Batch size of one pallet: Any color desired

In building its new plant, Australia’s largest paint manufacturer DuluxGroup has applied the principles of advanced manufacturing, and focused on the end-to-end digitalization of all processes. This future-oriented approach has increased efficiency and quality, reduced time to market, and introduced a level of flexibility that will help personalize mass paint production.

Dulux is Australia’s most recognized paint brand and it is owned in the region by Dulux Australia, part of DuluxGroup. The company offers its customers a wide selection of colors – after all, there is almost no limit to individual tastes. “We face the enormous challenge of wanting to offer both small and large quantities of paint economically, and in our customary high quality,” says Kevin Worrell, Project Director at Dulux Australia. “We wanted to make sure that our new factory would be future-proofed to allow us respond quickly to the latest trends, create new business opportunities and remain at the leading edge of paint manufacturing well into the future.” 

Individualized paint production

In view of these factors, Dulux Australia invested approximately AUD$165 million (US$127 million) in a completely new production plant in Merrifield, a suburb approximately 30 miles north of Melbourne. The plant is the largest coatings factory in Australia and New Zealand, and is state-of-the-art in terms of innovation and high-tech features. “Advanced automation and digitalization have allowed Dulux to design a paint production process that can deliver the highest quality paint consistently, faster than ever before and with flexibility that allows incredible market responsiveness,” explains Michael Freyny, Executive General Manager for the Digital Factory and Process Industries and Drives divisions, Siemens Australia. Thanks to this high degree of automation and digitalization, Dulux Australia offers efficient production even in a batch size of one. This means as little as one pallet of paint - 100 liters - can be produced for special orders or in response to market demands.


Simulation and reality in close proximity

Approximately 75 million liters of paint will be produced each year in Merrifield. Strictly speaking, two plants were built under one roof in an area slightly larger than three soccer fields: a blend-and-tint (BAT) plant for small batches and a mass production plant for high volume paints.


Manufacturing will be completely transparent, since the entire production process is integrated horizontally and vertically, allowing for the end-to-end digitalization of the plant. The simulation platform Simit enabled comprehensive tests and virtual commissioning of automation applications, and provided a realistic training environment for operator even before the real startup. “Simit allowed us to commission the plant automation in parallel with construction activities, which reduced the time from testing to fully automated paint production by greater than 50 percent,” says Worrell.

3D models of the process water systems have also been integrated into Comos Walkinside by Siemens solution partner Mescada as part of a conceptual study. The virtual reality platform allows users to navigate through a virtual model of the process water system within the plant. “The conceptual study demonstrates the benefits of Comos Walkinside in reducing maintenance downtime. For example, within the virtual platform individual pieces of equipment like pumps can be labelled with their maintenance records or the relevant data sheets. These assets than can be accessed from a notebook or tablet in the field,” explains Hung Chan, Mescada.


Even routine maintenance can be practiced in the virtual world first, before being undertaken in the physical world. This allows to prevent potential damage to physical equipment and to ensure the efficacy of actual maintenance processes. Disaster scenarios such as chemical spills and fire can also be simulated in the platform for emergency response training.

We’re able to virtually eliminate manual interventions – reducing from approximately 75,000 per annum – giving us repeatability and pin-point accuracy with our recipes
Kevin Worrell, Project Director at Dulux Australia

Efficient documentation with paperless manufacturing

A key part of Dulux Australia’s commitment to digitalization is paperless production, achieved through Siemens Simatic IT eBR (Electronic Batch Record) software. It is the first time anywhere in the world that this solution has been implemented outside of the pharmaceutical industry, which is renowned for its rigorous quality control. Aside from cutting the factory’s paper consumption down to almost to zero, the new form of documentation will, above all, increase the transparency, traceability, and quality of production. “Paperless manufacturing automatically ensures compliance with all standards and regulations. But for Dulux Australia its real value lies in the fact that every step and every raw material can be monitored, tracked and recorded during production,” says Freyny. It also speeds up the creation, execution, review and release of manufacturing processes and batch protocols. “We can perform quality checks with raw ingredients at the front end, and the resulting improvements can be implemented automatically to the recipe in seconds,” says Worrell.

Faster and with less energy consumption

For small batches of paint, the entire manufacturing process now is about eight times faster than previously possible. This is achieved due to the highly automated production processes. For example, if a customer orders a very specific shade of blue, Dulux receives this order via SAP, which communicates with the Manufacturing Execution System (MES). The raw material package needed for that color shade is scanned on delivery and managed by the MES and Simatic PCS 7 process control system. Samples are sent to the lab for electronic testing before the paint is further processed. The MES receives the exact test specifications from SAP, and the results are returned by the same route. The raw materials are then automatically mixed, and the desired color is ready. The batches then reach the filling and packaging line, from where they are sent to the customer. Dulux has the entire process under digital control.


“We have incredible manufacturing flexibility where we can produce specialty paint batches 1/50th of the size than previously possible in our other plant. This means we can respond to market demands quickly without carrying excess stock. We’re able to virtually eliminate manual interventions – reducing from approximately 75,000 per annum – giving us repeatability and pin-point accuracy with our recipes to ensure the highest quality paint with minimal raw material waste. This has also led to a 25 percent reduction in energy consumption over what we designed for,” says Worrell. 

We have incredible manufacturing flexibility where we can produce specialty paint batches in 1/50th of the size and about eight times faster than previously possible.
Kevin Worrell, Project Director at Dulux Australia

Because partnership is a company tradition

The quick implementation of the entire plant and the successful operational launch can be attributed to more than just the extensive digitalization strategy. The close cooperation of everyone involved also played a major role. “As the Main Automation Vendor (MAV) and Main Electrical Vendor (MEV) from the very beginning, Siemens was not only the technology supplier but also the development partner,” Freyny recalls. “We greatly valued the partnership and felt it was essential,” says Worrell. As Siemens’ solution partner for the project, Mescada also played a crucial role in contributing its expertise in IT infrastructure, Process Control Systems and Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) systems. Another contributor was CET Group as the Process and Mechanical Designers, with 3D modelling, Process identifier (PID) and datasheets. “Siemens’ enormous digital enterprise experience and its ability to offer the best possible service as a globally operating corporation, in combination with our partners’ solutions were the factors that led to the project’s success,” Freyny sums up. 


Dulux's manufacturing origins in Australia date back to 1918 and it is Australia's largest and leading manufacturer of paint products. Dulux Australia manufactures and distributes paints, decorative paints, and coatings for DIY stores and specialized retailers, as well as wood care products, powder coatings, texture coatings and protective coatings. Products from Dulux Australia are the number one choice for homeowners, interior designers, and craftsmen throughout Australia. Extensive investments in product innovation and marketing are reflected in their high consumer recognition value.

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