to make the heart of the company’s operations more efficient and cost effective and much more contemporary with the technology it is using.
Turning digital potential into reality
"We’re part way through a big journey. We’ve carried out nearly a dozen different pilot projects of technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data and analytics, and we’ve done use cases around blockchain and the use of cobots," Marsden reveals.
In fact, CCEP has quite a big appetite for exploring the very latest technologies under the whole concept of digital. "We want to see where the value might lie for us to leverage these new capabilities and really embed them into our road map for the future."
Challenges on the road to digital transformation
Every journey includes a few bumps along the way and this one wasn’t any different. Marsden lists three that the company has faced while working on this digital transformation initiative.
"One of the biggest challenges we anticipated—and certainly one that has proved to be true—is the need for harmonized, quality and at scale big volumes of data. We recognized that bringing these organizations together, with all of their legacy applications and systems, would generate a lot of this data," he says.
The second is process harmonization. "With 45 factories coming from legacy organizations producing very similar portfolios of products, getting the process alignment and process harmonization right is still a work in progress."
The third point revolves around the organizational dimension. According to Marsden, the organization as a whole also needs to evolve to get the most from the technology while making sure that this technology is sustainably adopted.
Harnessing the power of analytics and partnerships
To be truly end-to-end, it’s not enough to work within the four walls of your organization. "Being more connected and aligned, and collaborating more effectively with all the different ecosystem partners we work with as well as the various parts of the internal supply chain is something we have clearly identified as a priority area," he says.
"To be truly end-to-end, it’s not enough to work within the four walls of your organization. Being more connected and aligned, and collaborating more effectively with different ecosystem partners and various parts of the internal supply chain is our priority."
CCEP acknowledges the powerful opportunity that analytics would bring. "If we're able to get more insights through the data we can generate across that end-to-end value chain, that would give us a lot more advantage in terms of not only how quickly but also how smartly and intelligently we can make decisions on how we operate as an organization. In addition, we also satisfy the evolving requirements of all the stakeholders that play a part in that in that end-to-end model," he points out.
Digitizing the circular economy
As an example, Marsden highlights work that CCEP is carrying out with the enterprise application software company SAP, one of their biggest technology partners. "A few years ago, SAP invited us to be part of a multi-customer workshop about the whole concept of packaging. Since then, what started out as an initiative to think about plastics and the impact of plastic packaging has become more complete in terms of the overall circular economy model."
Today, Marsden says that CCEP is co-innovating with SAP not only on the recovery and recycling of packaging, but on everything that goes into responsible sourcing, responsible product design, and how companies are measuring and improving their impact from a carbon footprint point of view.
"This project now also includes sharing knowledge on recycling mechanisms, the recycled content marketplace and how organizations can acquire and purchase recycled content to then use in their manufacturing. There's a big opportunity to do something to really push forward the concept of digitizing the circular economy," he adds.
The future will be both digital and green
Marsden shares that CCEP’s digital transformation has taken on a new momentum and a fresh impetus with consumers in light of the pandemic. Through This is Forward, the company’s sustainability action plan announced in late 2020, CCEP is taking action on six key social and environmental areas where the company has significant impact, and which its stakeholders want it to prioritize: action on water, packaging, drinks, sociey, climate and supply chain.
Marsden believes that CCEP’s business strategy drives the digital strategy. "Recent public declarations by our CEO Damian Gammell talk about how the recovery from the pandemic for us is going to be digital and green." All in all, by investing heavily in its digital transformation journey, CCEP intends to use its manufacturing business and roster of brands to help build a better future.