John Saysell, head of business development and training at MCP Consulting Group, explains how investing in training is helping the Lucozade plant meet the manufacturing challenges of the future.

Those of a certain age will remember from hospital visits in the past, the omnipresent Lucozade bottle, covered in orange cellophane, perched on the patient’s bed-side cabinet. Its welcomed refreshment helped support their recovery. Lucozade’s famous companion, Ribena, also earned a
traditional place as a healthy way to benefit from Vitamin C rich blackcurrant juice.

Both created early last century, the products have come a long way since then. And it was in 2014 that the Japanese Suntory Group (LRSuntory)
bought the Lucozade and Ribena blackcurrant brands combining their
production at their expanded 53 acre Coleford facility in the Forest of Dean.
Today they are the third largest soft drinks supplier in the UK manufacturing 1.2 billion bottles of product each year.

As part of the company’s continued commitment to the future of UK
manufacturing, Suntory are currently investing £13m in a new, Krones highspeed Aseptic filler, Robotic warehouse and upgraded boilers adding a further half a million bottles a day to current output, a move that will be instrumental in increasing productivity and efficiency at the plant.

A combination of high-speed process lines and the huge variety of automation and process and control instrumentation brings its own challenges requiring well-trained, advanced engineering and technical maintenance teams.

Continued expansion
The continued expansion at the Coleford since 1947, when it was the original site for Ribena, has meant that earlier process equipment from
the 90s, including early generation Siemen’s plcs, sit alongside the most
up to date including the latest touch screen control technology, aseptic
and non-aseptic rotary fillers, pneumatic controls and robotic pick and place for finished goods. This combination of high-speed process lines and the huge variety of automation and process and control instrumentation brings its own challenges requiring well-trained, advanced engineering and technical maintenance teams.

The 330 employees making up the manufacturing force in Coleford include over 80 engineering staff and maintenance technicians as well as 6 automation engineers and 3 apprentices undergoing training through the company’s apprenticeship levy. It can take up to four years to complete the apprenticeship and the latest cohort has graduated this summer and moved into full-time roles.

Like many companies LRSuntory has a constant need for well trained technicians. Losses due to retirement and staff turnover have to be replaced
and current staff have to be up-skilled. The company recruits from within a 20 to 40-mile radius and specifies that candidates have to be time-served

It was two years ago a new role was created within the engineering team
with Tony Denning currently holding the position of technical development
manager. A programme was commenced to upskill the maintenance engineers as well as establishing a three-year engineering skills’ development programme for technical operators – currently in its second year. MCP Consulting Group Ltd. was approached to undertake skills’ assessments to find any knowledge gaps and create appropriate personal
development programmes.

Currently 3 engineers are on an intensive Mechanical to Electrical Conversion Course and soon to join the 12, previously successful candidates. This is a four part, four week course leading to City & Guilds certification. Currently on the course are three new members of staff, who joined the company within the last 18 months. One of these, Shaun Galliers takes up the story, “The invitation from Tony to take part in the Mechanical to Electrical course was in the in-house newspaper and asked those keen
enough to do it to register. We really value the course. It has been good to
develop our skills and we are all delighted to have gained our City & Guilds following assessment and examination.”

Tony is also considering an Operator Asset Care Programme from MCP.
This is where line operators will be trained to undertake the standard,
high frequency, low risk ‘CILT’ processes, to complement the NVQ level 2 in Performing Manufacturing Operations. They will join the 25 operators who have so far achieved ‘Technical Operator’ status; the company will also benefit from a rebate of £95,000 from the apprenticeship levy.

To summarise his response to MCP’s work to date Tony explained: “With MCP’s long association with the company, appointing them to the current Mechanical to Electrical training has been a success. MCP’s comprehensive course overview is clear against what is being delivered, they came up best against a previous provider in a trial for train-the-trainer.
Importantly MCP use their own workshop training rigs and brought them to our in-house training workshop. The quality of delivery is excellent with good communication with myself and trainees. The benefit of approved City & Guilds certification is also of great benefit when external ISO assessments are undertaken”.