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Shining a light on our first Lighthouse factory in India

As the first FMCG factory in India to join the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Lighthouse Network, the Unilever Dapada factory, lying north of Mumbai, is a beacon of tech-driven efficiency, innovation and empowerment. There are many reasons why. Here are the top five.

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.”

5. Growth

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.

What is the Global Lighthouse Network?

The Global Lighthouse Network is a community of production sites and value chains that are world leaders in the adoption and integration of the cutting-edge technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Lighthouses are recognised by an independent expert panel for applying 41R technologies to maximise efficiency and competitiveness at scale, transform business models, drive economic growth, empower their workforce and protect the environment.

Unilever has four Lighthouse factories: the Heifei manufacturing plant and the TaiCang ice cream factory in China, the Dubai personal care site in the UAE and now the Dapada home care factory in India.