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                      Using IT to drive Continuous
        How Highland Spring Group used IT on the shop-floor
             to improve quality and reduce unit costs

    Organically growing the Kiosk
    “We have invested heavily in the development of our Kiosks, and
    are immensely proud of what we have been able to achieve. We                        Background of an
    have a workforce who have all the information they need at their                    organic business
    fingertips; enabling them to drive safety, quality and performance                  The Highland Spring Group
    – key components of a successful business.”                                         headquarters are based in
                                      Les Montgomery, Chief Executive                   the heart of the Ochil Hills in
                                                                                        Blackford,         Perthshire,
    Highland Spring Group is the UK’s biggest supplier of bottled water and owner       Scotland. The business was
    of a number of well-known brands, including the UK’s number one British             founded in 1979 and remains
    brand, built up with care over its 32 year history. Producing in excess of 380      under the same family
    million litres of water per year on bottling lines running at up to 9 bottles per   ownership to this day. The
    second, the business’ IT systems are a critical component in their approach to      Highland Spring brand is the
    protecting their brands and increasing efficiency.                                  No. 2 still brand in the UK
                                                                                        and the No. 1 sparkling
    The manufacturing challenges to the business include managing a wide range          brand and total production
    of bottle types, labels                                                             across the Group was in
    and case packaging                                                                  excess of 380 million litres in
    without error. There                                                                2011.
    is also a need to
    carefully       monitor
    quality and hygiene
    and      ensure     full
    traceability    of   all

    Perhaps     the   most
    innovative aspect of
    Highland Spring Group’s IT systems is the Kiosk, a shop-floor information           The Highland Spring brand
    system that has been developed over recent years. The Kiosk has impressed           comes from 2,000 acres of
    many people, with leading customers such as the supermarkets Tesco and              organically accredited land
    Sainsbury’s encouraging other suppliers to use the Kiosk as a benchmark for         in the beautiful Ochil Hills.
    supplier IT systems. It has also paid for itself many times over.

    A case study on Boeing, presented at a knowledge transfer conference in 2004,
    led the business to an idea to solve a persistent problem, out-of-date

                          Copyright © FutureSME Partnership and Highland Spring Group Ltd. 2012

    “The Kiosk system at Highland Spring is the only one like it that I have seen within drink and
    food factories in the U.K. It is an excellent system, which can be used quickly to obtain any
    information required related to the job at hand. I have regularly recommended that our other
    customers contact Highland Spring to have a look at this system so they can see how this could
    be of huge benefit to their manufacturing practices”
                                                              Phil Kennedy, KHS UK Service Engineer

    documentation on the shop floor. Like many businesses,       From September 2004, when the Kiosk went live, to
    there were a number of copies of Standard Operating          March 2006, the project team measured system
    Procedures and other paperwork in specific locations on      usage and refined the system based on the
    the shop-floor. When something changed in a document,        operator’s feedback.       Continuous Improvement
    someone had to go around the entire shop floor to            Manager, Brian McNeill described how uptake was
    update the paperwork. Inevitably there were illicit          mixed at first, but that as new features were added
                                  copies that were not           and operators got used to the system, the benefits
                                  updated and on occasion        began to show, at least anecdotally. These were:
                                  led to errors in labelling,
                                  and hence waste.        The     •    Very positive results from staff survey and
                                  systems they saw at Boeing           usage data
                                  gave Highland Spring the        •    Marked improvement in task completion
                                  idea    of    putting   the     •    Reduced overhead in maintenance and
                                  documents on a ruggedised            distribution of information
                                  computer            terminal    •    Improvement in collation, analysis and
                                  situated next to the                 presentation of information
                                  production line. A project      •    Better     adherence      to manufacturer’s
                                  team was set up and                  recommendations
                                  together they developed a
                                  storyboard to define the       At this point the business was sufficiently confident
                                  design of the software.        of the benefits that they bought a further four
                                  The       software      was    Kiosks to complete one full production line, with an
     The trial Kiosk              implemented using the          improved design and without the prototype’s
                                  technologies used for the      touchscreen, with the aim of quantifying the
    business’ intranet and a prototype unit procured.            benefits to the business.       The benefits were
                                                                 sufficiently compelling that by 2008 all machines
    Shortly thereafter they rolled out the first Kiosk by the    had a kiosk and in 2010 the business recruited an
    side of a packing machine. The initial interface design      additional     developer    to     accelerate     the
    was very simple, with just two buttons driven by a           implementation of new functionality.
    touchscreen and keyboard. One button showed the
    production plan, which was designed to allow drill-down
    to documents detailing the Production Specification.         The Kiosk today
    The second button showed the Standard Operating
    Procedures for each product.          As with any IT         The Kiosk has moved on from its early origins as a
    implementation, the project team had concerns about          source for Standard Operating Procedures and is
    user acceptance, particularly since some of the              now seen as the shop-floor interface for all
    operators had no previous experience with computers.         company systems.
    The project team were careful to work with each
    operator on-the-job to ensure that they were fully           The key to this has been the development of a very
    comfortable with how the system worked.                      simple and consistent user-interface. Brian McNeill
                                                                 described how “the success of the system is
                                                                 because we have bespoked it to meet the exact
                                                                 needs of the operators. There might be half a
                                                                 dozen data sources, but it is consistent from a user
                                                                 perspective. There’s no jumping from one bit to
                                                                 another bit to get related information.”

