Coca-Cola United's newly implemented E-Z Pallet distribution system.

On April 28, Baton Rouge Coca-Cola Bottling Co. celebrated the grand opening of its new 781,000-square-foot production and distribution facility on 112 acres in Baton Rouge, La. Two years in the making, the facility supplies Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United’s Gulf Coast Region and serves as a regional production and distribution hub for the Coca-Cola system for Powerade and Vitaminwater.
To mark the importance of the facility to bottling, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the environment, Gulf Coast Region and Baton Rouge Coca-Cola Bottling Co. President Darian Chustz was joined by Coca-Cola United’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Claude Nielsen, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Coca-Cola Co. Muhtar Kent, Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc.’s President and Chief Executive Officer Larry Young, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden and Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council for Louisiana John Anderson.
Even with the manufacturing expectations of producing 4.5 million 8-ounce servings daily, Baton Rouge Coca-Cola’s new facility was awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED certification addresses state-of-the-art strategies in five areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials and resources selection, and indoor environmental quality.
Baton Rouge Coca-Cola is the first Coca-Cola bottler and the first manufacturing facility in Louisiana to achieve LEED status. To accomplish this certification, the new building was constructed with recycled materials wherever feasible, incorporates energy conservation initiatives and features an onsite recycling center for reclaiming plastic, cardboard, aluminum and shrinkwrap. The onsite recycling center will handle materials from the production process of Baton Rouge Coca-Cola as well as recyclable materials from other distribution centers in Coca-Cola United’s Gulf Coast Region.
“The Coca-Cola Co. and Coca-Cola United have a resolute commitment to environmental stewardship,” Nielsen says. “As we look back at our original project objectives, the one that we are most proud of is the design of this facility. We are focused on driving energy efficiency, conserving water and recycling to drive sustainability. Our new facility is LEED certified. While LEED certification in itself is important, it really says more about our commitment to sustainability … We’re working on our sustainability initiatives throughout the franchise territories in which we operate.”
Production planning
The new facility not only incorporates efficiencies in terms of energy consumption, but also effective supply chain management.
“We have been very conscious of contemporary supply chain and distribution capability in design, engineering and the layout,” Nielsen says. “This new Baton Rouge plant, which serves as both a production and distribution center, should be very efficient from a production and product flow perspective. Product is moved from the production area to the warehouse to a pallet-building operation and loaded directly onto the trucks. Each truck has a dedicated dock so we’re not moving trucks constantly as we load them. We have a total of 98 docks.”
Baton Rouge Coca-Cola currently has four lines in operation. The facility allots 389,000 square feet for production, with room to add two more bottling lines by 2012. The company currently employs 540 people in the facility, and by 2012 expects to employ more than 600.
Digital signs in the production area constantly update teams on production performance and quality parameters. Line 1 in the plant is a 12-ounce can line with a capacity to fill 1,800 cans per minute, and is capable of producing 4,500 cases per hour. The line packs cans into six-, 12-, 18-, 20- and 24-packs.
Line 2 fills 20-ounce, 1-liter and 2-liter carbonated beverages that can be packaged in loose configurations and eight-packs. This line also produces Coca-Cola’s new 2-liter contour bottle. The line can fill 800 20-ounce bottles per minute, 500 1-liter bottles per minute and 350 2-liter contour bottles per minute.
The facility’s second PET line bottles 12-ounce, 16-ounce, half-liter and 20-ounce sparkling beverages and Dasani bottled water. The line packages loose configurations along with multipack configurations in Hi-Cone and tray shrink. It fills 800 16- and 20-ounce bottles per minute.
The fourth line in operation is a thermal line capable of producing 20-ounce and 32-ounce Powerade and Vitaminwater beverages. The line fills 800 20-ounce bottles per minute, and fills 650 32-ounce bottles per minute.
The facility also features a quality assurance team that monitors food safety management systems along with the quality of products and packages. Other parameters tested include carbonation, syrup-to-water ratio, microbiology, packaging integrity, taste, odor and appearance. The water system consists of nano-filtration and reverse-osmosis.
Off the quality assurance lab is a syrup tank room that houses 15 syrup tanks capable of storing 100,000 gallons of syrup. The syrup tank room includes a mixing system dedicated to Coca-Cola syrup in addition to two other batch systems. The room also houses two sweetener tanks with a capacity for 60,000 gallons of sweeteners.
Baton Rouge Coca-Cola handles more than 400 SKUs in the warehouse, and produces a high percentage of the SKUs in the facility.
“We try to produce whatever we can when it makes sense logistically,” says Stan Ellington, Coca-Cola United’s vice president supply chain and operations.
Efficient distribution
Baton Rouge Coca-Cola’s 278,000-square-foot warehouse area holds an average inventory of 550,000 to 800,000 cases. Within the warehouse, the company operates two separate warehouse areas. The company has a Coca-Cola-owned warehouse area for hot-fill products, and it has another warehouse area for other beverages Baton Rouge Coca-Cola distributes. For its hot-fill operation, the warehouse uses a management system in which all barcodes are scanned right off the production line into inventory and then onto the trucks.
Baton Rouge Coca-Cola’s new facility is a primary hub for products that it doesn’t produce, allowing lower volume products to come into the plant and be distributed to other sales centers. As a primary distribution hub, Coca-Cola United decided to roll out a proprietary distribution system, which it calls E-Z Pallet. The new distribution system allows route salesmen to deliver product to customers more easily and efficiently with the hope of preventing injuries.
“E-Z Pallet was implemented when we moved to this facility because the facility was designed to take advantage of that distribution opportunity,” Ellington says. “The new system certainly helps us manage the growing portfolio of product and SKUs.” 
The E-Z Pallet system uses an 18.5-inch by 47.5-inch pallet and an E-Z pallet jack. The loading crew picks cases and stacks them on the specially sized pallets and shrinkwraps the pallet. The loading crew then moves the product to the delivery truck and uses a lift to get the pallets on the truck. The loading crew packs the pallets in order of route stops, so the salesman is able to unload in order of delivery stops. In addition, because the products are loaded on pallets, the route salesman doesn’t have to touch the product until he is ready to merchandise in the store. The E-Z Pallet system allows the route salesman to take the pallet right from the lift gate of the truck into the store and down the aisle or into a cooler.
“With the tremendous volume of product and number of SKUs, this delivery system allows us to better serve our customers,” Ellington says.
The company also made a significant investment in fleet for the E-Z Pallet system by switching from side-load truck bodies to 28- to 35-foot long trailers with lift gates. The lift gates go from truck level to ground level, so docks are not needed for delivery. The company also switched its loading equipment for the system from forklifts to pallet jacks.
With the workload of delivering 400 to 500 cases a day per route, Coca-Cola United continues to focus on making distribution jobs easier. The company has developed a prototype for a motorized E-Z Pallet Jack. In another phase, the company plans to have an automatic order building system.
Baton Rouge Coca-Cola also is in the planning stages for a voice pick system that can help improve efficiency and alleviate errors by reducing confusion between product and packages types. The picking crew is told a location number and the number of products to pick by the voice pick system. Then the crew travels to that location, selects the product and gives the voice pick operator a confirmation number.
Coca-Cola United also is working on integrating more racking systems, such as case flow racks and mass storage racks, into its facilities company wide. Teams continue to search for ways to further advance its warehousing and logistics.
“With the continuing proliferation of our products and packages, we have to find better ways to execute and become more efficient,” Ellington says. “Coca-Cola United has a long history of excellence in customer service, and providing our customers with the products they want and need. In order to do that, logistics are more important than ever.” BI