SINGAPORE: Coca-Cola on Wednesday (Jul 19) unveiled a new US$57.5 million (S$79 million) storage and distribution centre in Singapore that leverages on automation and technology.
The 6,000-sqm four-storey facility, which is located across the road from Coca-Cola’s concentrate plant in Tuas, is designed to drive efficiency and support the company’s growing business in Asia Pacific, the global beverage firm said in a statement.
Planning for the new centre began around three years ago when the concentrate plant in Singapore received increasing orders, according to Coca-Cola’s Asia Pacific president John Murphy.
The local plant currently serves 15 markets in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. With the new storage and distribution centre, the plant can now double its output, Mr Murphy told Channel NewsAsia after the opening ceremony.
“We built this with growth in mind (and) we see this as a strategic asset for us in years to come," he said.
The new warehouse is connected to the concentrate plant located across the road via an enclosed overhead bridge, which contains two conveyor belts that is used to transport products and ingredients from the manufacturing plant to the storage warehouse, and vice versa.
It is the first in Singapore where the automated storage and retrieval system is built on top of the loading and unloading bays. This utilises about 50 per cent less space than conventional warehousing operations.
This system also improves storage efficiency, cutting down storage time by 65 per cent to 7.8 seconds, from the 23 seconds previously. Overall, it can store up to 14,000 pallets, with a speed of 126 pallets per hour.
For warehouse assistant Calvin Neo, this means a regular five-day work week, instead of six, and safer work procedures. “Previously, we have to drive the forklift to retrieve the pallets. Some of them are located quite high and you have to be extremely careful. Now with this, we just have to press the right buttons.”
As part of its migration to the new automated storage and retrieval system, Coca-Cola provided more than 1,100 hours of training for its workers, with training hours split between classroom-style training and on-the-job sessions. “As we continue to leverage on technology and automation, we want to equip our associates with new skills and help them to realise new potential,” said Mr Murphy.
Ms Thien Kwee Eng, assistant managing director of the Economic Development Board (EDB), said Coca-Cola’s new distribution centre demonstrated Singapore’s position as a “strategic base for regional supply chain operations”.
“By leveraging automation and digitalization, key components of Singapore’s advanced manufacturing sector, the investment is proof that companies can boost competitiveness, drive productivity growth and new solutions for the region out of Singapore,” according to the press release.
Moving forward, the global beverage giant is planning to open its first research and development (R&D) centre in Singapore. The project is underway and would be ready by this year, Mr Murphy told Channel NewsAsia.
“We are looking to invest in a R&D centre here to complement what we already have in other parts of Asia,” he said. “Singapore will be an important piece in the overall equation (when it comes to R&D). Here, there’s capability and ambition to make a difference, and we want to be a part of that.”
Coca-Cola’s concentrate plant and distribution centre in Tuas are both operated by Pacific Refreshments Private Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company. Together, they will produce and distribute more than 200 different concentrates for brands such as Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta, Schweppes, Heaven & Earth, Minute Maid and Powerade.