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Real-time information is the future, says Encirc Beverages

Glass manufacturer and filling giant Encirc Beverages tells db about “the most transformational change in customer service to take place in the beverage industry for a long time”.

Managing director Richard Lloyd is understandably proud of the software development Encirc Beverages is in the midst of trialling.

The result of 18 months of planning, the company’s new Customer Portal is centred on offering clients real-time information to give them “immediate access to the data they require to run their businesses”, says Lloyd. This includes information relating to stock levels, invoices, production schedule and more, and is a major part of Encirc Beverages’ “lean” business model.

Not only does the new portal ensure 100% accuracy around the clock, it will also “remove the need for transactional emails and phone calls between our business and our customers that are of no value to the customer”, says Lloyd.

When a company is as busy as Encirc Beverages is, efficiency is key.

Responsible for more than half of the UK’s glass filling, with clients spanning the worlds of wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks, Encirc Beverages is a pivotal cog in the UK supply chain, with plans to grow its business by 28% over the next five years.

Since acquiring The Park in February 2023, Encirc “effectively doubled its filling capacity”, says Oliver Harry, head of corporate affairs, to become what he calls “an unrivalled proposition”.

In order to achieve this transformational change, the team is committed to bringing to life an “intelligent supply chain”, and smart communication is top of the agenda.

Complex route to market

Why does having access to real-time information matter? As Lloyd explains:“It is clear from all our interactions with customers that real-time data, effectively presented and available to all team members, is something that is desired. Many of our customers are part of global supply chains with multiple different time zones, and with complex routes to market, so the ability to have the correct information about their product always available will be transformational for them, as well as for wider supply chains.”

The real-time information provided by the portal will enable clients to make the right decisions to maximise product availability to retailers and consumers.

“With our wine customers especially, the length of the supply chain is very long from vineyard to retailer shelf,” says Lloyd.

“Having visibility of inventory and product components at each point in the supply chain is crucial from both a service and cash flow perspective.”

A basic version of the software is currently being trialled “to get some learnings to ensure our final solution delivers what is required”, Lloyd tells the drinks business, with the final version of the portal expected to be live by the end of 2024.

Lloyd hopes that the Customer Portal will offer a solution to some of the bigger challenges related to customer service in today’s beverage industry.

“With products now sold in a number of different channels, plus in different formats, the requirement to see the flow of components throughout the supply chain is critical,” he says.

According to Lloyd, companies have also become more sensitive to cash tied up in inventory in the face of rising raw material costs. “Lower inventories are therefore being held, but the same end customer availability is desired and required,” he says.

Facilitating effective and transparent communication is a priority across the board for Encirc Beverages, whether that’s speaking to drinks brand customers or to the suppliers who provide various components for bag-in-box wines, for example, or screwcaps for closing bottles.

A detailed dialogue with suppliers regarding the performance of their own products and procedures is already in place, with scorecards completed by workers at every stage of the production process providing a never-before-seen window into how a supplier’s product is performing. Being able to enact such specific feedback via data and analytics could be a gamechanger across the whole supply chain.

A further example of Encirc Beverages’ efficient communication is ensuring that any bespoke 3D parts designed to spec in order to manufacture a product are stored on a shared database that can be accessed by all sites belonging to the business.

As Lloyd explains: “3D printing of parts is now the norm at Encirc Beverages, with more than 700 parts in our operating machines. All the 3D parts are stored in a database that can be shared between the company’s two sites in Bristol and Elton in Cheshire, reflecting some of the positive collaboration envisaged when Encirc added The Park to its business portfolio last year.”


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