Letting the digitalization genie out of the bottle

What do brands like Persil, Perwoll or Somat have in common? They’re all manufactured by Henkel. The products are all quite different, as are their requirements for production. Backed by digitalization solutions from Siemens, Henkel is completely committed to maintaining its high-quality standards and increasing efficiency.

 

When Fritz Henkel marketed the first laundry powder in 1878, he had no idea what a global player his company would become. Today, the Düsseldorf-based company produces detergents and cleaning products at more than 30 locations around the world.

 

By digitalizing its production, Henkel wants to shorten times to market through “learning production”, introduce plug and play equipment, optimize response times, and improve quality to the point of zero-fault production. (For more information on Henkel’s digitalization strategy, see here.)

Connectivity for greater efficiency

The production site in Montornés del Vallés near Barcelona, Spain, is one of the company’s most modern and highly automated plants. Each minute, up to 300 bottles of liquid detergent race from station to station on the packaging line conveyor belt.

 

The most important thing is that the bottles be filled with exactly the specified amount at the correct pressure. The sealing caps are then screwed on, the label affixed, and everything packed in boxes that are automatically unfolded, with all steps supported by robots. The boxes are sealed and furnished with the necessary information – also automated, of course – placed on pallets, and wrapped in film.

 

To ensure that the entire production process runs smoothly, checkpoints at each individual step serve to monitor all the parameters, including fill level and correct positioning of the labels

Flawless communication

Until now, “communication” between machines on the packaging line tended to be more individualized than systematic. This meant that the first step was to harmonize machines from different manufacturers using in-house software solutions and establish reliable communication standards. Supported by Siemens experts from Germany, Austria, and Italy, Henkel implemented a complex solution for making its filling and packaging lines more efficient

 

The new line management system includes standardized OPC UA interfaces, Profinet, the TIA Portal, and a Simatic S7-1500 controller. The solution enables all the machines in the packaging line to flexibly exchange information across lines. New components and machines can also be quickly and easily integrated without having to update higher-level systems or adapt and log key performance indicators (KPIs).

 

 

Everything in balance

The installed Line Monitoring System (LMS) forms the basis for determining defined quality, machine availability, and production capacity parameters – and thus for optimizing filling and packaging. The higher-level Manufacturing Execution System (MES) responds flexibly to current states and takes into account unscheduled downtimes as well as scheduled interruptions for maintenance or product changeover.

The reports from assessments of weeks, days, and even individual shifts quickly reveal potential for improvement, for example if a machine’s settings aren’t optimally adjusted within the overall line.

Continuous operation of the filling and packaging lines ultimately improves product and packaging quality and reduces wear.

Ten percent more efficient

For another part of the complete solution, visualization of the operating states was improved. Instead of displaying order data and any deviations directly on the machine operator units, they’re now clearly and automatically displayed on a central system. Operating states, production targets, and the achievement of these targets are easily recognizable at all times, thanks to a globally standardized display for all lines and all Henkel plants. At the same time, experience gained from improvements to machines on existing lines can be applied to new plants. Another benefit is that the operator can now access documentation at any time, thus reducing training time and effort for service as well as the stocking of spare parts.

Digital features to come

The overall solution embedded in the Henkel IT system has already increased efficiency by over ten percent. Henkel now plans to supplement the existing LIS/LMS with new product innovations and digital features including, for example, increased robot integration at packaging stations and the introduction of a digital twin.

 

 

For more information on Henkel’s digitalization strategy, see the interview with Dr. Dirk Holbach and Wolfgang Weber from the Laundry & Home Care Division.

 

 

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