Opened in 2017, Unilever’s $272m personal care plant in Dubai exports 80% of goods to Europe and MENA region. Brands manufactured at the factory include Dove, Fair & Lovely, Lifebuoy, Vaseline, Clear, TRESemmé, and Sunsilk.
With the help of Gebo Cermex, Unilever upgraded its plant with state-of-the-art technology that ensured faster, shorter, and highly responsive production lines, reducing lead-time to market.
Factory of the future
The system included the WB46 wrap-around case packer, a smart “Industry 4.0” system designed for greater flexibility, hygiene, and ergonomics.
The WB46 comes is operated with multi-touch PC panel based on a tablet-approach navigation. It features RFID login, user and data management, alarm and statistic reports, remote connectivity and standard operating procedures with its ‘One Point Lesson’ database.
The company adds that WB46 can be integrated with additional robotic modules for product collation and loading.
“These are only a handful of features that demonstrate how the solution massively contributes to accelerate, facilitate, and improve operability and maintainability,” said Jean-Philippe Beduneau, Gebo Cermex’s Strategic Key Account Director for Unilever.
Additionally, he added that the WB46 has been enriched with a new automation platform with electronic synchronisation which will guarantee 30% electricity savings and significantly reduce Total Cost of Ownership.
Gebo Cermex described this project as a benchmark for developing solutions for the factory of the future.
Beduneau stressed that the success of the WB46 at Unilever’s site in Dubai is in line with the company’s philosophy of developing solutions that enable the Factory of the Future. “With accounts such as Unilever, we are obviously setting our sights firmly on Industry 4.0.”
Pots pose challenge
Interestingly, it was Unilever’s own small round jars that were the project’s major challenge, as they could not provide the counter-pressure required to attain perfect sealing. This problem which was amplified by the use of trays with short flaps, said Gebo Cermex.
“As you can imagine, it is even more challenging when speeds of up to 25 trays per minute are reached,” explained Didier Saussereau, Packing Product Manager at Gebo Cermex. “This is why the sealing station was equipped with specific adaptations and pressing plates to guarantee a perfectly squared sealing of the trays, while protecting the pots across the entire process.”
In order to solve the problem Gebo Cermex customised the WB46 with specific adaptations for Unilever, while retaining “ultra-smooth operation” and guaranteeing high-quality packaging, while ensuring that Unilever’s specifications were fully met.