Unilever has over 300 factories across 69 countries. Many of these are big facilities, designed to manufacture products in large quantities, at high speed.
But sometimes we need to produce a small volume – maybe a seasonal variant – or test a market with a particular product before launching it full scale. It’s often not commercially viable to use a mass production line for this, as each switchover takes time.
Similarly, there are occasions where we need to respond quickly to changing demand in local markets, whether that’s to increase or decrease production. Again, it isn’t easy to ramp up or scale down when you’re designed for mass production.
To try and tackle these challenges, a Unilever supply chain team – led by two female engineers – has come up with a rather innovative solution: a nano factory.
This is a fully-functioning, mini production line that fits entirely into a 40-foot shipping container. It houses everything we need to produce a batch, from the point where raw materials go in at one end to where finished products come out at the other – bottled, capped and labelled.