Our subsidiary companies produce some 724 billion cigarettes through 50 cigarette factories in 41 countries. Five of these plus one separate plant also make either cigarillos, roll your own or pipe tobacco. We also have a factory making smokeless snus.
As well as tobacco leaf, we purchase a wide variety of other goods and services from suppliers all over the world. We promote continuous improvements amongst our suppliers in business practices, efficiency, quality, innovation and corporate responsibility.
Inside the factory
When processed tobacco leaf arrives at the factory, it is checked for quality and carefully blended with other ingredients that the brand recipe may call for, such as flavourings or expanded tobacco.
Keeping track of the various types of tobacco and blend components in use is key and computers are increasingly used to track production runs. Moisture content is also crucial. Too dry and the tobacco leaf will crumble; too moist and it may spoil during storage. The blended tobacco is treated with just the right amount of steam and water to make it supple and is then cut into the form used in cigarettes. Excess moisture is then removed so the cut tobacco can be given a final blending and quality check.
The technology has advanced dramatically over the years. Cigarette making, once done entirely by hand, is now almost fully automated, with the cut tobacco, cigarette paper and filters continuously fed into the cigarette-making machines. Quality is a top priority. Each cigarette is automatically quality controlled to ensure that it meets every aspect of its specification.
Packing machines put them into the familiar brand packs, wrap the packs in protective film and group them into cartons and cases. There is more testing at each stage to make sure the cigarettes are properly protected before the completed cases are ready for distribution.
As a multinational business, we work to ensure that our costs are globally competitive and that we use our resources as effectively as possible. To improve productivity and to continue building a sustainable business, our companies have had to take some significant and difficult decisions to reduce manufacturing overcapacity by closing some factories and downsizing others.
We fully recognise the impacts of these decisions and work hard to mitigate the outcomes for employees and the wider community. These changes are also enabling us to rationalise our machine technology to establish a more cost-effective operational base for the future. Most machinery in factories being closed or downsized is transferred elsewhere and we aim to standardise machinery at each location.
Machinery that cannot be redeployed within the Group is destroyed, not sold second hand, to ensure that it cannot fall into the hands of counterfeiters.”
British American Tobacco – the world’s most international tobacco group.