Coca-Cola GB revamps rack safety
16 January 2018
David Robertson, Coca-Cola European Partners talks to HSS Editor Simon Duddy about how the company revamped its approach to racking safety.
It is no surprise that Coca-Cola has a huge distribution operation in the UK, with considerable rack infrastructure under its control. This makes management and maintenance of this asset crucial.
- Simon Duddy: What prompted your safety initiative?
David Robertson: It was on the back of what we call the ‘ISO multi-side accreditation audit’. In essence, we had a finding across a couple of sites, around the way we manage our racking. That was the trigger to do something in our warehouses.
While we had this one finding around the racking, I wanted to broaden the scope of this, and so I conducted a problem analysis against the original issue. This opened up more issues which needed to be addressed. From that, we formed a project group, wherein we met and had calls on a periodic basis in order to review how to move forward. We used a platform called Integrum, which is a management systems platform, with a project module bolstered onto it.
- SD: Have you had to modify it as you have travelled along your journey?
DR: Yes, many times! The biggest challenge has been that, within GB, we’ve managed racking in a silo way of thinking, i.e. each site had come up with its own way of managing racking. They were never all aligned and we didn’t have a set standard within the UK. Consequently, each site had a different approach to managing racking. One of the greatest challenges was bringing everyone together to have one central approach.
- SD: What were the outcomes you were looking for?
DR: The main outcome was to understand; are we legal? There are so many legalities as to how we manage racking across sites. Also, we really wanted to have one standardised approach to maintenance and inspection of racking.
The HSE recommends that anyone completing inspections should be accredited to SEMA, the governing body for racking in the UK. It’s good practice to have people competent to SEMA standards, and especially good kudos given that HSE view them as being the best.
Another outcome, which came within phase two of the project, was standardising the plans we use for external racking inspections. We currently operate with 12 companies, and it’s both messy and costly. We don’t have a standard rate. In terms of inspections, when you are operating with 12 different companies, they’re never all the same. It’s much better value for money to have less, so that I’d be able to sit down with one company and review racking across the whole business. That would be much more manageable.
- SD: How do you monitor the progress of the initiative to ensure it is successful?
DR: Although a large part of the initiative has been completed now, we monitored the progress through regular review meetings with stakeholders across all sites.
- SD: What have you achieved?
DR: To date, we’ve created a GB racking maintenance and inspection standard. This is a live document on the Integrum system, which is fully endorsed and signed off by the UK distribution network. We wanted to make sure we aligned accountabilities and responsibilities in the UK, so that it is all standardised across all sites.
We also created a central inspection form, which is approved and live on the system. Additionally, we worked with someone who covers European engineering. He had a racking document that he created over many years for the installation of racking. So, if you wanted to construct racking from scratch, you’d use that document. We have now refreshed that document and it’s a live standardised document for us.
The bottom line is that all relevant documents that we need are in place, in a way that is standardised and efficient.
- SD: Can you tell us more about the problem analysis process?
DR: I went on a training course which covered problem analysis and different techniques. I looked at the initial problem that the auditors discovered, and I broadened the scope. For me, the issues that I identified were minor, but having been in the distribution field for 12 years, I knew there were more GAPs.
So, I created a template asking a series of 30 questions. I shared it with every site in the UK and every facility in Europe – over 40 sites in total. From that, I was able to find out a great deal of information, answering questions such as; were we legally compliant? Where are the gaps? How big is the problem? That was my driving tool to understand what we needed to do next.
- SD: Have you succeeded in reducing the time taken to repair defective racking?
DR: This is a work in progress, so it’s difficult to fully answer this question. We are in the middle of tendering for maintenance and inspection of all racking, and part of the contractual side of this tender will answer this question.
Currently, we have very long lead times on replacing parts. Some can be six weeks, which is far too long, and as a business, we can’t afford for it to take that long. Part of the tender will be for future incumbents to provide a lead time that is more aligned with our business. For example, within a two week period, we’d expect parts, labour and repairs to all be completed. Shorter lead times would be beneficial on all levels, but most importantly, we cannot have empty racking for long periods of time, so it will inevitably increase our storage space.
