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A Fully Digitally Enabled Factory

A distinction that is also redefining efficiency at HCCB’s factory in Sanand, Gujarat.

“Today, we can see the entire factory operations as a snapshot and in real time”, says the Factory Manager with a sense of pride. He is obviously excited about the many possibilities that real time data and its analysis, can throw up. “With faster access to information, our ability to respond to problems and opportunities has also improved significantly,” he goes on.

Seamless Connectivity

Inter-connectivity of the machines and diverse processes is the cornerstone of the new construct. This essentially entails embedding sensors and software that read data using RFID chips from different machines on the shop floor. Connecting more than 100 machines inside the factory, the latest IT tools inside the factory collect and analyse data from around 5,000 information points. Powered by some advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT), and big data analytics, the digitisation process at this HCCB factory in Sananda has made seamless communication between people, processes and machines; possible.

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In a conventional factory, while the majority of processes are automated, they are not necessarily connected on a real time basis. “The transfer of data from a machine or a process to SAP is not continuous and people dependent. Therefore, there is a time lag. As such, the ERP system is designed to capture and analyse only the macro level data,” explains the Factory Manager.

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So, HCCB partnered with IBM to institute a customised solution that inter-connects and analyses data from different portions of the factory operations. Known as Maxpro or the Manufacturing Automation and Excellence Programme, it is a collection of several IT tools that is helping HCCB’s Sanand factory become “connected” and enable a world class performance.

Instant Information

Compelled by the need for efficiency and reliability of data, the factory has automated even the basic functions and activities such as recording of temperatures and electricity meter reading. There are more than 150 electricity meters in this factory. In a manual system, it would take at least 3 hours just to take the reading. Feeding of this data into the system would also take an hour. Moreover, the reading will never be current. But thanks to Maxpro, the entire process of temperature reading, or the electricity metre reading is instant and current.

This digitisation has also made almost 80 per cent of the existing processes, paperless. For instance, a production area owner responsible for operating and maintaining Plasmax equipment at the factory does not have to wait for handwritten log books to start the work. The person can view the shift-wise performance in a single click.

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With the increased visibility of online operations, the asset utilisation has also gone up significantly, thus ensuring optimal uptime. This has reduced manual interventions to less than 5 per cent. Additionally, the instant availability of relevant information has done away with the need to reconcile the data freeing up people for other value additions.

No longer does the Production Manager at this factory wait for a reconciliation of data on pallets, or bulk package containing cases of beverages, or the despatches to the warehouse, to be able to book production orders. In a conventional system, a couple of hours are lost in just reconciliation of the data. Today, the entire process of production booking to the storage of beverages in the warehouse, to the despatch of products to the trade, is continuous and without any human aid. Among other benefits, the seamless communication has improved the System Line Efficiency (SLE) of the factory.

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Material Accounting and Traceability

Another advantage of factory digitisation has been the simplification of the entire material accounting process to a click. As per process, bar code is now generated for every raw material, packaging material (RMPM) that enters the factory gate. This bar code facilitates controlled material transfer, thus ensuring that the right material is kept at the right place. Every bar code is linked to a production order as per the logic fed into the system. So, even if one tries to pick up a different lot of raw material from a different bin, the system will not allow.

Most importantly, the traceability of material is ensured down to the point when the operator feeds the material into the production line. Such a linkage helps the factory trace any product related complaint right up to the box of raw material used in the production. In other words, it is possible to pinpoint which box of raw material was used and at what time, to produce which product, in which batch, against which order. So, in case of repetitive failure, one could hold the vendor accountable with relevant data.

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Predictive Business Models

Plans are on the anvil to ensure complete analysis of millions of data points collected from various nodes on the shop floor. The factory is already in an advantageous position since it can predict an impending failure in a machine. The fact-based real time analysis of the data will help the factory proactively implement mitigating solutions to prevent efficiency loss due to breakdowns. The same analysis will also help the factory develop a model for the best working scenario - the baseline setting when the yield is maximum, and the rejections are the least. Similarly, the analysis will enable the factory to build predictive business models for multiple business problems.

Sustainable Operations

It is remarkable to see the way the digital solution is helping the factory achieve its goals. Tracking all key parameters online, the operators are today able to take mid-course corrections to optimise use of energy, raw materials and spare parts. This has driven the cutting of hours on planning, maintenance and attending to breakdowns. The factory recently won the ‘Future Ready Factory of the Year’ Platinum Award for its performance from Frost & Sullivan.

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Winning Culture

The digitisation of the processes has also enabled a change in the way business is managed at the factory. Instant availability of information and interconnectivity of machines, has made the factory more agile. Flexibility is the new norm and collaboration has found a new meaning. The need of the hour is to have a unified approach to create systems that is geared towards driving institutional excellence. To begin with, the factory has already busted the myth that big and heavy equipment can only be run by men. Automation has helped break that barrier. Today, the factory employs more than 40 per cent women, some of them driving heavy forklifts, some operating heavy machines, and some managing shift operations.

A green building, gold certified factory this HCCB plant at Sananda is on course to challenge the status quo in manufacturing.

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