Another incredible opportunity we had the chance to participate in during our trip to Belgium, was the tour of the Coca-Cola Production site in Brussels. The sheer size and complexity of the operations was truly astounding and left our entire class in awe of the impressive production levels that the factory generates on a daily basis. I was definitely surprised at the lack of manpower and human presence there was on the operational level, and it is scary in some sense to think how advanced the machinery and technology has become. During our walk around the site, I couldn’t help but think that this rapid development in machinery is going to continue to take away more and more jobs from the blue collar working people. I tried to imagine the same production site twenty years ago and in my head I pictured hundreds of men doing the same things that the machines were doing, but at a much slower pace. The efficiency and speed at which the machines can operate to accomplish the many tasks that Coca-Cola requires on a daily basis to appease the massive production numbers that they display, is unmatched by any form of human assembly. This is a trend that has taken over many, if not all industries, and has taken jobs away from millions of individuals worldwide, and will continue to do so as technology advancements progress on a daily basis. However, it allows companies to multiply their production levels while also being more efficient and even more economically friendly in some cases, which benefits us all in a way.
One of the biggest things that I took away from the tour, was the presence and importance of innovation in a factory setting such as this. Companies like Coca-Cola that have such enormous production and packing sites are always looking for ways to improve their efficiency and productivity, and rely on innovation to do so. Throughout the tour, I was able to relate some of the innovation techniques that I recognized in Coca-Cola, back to the ideas we discussed in our Innovation Module last semester. We constantly emphasized the simplicity of innovation and potentially large benefits from the simplest of changes. Things such as the double fork lift that the company uses, or the bottle packaging system that has been constantly modified over time, are just some of the examples of innovative techniques that can help a company run more effectively. However, the biggest innovative achievement that I recognized on our tour, was the transition from cleaning the bottles using water to cleaning the bottles using air. This idea of improving current methods, rather than experimenting with new methods all together, is usually the most effective strategy of innovation. Rather than coming up with a whole new process or way of going about cleaning used bottles, they simply rethought their current methods to come up with a more efficient and better method to go about it. While I am in no way assuming that this innovation was simple, and it probably required brilliant scientific minds to develop, it demonstrates the concept of analyzing what you are currently doing in order to focus on improving that through innovation, rather than looking externally for solutions. This is something that not only applies to the business world, but is also something that I hope to apply to all aspects of my life. Whether it be basketball or my personal development as an individual, I hope to use this as a method to continue positive growth in my own life. Self-analysis is a major factor in personal growth and can sometimes be the best way of moving forward or getting through tough times when challenges arise. The simple changes that Coca-Cola made in their cleaning process, have gone on to save them billions of dollars and has even done wonders for the environment through cutting back their water output. I hope that I can successfully make self-analysis a part of my life to improve my own habits and promote growth moving forward.