There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you’re missing something, but not knowing what or where the problem lies. One spring day in orth London, that was the quandary facing Maryanne Proctor, environmental manager at the Edmonton Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) factory.

The facility had introduced its weekend shutdown process, allowing factory lines to go down, making savings on idle lines into a routine. But after shutting down production line No. 2 at the weekend, monitoring still showed a small power drain. There was no explanation, no rationalization. The line was down and nothing was in operation, but power was definitely going somewhere.

The drain was noticed by a placement student called Jonathan Knight, who brought it to Maryanne’s attention. She knew that there had to be an explanation. Aided by the fact that she’ previously worked as production manager at the plant, she was determined to run down every option to solve the mystery. And, while eventually the problem would be solved, noone could have imagined it would end up changing company policy for good.

Maryanne at a Coca-Cola factory in Edmonton, North London. After introducing a weekend shutdown process, to reduce the amount of energy the site uses, she discovered something unusual...

With no visual sign, the line team had to test every possibility, eventually tracing the mystery power drain to a heating element which melts pallet straps together which, it turned out, didn’t actually have an off switch. That being the case, it didn’t matter whether the whole system was turned off or not – the heating element itself couldn’t be.

“At CCEP, we monitor electricity supply, enabling us to identify things we wouldn’t normally see," Proctor said. "And we certainly didn’t expect to see that."

"The line was down, nothing was in operation but power was definitely going somewhere."

After finding the problem on line No. 2, they discovered a similar problem on line No. 4, but as that line hadn’t had full-time monitoring introduced, nobody had noticed. Identifying that mysterious power drain and acting on it meant not only a saving of around £1,200 a year, but a complete change in the company’s equipment specifications.

It may be surprising to some that noone had initially specified an off-switch for equipment to suppliers, but today across CCEP everything comes with one.

It’s that attention to detail, that understanding of how little things can make a big difference if you look at them in the aggregate, that underlies CCEP’s sustainability operations. This is something that Proctor takes to heart.

Thinking about sustainability within the operation as managing things properly at home helped the team to really understand the importance of sustainability. “That means if there’s a cheaper or more efficient way to do things -- as long as it doesn’t affect people’s safety or product quality -- then that’s what we do,” Proctor said.

Everyone has a part to play, from the Automated Warehouse engineers who suggested Formula 1-style kinetic brakes for the cranes, to Darren Knight’s suggestion of a vacuum toilet, or John Rogers who used old intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), designed for the transport and storage of bulk liquid and granulated substances, to create a mess-free bin for emptied bottles removed from the production line.

"In an attempt to get the whole team on board with targets on carbon, water and power, she asked people to think about the factory as home."

It’s not quite as simple as implementing every suggestion. If the team can make a simple in-house change that refines operations, then great. But for a project to be viable for investment, it has to be worth it for the business as a whole. That final decision can be dependent on whether the impact of a change is going to be measured in pounds saved, electricity or carbon savings. That can make a real difference, especially if it’s with regard to electricity where the bill is really a relatively small part of operational costs -- even at £1 million a year.

Proctor is clear about how things work, and the level of influence that front line staff can have. She describes it as understanding the difference between a no-carbon, low-carbon or less carbon approach.

“No-carbon actions need corporate input and decisions, such as deciding to invest in solar power, wind or combined heat and power (CHP)," she said. "Low-carbon options are also not wholly decided by the the factory floor, as this might include switching the power source. But ‘less-carbon’ is where we can really make a difference. While each individual intervention may be small, what matters is the contribution of all the little pieces making up the big picture.”

"We monitor electricity supply, enabling us to identify things we wouldn’t normally see. And we certainly didn’t expect to see that."

Where CCEP’s unique approach to sustainability comes in though, is in how operational changes can move from the front line to the boardroom, and throughout the business, in more ways than changing equipment specs. The Edmonton team take ideas that work from everywhere – not just executive mandates but ideas from frontline team members and even from other facilities.

Proctor is proud of that exchange, describing the regular discussions with other Environment Managers as a "shopping spree." Edmonton took an innovation from the Grigny facility in France, where they were going to implement low- pressure base moulds -- new bottle moulds with more holes so less pressure is required to make the moud. The European Energy Steering Group took a look at that project and decided it was such a good idea that it was implemented across the business.

“We’re not shy about borrowing other people’s ideas. What it’s about is sharing the passion for improvement and understanding that there is a bigger picture than what happens in front of you.”

The importance of the new molds is because of the high cost of high-pressure moulding, which accounts for around 15 percent of the factory’s electricity bill. Lowering the pressure required to make the molds cuts costs, and Proctor is rightly proud of being involved in bringing down the pressure in Edmonton’s bottle blowers. They were at 40 bar in 2008 and they’re now at 32 bar, with a 8 percent electricity saving across the site. This was done through a combination of optimization and adding new technology.

“We’re not shy about borrowing other people’s ideas," she says. "What it’s about is sharing the passion for improvement and understanding that there is a bigger picture than what happens in front of you.” And that sharing culture works across the business.

For a number of years, Technical Manager Simon Roberts has been changing lighting to energy efficient lighting when it was getting to the end of its life and when areas were being refurbished -- a slow and sensible way to improve power consumption. When he came to pull together the project for installing LED Lighting for the Outside area, Low Bay Area and Bottle Blowing Area, the savings were so good that the project then became part of another European wide programme.

There’s little doubt that there is a wider change happening, too. “We have an orientation for new staff and a few years ago it could be hard to get people interested in sustainability and environmental issues," Proctor says. "But I ran one recently for a new member of staff and when I asked why they thought running a sustainable operation was important, she just replied 'because it’s the right thing to do'."

With a culture built on innovation and Proctor's belief that “I know there’s more we can do”, it should be exciting to see what happens next, both at Edmonton and across CCEP.

Read CCEP's 2015 Community Report, or visit their website for more information: https://www.ccep.com/