By using predictive simulation Britvic, a major soft drinks manufacturer, was able to achieve a level of certainty and optimisation in its investment that would not have been possible in the past. 

One of the largest branded soft drinks suppliers in Great Britain, Ireland and France, Britvic is successfully targeting organic growth and international expansion. Like every successful company in the food and drink supply chain, to maintain its successful growth path Britvic needs to reliably and efficiently scale up production to meet growing demand, while avoiding risk.

When the company planned to install a high-speed manufacturing line in its factory in the north of England, the intended outcome was clear - a throughput of 36,000 bottles per hour. Less clear was the impact the new line would have across the facility - on raw material input, warehousing issues, headcount and more. In order to identify the issues and plan the high-speed line, the team turned to a digital simulation.

Using modelling in situations such as this is not new. What is new is the dynamic nature of the model and the fact that it includes all the stages of the manufacturing process incorporating the variability and complexity of the real-life operations. It therefore enabled Britvic to test and make assumptions and decisions in a virtual world to provide clarity for its investment plans across areas including resource planning, the supply chain, automation and process design. 

Asking the right questions

An early benefit was the help the simulation provided in framing the issues, as Britvic Operations Optimisation Manager, Neil Brinkman explains: “We were able to home in on what the true questions were that we were trying to answer and that was really valuable to us.”

Questions identified in this early stage included:
  • Can we get the vehicles in and out of the gatehouse in time and, if not, what do we have to do to solve this?
  • How many loads per hour?
  • How many forklift drivers do we need?
  • Are there any traffic pinch points?
  • Is it going to be safe?

Bringing processes to life

The predictive simulation model enabled Britvic to compare and optimise business choices in a risk-free environment. The process was approached in phases, first looking at whether the outside of the site could cope with increased vehicle movements. Then, once Britvic was happy with external activities, the team turned to internal movements - forklift flows for raw materials and finished product. One solution that emerged was a one-way tunnel to the loading bays in order to separate the vehicles. “We would never have done that if we hadn’t done the simulation. The simulation is a great way of bringing the concept to life.” Neil adds.

The digital twin also enabled Britvic to explore future automation in the warehouse and the potential impact on headcount and forklift truck drivers. “A big advantage has been making sure they have the right people available to receive the stock off the production line.” explains Neil.

Now in the next stage around automation, we can be clear about how many forklift drivers we need compared to what we will require if we invest.

Neil Brinkman

Operations Optimisation Manager, Britvic

Financial certainty

In addition to the visual representation, the twin provided invaluable financial data enabling the company to confirm running costs and build these factors into the budget. 

“It was great to see the visual movement but the power is in the reporting that comes out of the back.” says Neil. “We didn’t get answers to our questions by sitting and staring at a screen, we were able to manipulate and look at the reports to make sure we could get the output to share with the sites. We are absolutely able to confirm the running costs of the site and make sure we build that into budget so there are no surprises.”

Benefits brought by the digital simulation:
  • Ensure the right people are in the production chain
  • Confirm running costs
  • Build costs into budget
  • No surprises!

The clarity and detail provided by the digital simulation helped generate confidence and buy in from stakeholders and the experience has proved so powerful that the digital simulation is being implemented elsewhere. “One of the colleagues had said to us he didn’t believe we could do it. He was really impressed, and his team is now coming to us for more.” Neil adds. 

“We have announced we’re going to put in another line in Leeds. We now need to model that and understand what the flows are, which is fantastic. But we are also looking at modelling some of our other factories. We already have a model for our Rugby plant.”

Access to the best in the business

Within the fast-paced and ever-changing food industry where the pressure to adapt and manage change is critical to success, predictive simulation enables decisions to be reached quickly, without impacting production or supply chain delivery. 

The digital simulation software used in Britvic’s project is WITNESS Horizon from Lanner, a company of Royal HaskoningDHV. For Britvic, the flexibility and power of this technology enabled the company to achieve unprecedented levels of certainty and optimisation in its investment. 

WITNESS provides answers to the most fundamental or innovative transformation questions, allowing you to make production decisions that will have a profound impact on your business. Ultimately, simulation leads to smarter risk-free business decisions and drives higher returns on your investments.

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