31 Aug 2021

Internet of Things

AkzoNobel digitalizes the pre-weighing process with the help of Inimco

As part of continued efforts to further digitize their production methods, Dutch paint and coatings multinational, AkzoNobel, was keen to improve the accuracy and reliability of their pre-weighing process – an initiative championed by the company’s production plant in Machelen, Belgium.

By working with Industrial IoT implementation specialist, Inimco, the team has transformed a largely manual process into a streamlined, connected, digital exercise – with little margin of error.

Customer Quote

“We chose Inimco and Azure because they simply ticked every box. We have a great relationship with Inimco and the technology has improved our quality and efficiency using a standardized solution that's easy to monitor and whose cost-to-implement reduces each time we use it.” Evert Nooijen, Enterprise Architect, AkzoNobel.

The Challenge

Pre-weighing is the part of paint production which ensures that the materials of an order are weighted according to specifications from the production BOM (Bill of Materials) – before production begins.

Even slight mistakes at pre-weighing can create differences between batches. The bottom line is that the colors and consistency have to be identical every time. Manual processes make this far harder to get right every time.

As a result, digitalizing the pre-weighing process adds direct value to the production process and quality. While the plant in Machelen had previously invested in new weighing units, these weren’t originally connected to AkzoNobel’s digital backbone and were used as an isolated solution.

The Solution

Previously, Inimco helped to create a foundational technology that AkzoNobel could build upon and scale throughout their business by leveraging a Microsoft Azure based digital manufacturing platform – which is now active in more than 30 production plants worldwide and handling all production data in a centralized way.

The platform also functions as the communication hub for AkzoNobel’s different manufacturing systems – including SAP, which is used to process all details relating to each production order.

This SAP integration is also crucial for the pre-weighing process. As a fully fledged add-on to the digital manufacturing platform, SAP can now communicate in two directions with the weighing scales using a wireless connection to communicate with Azure IoT.

The details of a Bill Of Material can be sent straight to the scales and the operator, so that they automatically get the right instructions. The information is sent just once and then becomes accessible from any machine at a local manufacturing site.

All of the information generated from the pre-weighing is then fully synced with SAP and can be fed in Power BI for reporting purposes. This is all done seamlessly over Azure in both transmission and receipt of data.

From a rollout perspective, there were no issues with adoption and the teams in the production environment had no problems with the new system. This was in large part because AkzoNobel and Inimco worked hard to ensure there was no real change for them, just a digital shift in the checks and balances in place.

Overall there was some excellent cross-functional collaboration and teamwork right across the project – between site, digital, and central IT teams.

Customer Quote

“Coming from the Machelen implementation, the digital pre-weighing solution is a quick win for similar plants to go digital thanks to the scalable and reusable components. Gino Perez Adriano, Digital Deployment Manager, AkzoNobel

The Result

Inimco and AkzoNobel have now cut down a lengthy, manual task with room for potential human mistakes, into a well-formed digital solution which helps produce quality products every time. This system is easy to use and it is completely monitorable thanks to links straight into Power BI.

This is perfect for the operators on the shop floor, and also for the supply chain management team – as they can access reporting data whenever they need it – more data than ever before.

This has helped them see big improvements in RFT (Right First Time) as well as machine efficiency which has been turned into performance advances across production. For the plant in Machelen, AkzoNobel’s RFT has improved massively for their main recipes over just 4 months – an incredible improvement in error reduction.

This system has also been designed to work with any of the weighing systems that AkzoNobel uses – removing the need for manual work on any system. All of the hard work for implementation has been done, rollout across sites can now be a quick process. Inimco’s design, paired with Microsoft Azure has created something rapid and truly scalable.

There is now a standard solution in place which is transferable to many other sections of the business. AkzoNobel and Inimco continue working on standardizing the interface so that it can be replicated for other parts of AkzoNobel’s production environment.

AkzoNobel’s vision of a digital manufacturing solution, and their commitment to further improving operational safety, quality, and efficiency has been a complete success. The digitization of the pre-weighing process is yet another step in the deployment of a standardized set of digital technologies on the shop floor. In fact the pre-weighing solution will be rolled out to many other sites this year.

Working with Inimco, as one of their strategic partners for digital manufacturing, AkzoNobel is confident that the success they have seen is set to continue. More than that, they know that Inimco will take the complex and make it easy – enabling seamless integration and scale.