A group of our Year 9 students had the opportunity to tour a Coca Cola plant as part of their Food Technology studies. They visited a factory at Milton Keynes which is one of only six Coca Cola production sites in the country. The production line was the first in the UK capable of filling up to 2,000 cans or bottles per minute and the process is so heavily automated that very few people are required to run the operation.
Mrs Wykes accompanied the students on the two-hour visit. She said: ‘We had a tour of the outside and our guide explained how they store their water and sugar, how they recycle and are as environmentally aware as they can be. She gave us a history of Coca Cola and we then put on headphones and hi-vis jackets and she took us out on a viewing platform to look at the production. It was very noisy and she talked us through the whole process. The cans are manufactured in the neighbouring factory on a just in time basis, then get sent through to this facility to be filled and packaged. There were only about three people working on the production line as it is so heavily automated and computer controlled.
'We were told how they make the bottles and were shown videos. The students were given a challenge in teams to design a new soft drink. It was only a two-hour trip but it was really well organised and informative. The students will be starting their Food Preparation and Nutrition GCSE next year so this trip was to show them how mass production works and what kinds of precautions manufacturers take regarding food safety and quality control. These are really important areas as lapses can cost them millions of pounds.
‘The component syrups are sent to the plant and stored in giant vats. The exact proportions are programmed into a machine and automatically mixed. Coca Cola is 97 per cent water and there are nine teaspoons of sugar in each can although alternatives include Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Coke Life which contains stevia, a natural sweetener.
‘The plant’s main customer is Tesco and there is one plant in the country that just supplies McDonalds. It was a really interesting and well organised trip and the students were absolutely fascinated at seeing thousands of cans being produced. It gave them an insight into how a fast-paced industry works and I am hoping to organise a similar trip to see large-scale food manufacturing in the future.