Irving Plant Adds Room for Growth

At Dr Pepper/Seven Up Bottling Group’s Irving, Texas bottling plant it’s easy to see President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Turner’s management philosophy at work, and with new construction underway, it’s also easy to see how the company is planning to forge ahead, even after his retirement.
“I have made an effort to keep myself in front of every employee,” says Turner. “You can’t be there as often as I’d like, but on one occasion or another, I’ve been to every single location — more than 101 locations — and I try to get to know the employees by their first names.”
John Hall, senior vice president of operations, says that philosophy is evident in the way the plants are run. “Jim is just as comfortable making decisions on improvements to production lines as he is making decisions on marketing issues, and that’s unusual these days. He understands operations, and to me, that’s a huge benefit.
“He’s the consummate entrepreneur, the type of businessman that really is responsible for a lot of success of bottlers in the business,” he says.
The Irving plant was built in 1977, and originally measured about 300,000 square feet. The plant was among the first that Turner bought when he founded the bottling group in 1985. With a new addition last year that added 113,000 square feet of warehouse space, and another 58,000 square feet of production space that was scheduled to be complete this month, the plant is continuing to add capacity and efficiency.
In all, the plant houses eight production lines for carbonated soft drinks, Deja Blue purified water, and bag-in-box systems. Annual production is about 48 million cases, and the plant handles 400 SKUs. Products include most of the Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages products such as Dr Pepper, 7 UP, Sunkist, A&W, RC, Canada Dry, Squirt and Welch’s soft drinks. It also bottles Big Red for Waco, Texas-based Big Red Inc. and Sunny Delight under contract, and is a distribution center for products such as Snapple, Hansen’s and Rockstar energy drinks.
Located in a particularly strong soft drink market, production in Irving mainly serves the immediate Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Some products also are shipped to the Houston and San Antonio areas. The facility is a sales and distribution center as well as a bottling plant, creating a close relationship that facilitates planning.
“We have a good relationship with sales so we have good forecasting, which helps, especially when you have this many flavors,” says Hall. “We also have good information systems that give us accurate average daily sales inventory.”
Company loyalty also pays off in the planning and line changeover process, as veteran plant personnel are able to work quickly and efficiently. “We probably have an average experience [level] of 20 years of people in the production area; a lot of longtime employees,” says Hall. “So the changeover process is as efficient as it can be right now.”
Several of the production lines are dedicated to certain products or packages. For example, the plant has one line that runs only 12-ounce longneck glass bottles, and because of strict water bottling requirements, it has a line dedicated to Deja Blue bottled water. Other lines can accommodate a variety of products and packages.
While most product is packaged in cans or PET, the plant maintains the 12-ounce glass line as a customer preference, and often uses it for promotional purposes. For example, it recently produced a commemorative bottle for the Cotton Bowl on that line. The 60-valve filler runs at a speed of 400 bottles per minute.
Three lines bottle PET packages for carbonated soft drinks in a number of sizes and configurations. A line dedicated to 2-liter bottles fills and caps 200 bottles per minute, and on the other two PET lines, the plant produces 10-ounce bottles at 600 bottles per minute, 20-ounce and half-liter bottles at 500 per minute, and 1-liter bottles at 300 per minute.
All bottles arrive at the plant pre-labeled, with the exception of 2-liter packages. After filling, the single-serve sizes are packaged in loose packs, six-packs, and the new 12-ounce Cool Pack refrigerator multipack.
Can filling occupies two production lines that fill and place lids at a rate of 1,400 cans per minute. After filling, the cans are configured into six-, 12-, 15- and 20-pack secondary packaging.
The plant has a water treatment center for Deja Blue, a reverse-osmosis treated product. The filling line for Deja Blue is the plant’s newest, and the 80-valve filler runs at a rate of 470 to 800 bottles per minute. The line produces half-liter and 1-liter PET bottles in both loose-pack and six-pack configurations, as well as 12-ounce, 20-ounce and 1.5-liter sizes.
Materials arrive at the plant through 18 raw materials docks, which feed seven depalletizers. Each of the production lines has its own depalletizer, which unloads pallets of bottles onto the lines. After filling and secondary packaging, they return to an area close to the depalletizers to be re-palletized for shipping. Because of their high filling speeds, a third palletizer serves the two can filling lines. The other lines each have one palletizer.
Dr Pepper/Seven Up Bottling Group owns the fleet of trucks that serve the plant, which are primarily side-loaded trailers for direct store delivery. It has onsite maintenance for the truck fleet as well as an onsite forklift shop. It also has a recycling center located on the 40 acres that make up the plant property.
The newest space in the plant has become a staging and loading area for advance-sales routes — accounts such as convenience stores and mom-and-pop stores. The area includes staging where full pallets of product are dismantled and mixed according to customer orders. Another 23-dock loading area is used for bulk grocery delivery.
With all of the production and sales activity buzzing around the Irving plant, it’s clear the company will continue to serve the Dallas area long after its founder has stepped aside. But Hall says his absence will be felt. “People respect him unbelievably here,” he says. “When Jim comes out here, he knows every employee on the floor, he knows their families, knows their spouses by name. It’s kind of a running joke — at least I hope it is — that a lot of people say ‘Mr. Turner, when you retire, I’m retiring, too.’ They think that much of him.” BI