Waters’ Hollis, Maine, plant is its flagship facility, producing its
Poland Spring product, and serving as the model
against which all new Nestlé plants are built. The Hollis plant,
which opened in 2000, is not far from Nestlé’s original Poland
Spring plant, but starting from scratch allowed the facility to be
constructed with the principles of low-cost, high-performance production in
mind. The plant is vertically integrated, manufacturing its own PET
preforms and bottles, and features a manufacturing layout designed to flow
seamlessly from bottle production to loading docks.
“Our new plants are all laid out the same way to
maximize the efficiency of what we are doing. They flow from raw material
to finished product, and out of the plant,” says Kim Jeffery, chief
executive officer of Nestlé Waters North America.
The plant measures half a million square feet and is
highly automated, producing about 900 million PET bottles and 65 million
cases of finished product per year with about 200 employees. It features
seven bottling lines that run retail-sized single-serve and bulk packages.
The Hollis plant does not bottle product for home and office delivery.
PET preforms manufactured at the plant are used in
Hollis and shipped to other locations that do not make their own prefoms.
In 2004, the company expects to produce close
to 1 billion bottles and 1.5 billion preforms, at a rate of 7,500 to 55,000
per hour, per machine, depending on seasonal fluctuations.
Eight blowmolders serve the plant’s seven
filling lines, with four machines dedicated to the most popular half-liter
size. The plant can produce as many as 30,000 PET bottles per
hour, per machine in 8-ounce, 12-ounce, half-liter, 24-ounce, 1-liter,
1.5-liter and 1-gallon sizes.
Fast, but flexible
Most of the water bottled in Hollis goes into the PET
bottles it produces, but the company also features some HDPE packaging.
Filling speeds vary, depending on the size of the package, from 90 bottles
per minute for the 2.5-gallon HDPE size to more than 1,000 per minute for
the half-liter PET size.
Water that has been filtered and gone through UV
treatment is filled in a positive-pressure
enclosure for further protection. Several inspection machines placed along
the bottling line check for things such as fill levels and cap placement.
In addition, the plant’s quality control team continuously performs
its own set of tests while the lines run. The plant’s QA/QC lab
operates seven days a week, testing water samples from the source through
filtration and bottling. It also retains samples from every product run.
As often as possible, Nestlé Waters tries to
have bottling lines dedicated to specific sizes and packages, but according
to David Burns, director, northeast supply chain, the plant has become
adept at integrating new packages with its standard sizes while not
compromising its high-speed processes.
“We continually have new SKUs,” he says.
“We’ve added a two 12-pack [package] on the 24-ounce line, two
12-packs on the half-liter line, and we’re reducing material by
taking out the tray on some of the cases.”
One of the company’s newest packages is the
12-ounce refrigerator Spring Pack, and it often produces special bonus
packages such as 15- or 28-packs.
Getting to market
Another strength of the
plant is its warehouse management. “Logistics has been a real focus
of ours,” Burns says. “It’s so critical for our business;
the cost of shipping is a big component in our cost structure.”
While the plant has a 240,000-square-foot warehouse,
with a capacity of nearly 1 million cases, its goal is to move product from
the palletizer straight to the loading dock whenever possible. When product
is stored in the warehouse, it is arranged with the fastest-moving products
closest to the shipping docks. On average, the plant ships 160 loads per
day, with more than 200 on peak days.
“In order to do this, you need to make sure
you’re making [the product] right the first time, every time,”
Jeffery says. “We feel very confident with the systems we have in
Unlike many of its competitors, Nestlé Waters
does not use direct store delivery, but ships product to customers’
warehouses and distribution centers. The Hollis plant uses only third-party
carriers to ship product, and Burns says about 90 percent of its
distribution is done through direct shipping rather than using a third,
“A lot of things have driven this,” he
says. “If we have the right product mix, we don’t have to take
it someplace else, bring it back here and ship it out. It’s about
having the right inventory and changeover flexibility. It’s a lot
cheaper to changeover these lines quickly — have that pit-stop
mentality of changing them over and getting the products we
According to Jeffery, it also requires big thinking among Nestlé Waters employees. “It
cannot work if the company is not culturally aligned, with a goal
that’s bigger than the individuals or their specific jobs,” he
says. The company puts a premium on finding the right employees, and
Jeffery says the selection begins right when a new plant opens.
“Our manufacturing assets are all fairly new,
and we can build a plant with no baggage,” he says. “We have
the pick of the litter as far as employees. We know what we expect from
people, and as a result, we have one of the most progressive workforces in
the beverage industry in the United States because it’s all new and
it’s all using best practices.”
As part of one of the largest food companies in the
world, Nestlé Waters has access to a variety of measurement tools
and performance meters that help it determine best-in-class practices. The
company is constantly measuring itself against its performance goals.
Continuous Improvement Manager Val Lovelace says,
“It’s all about taking apart what we do really well today and
making sure we can do it even better tomorrow. One of the things about
Hollis, which is an outstanding facility, is
that that’s not enough. How do we keep it that way five years from
Jeffery adds, “We’re working to get better
every day and measure ourselves against key performance indicators in every
aspect of the business. The way we do this is through developing
One of the ways it develops people is to put
decision-making into the hands of employees. Nestlé Waters plants,
including Hollis, use self-directed work teams, and employees are
encouraged to meet daily to evaluate production and discuss changes.
Stepping it up
Employee input also has been a key component of
Nestlé Waters’ environmental program in Hollis. Tamara Risser,
regional safety and environmental manager, leads the environmental effort,
which often includes working with the state of Maine and other companies in
the area, in addition to implementing environmentally conscious programs at
The company participates in Maine’s Step-Up
program, which Risser says, “stresses environmental sustainability
and working with other businesses to help each other out. One of the things
they stress is pursuing those things that make sense from an environmental
stability standpoint as well as a business standpoint.”
Many ideas, including recycling programs and the use
of an onsite sanitary wetland to treat wastewater, have come from
employees, some of whom have been recognized by the state’s governor
for their contributions.
“It must be the Yankee frugality,” says
Risser. “It’s easy to get great ideas out of people.”
The wetland project, Risser says, will pay off in less
than two years. “It means we’ll no longer be contributing to
nitrogen loading in coastal waters because we’ll be treating [the
water] onsite, it saves greenhouse gasses by not tankering it away, and it
Through the Step-Up program, the company committed to
reducing energy use at the plant by 10 percent in three years, and
succeeded in reducing it by 15 percent. It similarly committed to reducing
solid waste by 10 percent, and is on track to reach more than 40 percent in
“There is the perception of big companies
— that they’re wasteful, that they’re polluters,”
says Jeffery. “One of our commitments everywhere we have a plant is
to be a good neighbor or a good citizen in the states where we do
I want to hear from you. Tell me how we can improve.
The February 2020 issue dives into Essentia water, their high-pH and high aspirations for ongoing innovation. Speaking of innovation, this issue also features a special report on how (and why) the zero-proof functional beverage market is growing. Also, check out what types of rifts and shifts are shaking up the wine category and discount variety stores, as well as the latest ingredient highlights (hint: exotic fruits make an appearance). To cap it off, peruse new product releases, the latest appearances in packaging, and holistic approaches to cognitive health. Thirsty for more? Subscribe to get the latest stories delivered right to your inbox.
Check back throughout the month for additional content.
Check back throughout the month for additional content.