Coca-Cola and global specs

Sally Potter, senior manager in Global Quality at The Coca-Cola Co., talks about End-to-End Packaging and a new global spec system.

Pw 3419 Sally Potter
Packaging World: What is End-to-End Packaging?

Sally Potter:
It’s derived in some ways from concerns with food and beverage safety, with the whole farm to table concept. End-to-End Quality has been in place here for a long time. End-to-End Packaging is a subset of that.

Is there a strong sustainable packaging component to End-to-End Packaging?

It covers a lot of areas, starting with a close look at the raw materials used to make our packaging. We also make sure our packaging meets the product shelf life requirements that are obviously important. And it carries right through to thinking about how our packaging is disposed of after it’s used. So yes, sustainability is certainly a component. We look at the whole packaging supply chain, including its end of life. If our packaging is recycled, is there anything in it that will have an adverse effect on the recycle stream? If our packaging is land-filled, what are the implications there? It’s really a way of looking at the entire spectrum of what the package is supposed to do.

Does any of this extend globally?

Yes, we’ve lately been establishing a global specification management system, and my particular area of involvement is packaging. Looking back, it’s hard to believe an organization our size didn’t have a global packaging spec system in place. Each business unit around the world had its own packaging spec management approach. It might have been collaboration software like Lotus Notes, or some form of paper files, or maybe an Excel file. But now we have all global specs for packaging in one system, so we can search the spec system and see information telling us, for example, that for a half-liter bottle we have 27 different shapes. That might include a contour bottle, a Sprite dimpled bottle, a Splash bottle, two or three different hot-fill shapes, a Power Ade or two, a lot of different shapes. What the global spec system lets us do is begin to look for opportunities to gain standardization or harmonization. It’s difficult to even understand the scope of the opportunity if all this information is in different systems.

How tough a task is this harmonization?

It’s no piece of cake. Think of the size and scope of our existing infrastructure, where all our bottlers have their existing lines and change parts for whatever their existing packages are. Look at single-serve PET alone: 250-, 275-, 300-, 330-, 335-, 340-, and 350-mL are all in use. They’re not all used in all markets, but the fact that they exist somewhere in the system means that someone has done the preform design, someone’s done the mold work, someone has tested shelf life, someone has spent time on change parts. So if we had two single-serve PET bottles instead of 10 or so, it would increase speed to market and reduce investment cost. Having said that, we must remember that marketing thrives on differentiation and unique shapes. We don’t want to unnecessarily limit the creativity behind new shapes and designs. But we want the marketing part of the business to understand there’s a cost to unique shapes and sizes. We’re looking for a balance. The global spec system lets us take a step in that direction.

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