Supply Tech: Coca-Cola's PlantBottle
If you thought only small companies came out with innovations that impacted the supply chain community, think again.
The Coca-Cola Company, which offers more than 500 brands in over 200 countries worldwide, has started rolling out its new PlantBottle across multiple brands, including Coke, Dasani and Minute Maid.
Coca-Cola’s Scott Vitters, the General Manager of the PlantBottle Packaging Platform, didn’t stop there, however.
“It’s definitely a breakthrough technology, and I’d go as far as to say that it’s a disruptive technology,” Vitters said.
DASANI'S PLANTBOTTLE COMMERCIAL
The technology starts with Coca-Cola’s manipulation of commercial plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Coke has found a way to substitute 30 percent of the plastic with renewable, plant-based materials that make the bottle fully recyclable.
The company is projecting that carbon emissions could be cut up to 25 percent compared to traditional PET bottles that were formerly used. An important footnote in Coca-Cola’s breakthrough is that PlantBottle doesn’t affect any part of the value chain. According to Vitters, the PET manufacturing, the bottle converting process, the consumer end product and the recycling is identical to a normal PET-based bottle.
According to Vitters, the company stumbled across this breakthrough almost by accident.
“We eventually kept asking ourselves ‘Why are we even looking beyond PET to begin with?’” Vitters said. “In doing that, we started looking at how PET was made, and discovered that we could make PET from plant material.
“In a sense, we came up with a solution that was revolutionary, and also evolutionary.”
What’s also been extraordinary about PlantBottle has been the speed at which Coca-Cola has introduced the product into the marketplace. The new packaging platform is being used in 20 markets around the world, and Coke projects that there will be seven billion products in the marketplace by the end of 2011.
According to Vitters, that puts the company right on track to meeting its target of having 100 percent of its plastic bottles with plant packaging material by 2020.
Coca-Cola is hoping its expansive use of the plant-based commercial plastic will lead to transformation within the industry. From the looks of things in the retail industry, they’re right.
“You see Toyota looking to build a plant leveraging technology to build plastic inside of cars, and I just saw AT&T looking at PlantBottle technology for their packaging,” Vitters said.
Accordingly, Coca-Cola built its PlantBottle supply chain to accommodate what it expects to be a surging demand for its new type of plastic.
“When we were building the supply chain, we knew we would be building a supply chain that was bigger than just meeting our needs,” Vitters explained “We ultimately decided this innovation would benefit the entire industry.”
Eventually, Coke plans on designing a bottle that is 100 percent plant-based material, but for now, they’ll settle for being the flag-carriers of this green packaging movement.
“What’s really exciting about this technology is that we’re only at the beginning of our journey,” Vitters said. “This is going to be bigger than Coke, and people are starting to realize that.”
Biden establishes Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force
The US government is to establish a new body with the express purpose of addressing imbalances and other supply chain concerns highlighted in a review of the sector, ordered by President Joe Biden shortly after his inauguration.
The Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force will “focus on areas where a mismatch between supply and demand has been evident,” the White House said. The division will be headed up by the Secretaries of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture, and will focus on housing construction, transportation, agriculture and food, and semiconductors - a drastic shortage of which has hit some of the US economy’s biggest industries in consumer technology and vehicle manufacturing.
“The Task Force will bring the full capacity of the federal government to address near-term supply/demand mismatches. It will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions - large and small, public or private - that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints,” the White House said.
In late February, President Biden ordered a 100 day review of the supply chain across the key areas of medicine, raw materials and agriculture, the findings of which were released this week. While the COVID-19 health crisis had a deleterious effect on the nation’s supply chain, the published assessment of findings says the root cause runs much deeper. The review concludes that “decades of underinvestment”, alongside public policy choices that favour quarterly results and short-term solutions, have left the system “fragile”.
In response, the administration aims to address four key issues head on, strengthening its position in health and medicine, sustainable and alternative energy, critical mineral mining and processing, and computer chips.
Support domestic production of critical medicines
- A syndicate of public and private entities will jointly work towards manufacturing and onshoring of essential medical suppliers, beginning with a list of 50-100 “critical drugs” defined by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The consortium will be led by the Department of Health and Human Services, which will commit an initial $60m towards the development of a “novel platform technologies to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for API”.
- The aim is to increase domestic production and reduce the reliance upon global supply chains, particularly with regards to medications in short supply.
Secure an end-to-end domestic supply chain for advanced batteries
- The Department of Energy will publish a ‘National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries’, beginning a 10 year plan to "develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain that combats the climate crisis by creating good-paying clean energy jobs across America”.
- The effort will leverage billions in funding “to finance key strategic areas of development and fill deficits in the domestic supply chain capacity”.
Invest in sustainable domestic and international production and processing of critical minerals
- An interdepartmental group will be established by the Department of Interior to identify sites where critical minerals can be produced and processed within US borders. It will collaborate with businesses, states, tribal nations and stockholders to “expand sustainable, responsible critical minerals production and processing in the United States”.
- The group will also identify where regulations may need to be updated to ensure new mining and processing “meets strong standards”.
Partner with industry, allies, and partners to address semiconductor shortages
- The Department of Commerce will increase its partnership with industry to support further investment in R&D and production of semiconductor chips. The White House says its aim will be to “facilitate information flow between semiconductor producers and suppliers and end-users”, improving transparency and data sharing.
- Enhanced relationships with foreign allies, including Japan and South Korea will also be strengthened with the express proposed of increasing chip output, promoting further investment in the sector and “to promote fair semiconductor chip allocations”.