A view of A.G. Barr's Cumbernauld production and distribution centre.
© John G. Fender 2011
The Scottish region visited AG Barr's Cumbernauld production and distribution centre on Tuesday 11th September, 2007 and where given a presentation by Simon Reynish, Phil Wood, and Mike McCabe.
AG Barr plc is the UK's leading independent soft drinks manufacturer with a turnover in the region of £140 million per annum and and although based in Scotland, with company has operations throughout the UK. AG Barr owns many well known brands including Tizer, D'N'B and St. Clement's Originals.
The company has built up a worldwide export business including Poland and Russia. Products are also licensed in countries as far away as Australia. In addition to Irn-Bru, Scotland's other national drink, the company also produces Strathmore Water and has recently introduced new ranges of smoothies and fruit juice drinks.
In 1996 Barr's opened a new production facility at Cumbernauld, replacing three other plants around the country. Large wholesale warehouses were located in in Glasgow and Falkirk and there were further smaller retail sites across the central belt of Scotland, including Wishaw, Irvine, Kircaldy and Edinburgh.
In 2003 the company reviewed its operations and found that the supply-chain was very complex. The company was operating eight different sites across Scotland, including the head office in Glasgow where it had been since the business had been founded. There were 58 routes delivering around 15,000 cases per day. Approximately 32 per cent of sales were of returnable glass bottles and approximately 70 per cent of the sales were in the west of the central belt. The central belt of Scotland contains approximately 80 per cent of the Scottish population and is one of the most important markets.
Restructuring would enable the complex supply chain to be simplified and become more cost effective and a number of alternatives were identified. Each of these alternatives, ranging from simply closing the smaller sites through to closing all sites and concentrating everything at one centralized large combined manufacturing and distribution centre, was carefully studied before the final choice was made.
The final choice was to concentrate on everything, including the Head Office function, on the site at Cumbernauld. One advantage of this was that the necessary land was already owned, having been acquired at the time the Cumbernauld manufacturing plant was set up. Restructuring the Scottish operations required the introduction of new management control structures and this building if new warehousing enabled the installation of the latest proven technology along with the greater automation of the various systems.
The project was too large for one person to manage so it was broken into eight smaller portions with its own sub-group to manage it. Planning began in April 2004 and the final plan was approved in February 2005. The plan to construct the new Warehouse Complex would have been simple in itself but there where a number of impacting project's that affected the overall project. These included moving the head office to the Cumbernauld site and installation of a new Canning line in the factory. New IT infrastructure was required along with new vehicle maintenance facilities. At the same time the business had to be kept running.
Once the board had approved the plan detailed planning for the migration of the various sites was undertaken along with plans are to maintain existing services during the period of transition. Not only would staff be the located but stock and equipment would also have to be moved. Worker on the new facility commenced in April 2005 with the site being prepared. The site had been acquired some time before when the existing Cumbernauld facility had been built. this allowed plenty of scope for expansion. The earth moving work was undertaken in house.
The design for the warehouse eluded both a high be storage facility and a low bay distribution warehouse. However during construction the main contractor or went into administration and work was delayed for six weeks while a new contract there was appointed. work soon recommenced and was back on Schedule within a few months.
The new warehouse complex included a high-bay warehouse by Swisslog who were responsible for the planning, construction and project management as well as the delivery and implementation of the conveyor and storage systems, including four automatic stacker cranes and racking for 12,000 pallet locations. The warehouse is 110 feet in height and provides 125,000 square feet of warehousing.
The project included the installation of new technology and automation was introduced the main hide a storage facility is fully automated and palates are both stored and retrieved. estimated savings around the region of £10,000 per week. As part of the project a new canning line, capable of handling 86,000 cans per hour and more was installed.
Following the presentation on the project, a tour of the facilities was provided and after donning protective clothing, members had the opportunity to see the various production lines in action in the factory. Members were able to watch 2 litre bottles of Irn-Bru moving through the labelling and packaging machines.
After touring the production area, a tour of the new warehouse complex was provided and members were able to see pallets of Irn-Bru and other products being stacked in the fully automated high-bay warehouse. In the main warehouse, pallets were seen being loaded onto lorries for delivery in bulk, whilst smaller retails orders were being filled by picking the required products from the racking area. As the tour progressed, members were given detailed explanations of each of the various activities.
After the tour, a question and answer session was provided along with the chance to sample the various drinks made by the company.
The Scottish Region would like to than AG Barr plc for their hospitality and especially Phil Wood, Simon Reynish and Mike McCabe for their presentation as well as their detailed explanations during the tour. The Scottish Region would also like to thank Andy Gee, David Eccles and Robert Davidson who also acted as guides during the tour.
Further information on AG Barr plc can be found on their website at www.agbarr.co.uk. Further information on Scotland's other National Drink, Irn-Bru can be found at www.irn-bru.co.uk and information on Diet Irn-Bru can be found at www.oh-yeah.co.uk. Other websites that may be of interest are www.tizer.co.uk and www.dnbrugby.co.uk.
Report by John Fender.
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