                                                                 The main menu screen for the system is simply a set
                                                                 of buttons for each type of information the operator
                                                                 may need. From here an operator can navigate to
                                                                 the production plan and from there they can see
                                                                 the full bottling specification for each product,
                                                                 including details such as images of the labels to be
                         Copyright © FutureSME Partnership and Highland Spring Group Ltd. 2012

                                                    Many of the SOPs require that regular

                                                    checks be undertaken. These include health

                                                                                                    Brian McNeill, Continuous Improvement Manager
                                                    and safety checks on machine guarding and
                                                    quality checks on items such as use of the

                                                                                                                                                    about driving out error“
                                                    correct label, bottle code or packaging.
                                                    These are driven by a task list for each
                                                    machine. As tasks become due, their status
                                                    is changed until the operator completes
                                                    them. It records in the system both who
                                                    completed the task and when. Being able
                                                    to see results at the touch of a button is
                                                    important when external audit bodies such
                                                    as the BRC request evidence. A summary of

                  Today’s Kiosk                     task status and results can be seen by the
                                                    line manager, enabling them to rapidly gain
                                                    an overview of the state of the production
    used. The operator can then navigate to the     line.
    Standard Operating Procedures for any
    product/machine. These include SOPs for         This is an area where the business has seen
    machine operation, health and safety,           major benefits since the values are
    hygiene, quality, line changeover and           validated upon entry. For example, if an
    maintenance. Each SOP has images to show        out of tolerance bottle lid torque is
    the operator what they need to do, videos to    entered, the system shows a bright red
    demonstrate more complex operations, and        screen telling the operator to stop the line
    printed checklists to allow operators to work   and resolve the problem (if the severity or
    more easily away from the kiosk.                risk is high). If this happens twice in a row

                         Copyright © FutureSME Partnership and Highland Spring Group Ltd. 2012

                                                                        “The Kiosk has driven
                                                                     continuous improvement
                                                                             allowing an extra
                                                                      3 million cases per year
                                                                                from the same
    the system sends a warning email to the line
    manager and Quality Assurance team.        This
                                                                             production lines”
    approach has been instrumental in a 90% drop in
    quarantined product and hence in protecting                      Bryan McCluskey, Group Technical &
    Highland Spring Group’s brands.                                                Procurement Director
    The Kiosk has also been extended to allow the
    operators to report downtime on production
    machines, including the time taken to change-over a
    production line. In the early days, the business
    investigated linking the Kiosk to the SCADA control     within the business to identify opportunities for
    systems for the machines. This was found to be a        improvement and the root causes of issues.
    complex integration, with limited benefits. It also
    led to decreasing ownership of issues by the
    operators. The current approach drives operators to
    report downtime, and then work on improvements
    as part of the continuous improvement process, thus
    increasing ownership.

    Driving Continuous Improvement
                                                            It is this ability to target continuous improvement
    The Kiosk has been integrated with Highland             activity on areas of the business identified by the
    Spring’s ERP system.       The data from the ERP        data collected from the Kiosk that has provided the
    system, including such things as actual production      biggest payback.        As a result of continuous
    volumes, is combined with data inputted from the        improvement activity, Highland Spring Group has
    kiosk to provide a comprehensive reporting system.      been able to increase its production capacity by
    This real-time reporting system allows the business’    three million cases using the same production lines,
    management team to constantly monitor the status        thereby reducing the unit costs of the product and
    of the production lines, ensuring that all checks are   negating the need to expand their production lines in
                                                            the short term.

                                                            Of course, continuous improvement extends to the
                                                            Kiosk itself.    Group Technical and Procurement
                                                            Director, Bryan McCluskey described how “When we
                                                            started there were only two buttons, and as we built
                                                            it we added a button, then a button, then a button.
                                                            The operators and managers provide a lot of ideas to
     carried out and allowing the team to check             drive the Kiosk into the future.”
    performance against its operating targets.
                                                            When asked what he would advise others starting on
    Furthermore this initiative has proved to be a major    this journey, Bryan responded, “Really engage with
    benefit to the business in driving continuous           your teams. These are the people who really
    improvement. The availability of detailed and real-     understand what would help them do their jobs
    time data on everything from quality checks to          more effectively and who can make or break the
    downtime to production has provided a valuable          system. Bespoke development isn’t for everyone,
    resource for the continuous improvement teams           but for us the results have been truly outstanding.”
                        Copyright © FutureSME Partnership and Highland Spring Group Ltd. 2012
 Key Messages:

     •   Really engage with your teams of users

     •   Make sure the user interface is simple and consistent

     •   Create a user interface that exactly meets user needs

     •   Start simple and build the system organically over time

     •   Collect usage data over time to drive the business case for expansion

     •   Bespoke development can deliver outstanding results

About FutureSME

FutureSME is an €8 million project funded by the EU’s Framework 7                   Igniting a
programme. Led by The University of Strathclyde, the consortium of                  movement
26 partners includes 13 manufacturing SMEs, research and                             amongst
development organisations as well as SME support agencies. The
                                                                                 European SMEs
consortium represents a collaborative effort amongst eight European
countries: Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Turkey, Slovakia,                 towards
Sweden and the UK.                                                                  creating a
                                                                                 sustainable and
If you would like to find out more about the FutureSME project, please             competitive
visit or contact                        manufacturing
If you would like to find out more about Highland Spring Group please
visit their website at

Our thanks to Highland Spring Group Ltd. for their help in developing this case study.

                 Copyright © FutureSME Partnership and Highland Spring Group Ltd. 2012

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