- SD: What criteria are you using with racking suppliers?
DR: This is a process that is currently under review, as we’re in procurement now. In essence, we’ve looked at a number of suppliers, and there are 14 within our scope. This tender will be completed by the end of February.
We follow a seven step gateway criteria, wherein there are several objectives under each category: Capability & Productivity; Quality & Customer Service; Regulatory & Social Responsibility; Supply, Risk & Continuity; Financial; Sustainability; Innovation.
Each of the potential future incumbents would need to answer a question under each of these pillars. For example, under ‘Regulatory & Social Responsibility’, we ask whether they are SEMA accredited, as we would not work with anyone who was not.
- SD: What benefits have you seen from standardising practice on inspecting and maintaining racking?
DR: Throughout this process, we have seen both internal and external benefits.
Internally, we are now all working towards operating to the same standards. It is easier to see trends, and to review and understand the data across multiple sites.
Whereas, from an external perspective, we are hoping that once we have got the system in place, whoever we work with will have an online portal that they’ll update as they go. For example, as they’re doing inspections, data is being inputted into an online portal. We want to be able to log on and see a dashboard with a mixture of leading and lagging indicators, which will tell us how compliant we are, or what issues we have.
We also want to understand why we are damaging racking in the first place. This is something that we’ll look at in phase three, which will be in 2018. Additionally, we’ll want to also look at the financial element of this, aligning with one or two future suppliers, so that we can try to quantify the saving. What we’ve seen so far is that managing our racking spend hasn’t been very good. The lack of transparency around the visibility of spend across sites has meant that it has been hard to quantify it exactly, however we know there is some saving to be made.
- SD: How do you help warehouse staff become accountable for the changes you want to drive in the warehouse?
DR: First, it was about understanding who is accountable for racking nationally, which for me was groundbreaking. As a business, we have changed the structure a lot in recent months. We now have a director for logistics, who was very open to this process, and he is now the overall person accountable for racking.
On a local level, we have made it explicitly clear that the safety manager is responsible for making sure racking maintenance takes place. This is now all clearly documented and has been communicated locally. Additionally, we also train everyone who works in warehouses, and part of that training is to reinforce their responsibilities, such as reporting damage, which is a common responsibility for everyone in a warehouse.
- SD: How does SEMA help in your storage safety efforts?
DR: At the start of the project, we were able to see the internal gaps from the problem analysis. What we needed to do was benchmark against someone else, and that is how SEMA came into play. We took their guidance and audited ourselves against them. We could then have clear visibility of where we were and where we needed to be. During that process, we reached out to SEMA’s technical team to ask what we could change. That is what got me involved with SEMA, as they wanted to understand what we were doing. We reference SEMA within our documents, and everyone has to go to one of their training courses. Our standards are largely built around their requirements, as they are the industry body enforcing best practice.
- SD: If you use agency workers, how do you get them up to speed on safety for your site?
DR: Agency employees are all screened for health before they join, and all agency employees undergo the same training as full time employees. Agency workers are also inducted into the business, and they’ll undergo any specialist training related to the job. In essence, they’re not treated any different to full time employees in assessing how capable and competent they are, and that’s across everything we’ll ask them to do.
• SD: What’s the key to making the process work?
DR: These initiatives take time, especially when you’re working across seven large plants. We’ve definitely done it the right way, and I’ve been prepared to take the time to do it. This is something that falls well within my remit. I’ve seen these issues in various roles, however now, in my current role, I have a bit more clout to influence how we do things.
This is something I’m really passionate about. For me, it’s about getting the right stakeholders briefed and having the right people together in one room. I now have a platform at the GB Distributions Managers Meeting, wherein I have my own slot to present findings, a problem analysis, and show them the new standard. Everyone gets the opportunity to have some input, and because of that, they’ve all bought into it.