Coca-Cola leverages the power of collaboration

Coca-Cola Bottlers'​ Sales and Services uses networked collaboration to boost efficiency and control costs, explains its CPO Kimberly Green Reynolds

In a world riven with risk, uncertainty and disruption, the businesses that thrive are those who are plumbed into strong support networks and ecosystems. Collaboration is very much the watchword. 

This is especially true in the world of procurement, which by its nature involves multi-tiered networks of vendors that can number in the thousands for large multinational businesses such as Coca-Cola. 

In fact, next time you find yourself supping from a bottle of Coke, spare a thought for those who help put such bottles in the hands of us consumers. For that feat is a miracle of cooperation and collaboration. 

The bottling side of Coca-Cola’s operation is handled by the Coca-Cola Bottlers'​ Sales and Services (CCBSS). This is a separate company to Coca-Cola, and is jointly owned by 70 independent Coca‑Cola bottlers. 

As a shared services provider, it leverages the scale of the Coca‑Cola system to drive organisational and operational efficiencies, something that is integral to the success of the entire Coca‑Cola bottling system in North America.

CCBSS supports operations for its bottler-owners, for bottler-owned production cooperatives, and for the Coca-Cola North America Operating Unit (NAOU), a body that facilitates meaningful data exchange across the bottler network.  

Kimberly Green Reynolds is Chief Procurement Officer at CCBSS, and explains how, since 2003, it has “served as a collaborative single voice for bottlers, customers and suppliers connected to the Coca-Cola system in North America”. 

Reynolds adds: “We are committed to streamlining connections, reducing complexities and making it easier for our partners and stakeholders to do business,” she says. “We provide a suite of expert support services for all stakeholders and facilitate a cohesive strategy throughout the Coca‑Cola system.”

She adds that her team drives value across the system by ensuring what she calls “the power of the buy” within the procurement function. “We include not only independent bottlers but the NAOU as well.” 

Reynolds continues: “Together, we combine and centralise all of the business requirements and needs across North America, and leverage that ‘power of the buy’ to drive not only competitive advantage but also more value-add for the system in North America. It's vitally important we collaborate to drive as much value as possible.”

Reynolds is able to draw upon deep experience gained from a long and varied career.

“My career has given me multifaceted leadership experience across commodity merchandising, business development, and operational management,” she says. 

“Before I joined CCBSS I had no idea how complex it was. The system includes around 70 independent bottlers. “

Asked how she and her team helps drive results, Reynolds explains that they: 

  • Ensure the business can mitigate operational risk by developing strategic sourcing plans around commodity risk-management
  • Support sustainability initiatives. 
  • Drive innovation 
  • Manage cybersecurity threats
  • Drive cost control

“Mitigating supplier cybersecurity threats is a huge area,” says Reynolds. “This is a very real problem as it's something that can directly impact operational excellence.”

Of her team’s impact on cost control, Reynolds says: “We look to manage cost-creep in the face of inflationary pressures. It's not just about negotiating deals to save money, but also about analysing risk around cost-creep issues that are outside of the scope of what we've negotiated. 

“We need forethought around this, and strategies in place to ensure we're addressing this risk.” 

But while there is undoubted power in numbers at CCBSS, such scale also brings complexity.

“There are many challenges to working with so many partners,” says Reynolds. “Supplier relationship management is something that we have to continue to drive improvement on. We have to make sure there's  good overall performance from a service-level agreement standpoint, yet at the same time we must ensure that true partnerships exist in a consolidated market.”

Transportation challenges are another area of complexity.

“We're faced with the never-ending challenges of ensuring continuity of supply for our stakeholders, no matter how far away they are from our manufacturing sites,” she explains. Reynolds lauds her team’s dynamism, and adds that “making sure we have the unique skill-sets for a system like ours” is of paramount importance.

“The scope of our organisation is so broad that we must arm our people and leaders with the skills needed for us to thrive in a difficult market, that we can drive innovation, and that we've got the right leaders to leverage strong SRM.”

Technology helps here, she says.

Technology helps us automate the day-to-day operational aspects of our work, which allows us to spend more time focusing on the longer-term strategic initiatives. I'm keen to understand how AI can help us do this better.”

She adds: “There's lots of great procurement technology that's out there and we’re constantly reevaluating which will be the most cost-effective for us. After all, we're in procurement, so we’re keen to make sure that we have the best value at the best price.”

Spoken like a true procurement professional.

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