This ‘nano manufacturing facility’ matches inside a transport container
The corporate has over 300 factories in 69 international locations, however that is its first experiment with what it calls a “nano” or “journey” manufacturing facility.
Mass manufacturing traces enable producers to make giant portions of merchandise however utilizing the identical services to provide smaller batches of products — to check new concepts or to fulfill seasonal demand — might be wasteful and inefficient.
Due to its measurement, the 40-foot container might be transported by cargo ship or truck to any location, says Unilever. It simply wants a supply of water and entry to electrical energy to start manufacturing.
The nano manufacturing facility is presently within the Netherlands, in the midst of its first trial producing liquid bouillon, a cooked inventory packed in a bottle. Unilever says the manufacturing facility is making round 300 tons of bouillon per eight-hour shift.
In keeping with Marc Engel, Unilever’s chief provide chain officer, the entire manufacturing course of occurs contained in the container, beginning with processing the uncooked components, and together with packaging the completed product. Because the gear has been particularly developed for small areas, he says there are some variations to a typical manufacturing facility, corresponding to utilizing electrical energy for warmth as an alternative of steam.
Engel says the nano manufacturing facility is absolutely digitized and has sensors that ship reside manufacturing knowledge to a central management room. Whereas some processes are absolutely automated, he says three on-site operators are required per shift — two to activate the manufacturing and handle the road and one to handle packaging and take away the ultimate product.
For Engel, probably the most necessary options of the nano manufacturing facility is that it is cellular. This enables for better flexibility to tailor to demand in native markets and to supply native components, that means assets and emissions aren’t wasted transport components and merchandise from faraway, he says.
“Having the nano manufacturing facility in a transport container lets us get our manufacturing to the place it must be,” Engel says. “Merchandise might be rolled out quicker and scale might be ramped up or down shortly to match shopper traits.”
The trial of the nano manufacturing facility began in June, after delays as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, and can run for the subsequent few weeks, in response to Engel.
If the trial is profitable, he says Unilever hopes to make use of the manufacturing facility to make different merchandise, in addition to trying to create new nano factories.
“This small-scale manufacturing strategy can undoubtedly transcend liquid bouillon and be used to provide mayonnaise, ice cream and even magnificence or dwelling care merchandise,” he says. “We’re additionally exploring plans to lease, lease or promote these models to younger entrepreneurs.”
Richard Wilding, professor of provide chain technique at Cranfield College, in England, says that if rolled out in better numbers, these sorts of nano factories might assist make manufacturing networks stronger and extra specialised, however might additionally create issues additional down the road.
“You might be distributing your manufacturing base and that’s going to be extra resilient, notably in a Covid world,” he says. “However one of many issues you need to take into consideration is as soon as the objects are literally produced, how do you handle the availability chain to the precise prospects?”
Wilding provides that nano factories would require employees to have new abilities, which can be difficult to search out in some places. Nevertheless, he can see a future for these sorts of services responding to native wants.
“What we might begin envisaging, in the event you’ve received a big retail outlet or retail advanced, why not have a nano manufacturing facility situated on the advanced? So it’s producing exactly what the client needs — roughly on demand,” he says.
Engel says a community of nano factories with native provide traces and a centralized controller might be a part of Unilever’s future.
“The aim of the nano manufacturing facility is to not match the output of an enormous manufacturing facility with large-scale services, however a community of those nano factories would give Unilever better innovation flexibility,” he says. “The long run might probably see a brand new, dynamic mannequin with native, distributed manufacturing traces all around the world, run from a central mothership.”