We started the day bright and early with a quick breakfast and then a 7:30am bus ride to Antwerp, to visit Coca-Cola and Diamond Land. We first went to Coca-Cola were we met our guide, Pierre, who spend the next 3 hours with us, teaching us about the company. We began the tour with our group being split in two groups, the Factory Phantoms and the Academy All-Stars, for a quick competition regarding who was the most knowledgeable about Coca-Cola. There were 10 questions about the company and while Pierre said it was a close game, the Academy All-Stars rose above. We then went on to learn more about the company’s values and mission; from their dedication to being a “green” organization to their never-ending efforts to satisfy their customer’s diverse needs. Pierre told us that while the company is currently about 20-30% sustainable their goal is to reach 40% sustainability by 2020! After learning a bit more about their environmentally friendly efforts (recycling, efficient transportation, ect.) we got to watch a short video about their history and marketing efforts.
From here we were all given stylish hair nets and headphones so we could tour the factory! We ended up walking around the entire facility and were able to observe the company’s production process all the way from start to finish. We observed how pre-collected dirty bottles were organized and cleaned, how bottles were expanded into their distinct shape, how the soda itself was produced and how the liquid was then bottled, packaged and stored to be picked up for delivery. What was most interesting about the entire process was how automated the entire facility was. While there were workers on site the majority of them were simply overseeing the machines. The machines did everything from transportation of the bottles, to packaging, to quality checks and everything in-between. Pierre mentioned that the entire system was one of the most sophisticated, automated factories in all of the EU! The entire tour, so far, was the most comprehensive and educational tours we had the pleasure of experiencing. Not only did we all have a great time but we each learned something new and were able to related the information being presented back to our studies. We don’t know what the plan is for next years trip but I’m sure we all agree Coca-Cola should definitely stay on the list of businesses to be visited! We ended the tour with a good-bye Coca-Cola product and hopped back on the bus to go to Diamond Land.
As we arrived in the city of Antwerp our bus was greeted with the warmest of welcomes but not unfamiliar at this point, a large domed structure laden with precious gold and spires reaching into the heavens. Wealth and prosperity, with the bourgeoisie shopping centers and dozens of diamond merchants up and down the street, was the showcase for this leg of the journey.
Entering an unassuming store, our group shuffled into DiamondLand, a purveyor of fine diamonds as a wholesaler and retailer of the precious stones. Surprisingly, DiamondLand was only established 20 years ago but in that time it has established, through business partnerships, operations in Canada, West Africa, and the Middle East. Our tour guide took us through the steps of how diamonds are shaped and tirelessly crafted by seasoned craftsmen, shaping tens of thousands of dollars worth of rocks with perfect precision. After the short introduction of the firm and its role in the trade of diamonds, we were welcome to sample the goods like a ultra high end million dollar Costco, each of us trying on the diamonds which our hosts were hoping would gain our allure and have us shell out up to $100,000 for an engagement ring.
Belgium’s role in the economic power of the greater European Union seemed most apparent with a hands on excursion as this one. With highly valued diamonds expoerted all over the world sourced from mines just as wide stretching, DiamondLand provided an irrefutable testament to Belgium’s prestige in the global community.
Xavier Collantes & Kyla Gabriel