Our Hefei site in China has become our second facility in nine months – alongside the Dubai Personal Care factory – to join the World Economic Forum’s network of Lighthouse factories, shaping the future of manufacturing through digital technologies.
1. Setting a digital standard
Producing 3 million units per day for brands like Surf Excel, Vim, Rin and Wheel, the Dapada factory began its digital journey in 2018 with the adoption of fourth-industrial revolution technology such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and big data analytics. Just four years later, it is the first dedicated Unilever home care site to be recognised as a WEF Lighthouse factory, paving the way for rapid digital transformation in South Asia.
This is the first time an FMCG factory in India has been awarded this status, and I hope more will follow as Unilever increasingly digitalises its supply chain.Sanjiv Mehta, President of Unilever South Asia and CEO and Managing Director of Hindustan Unilever
2. Agility for a changing market
With augmented reality, big data and analytics, Dapada has used artificial intelligence learning solutions to accelerate the pace of innovation and response to consumer demand, resulting in a 50% reduction in end-to-end product development. When a formulation change for Surf Excel was needed, for example, in order to maintain market competitiveness and counteract price rises for key raw materials, the team used a digital twin simulation model. This helped them to identify the process needed to deliver the correct formulation at the first try.
3. Protecting the planet
Thanks to machine learning and advanced analytics, water consumption and energy use were reduced at the Dapada factory by 31%, while greenhouse gas emissions were lowered by 54%. This was achieved by using simulations to test all variables, including the weather, and their effects on production. Advanced analytics were deployed to combine weather forecasts with historical energy consumption and resulted in the creation of production strategies that helped reduce specific energy consumption by 4%.
As the world grapples with many challenges, it is remarkable to see how Lighthouses are yielding sustainability benefits while achieving business goals, which we call eco-efficiency. We need them to continue illuminating the way forward for the global manufacturing community by shaping a responsible future of manufacturing that works for people, society and the environment.Francisco Betti, Head of Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Value Chains, World Economic Forum
4. Future-fit people
The digital transformation of the Dapada factory has led to over 48% of the factory’s 500 workers being upskilled or reskilled through training platforms like Degreed, the Digital Training Centre and boot camps. In addition, a reward and recognition programme was created to increase workforce involvement. Pankaj Pandey, Dapada Instrumentation Lead, said: “Boot Camp has inspired me to adopt advanced technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution at a much faster pace. During the three-day programme, I learned about the power of data analytics and how it can be used.”
Using detailed loss-capturing systems, the Dapada team unlocked growth by improving machine and manpower productivity. Auto loss-correction systems, for example, allowed the factory to mitigate the top 80% of contributing factors responsible for slowing down the packing process. On the factory floor, a smart manning app was used to pre-attribute workstations to employees across 80,000 man–machine combinations.
By eliminating time loss at the beginning of shifts, the system improved manpower productivity by 39%, while also maximising outputs on priority lines by matching high-skilled workers to them. The VIM portfolio, which has shown significant double-digit growth over the last five years, is just one example of a brand that has benefited from these logistical improvements.
WEF recognises our China manufacturing facility as a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution Lighthouse’
Reskilling or upskilling for an entirely new role is often seen as a big leap, but data-driven tools could begin to make it less of a jump than previously imagined.